One day in my own kindergarten class, we made butter. That was our learning experience for the day. Times have changed dramatically.
Much of this change is the result of a standards reform in our K-12 education system that began as long ago as the 1980s but that our students are experiencing more acutely today. This reform was largely born from the annual yearly progress requirements laid out by the federal mandates in the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. Under these mandates, districts had to state and measure their students’ progress against learning objectives.
Essentially, this reform resulted in greater pressure on the younger grades to prepare students for the required standardized tests in the higher grades. Many of the standards previously met in the first and second grade have been pushed to kindergarten. Kindergarten has become much more academic than ever before. Specifically, students previously used kindergarten to learn and develop number and letter literacy. With first and second grade standards being implemented earlier, teachers have to plan as if their students are entering their kindergarten classrooms with these skills already developed. The truth is that many students have not developed those skills, and some students begin their formal learning lives feeling behind.
This is especially notable because it leaves less time for kindergarten teachers to develop their students’ social and emotional skills. This is why so many kindergarten teachers are such strong proponents of full-day kindergarten. Teachers want ample time for learning experiences that teach students to work in a group, be self-sufficient, act as their own advocate, problem solve, make friends and manage all the new personalities of their classmates. At age five, many still struggle with simply standing in line.
The good news is that many kids are thriving with the higher standards, and there is much we can do to prepare our kids and ourselves as parents to set our kindergarteners up for successs.
- Take every opportunity to embed appropriate academic skills into their lives. Count the stairs they climb to go to bed. Make letters in their bubble baths. Instead of providing electronics while waiting for dinner in restaurants, pack crayons and paper to practice their fine motor skills.
- Help your child develop their social and emotional skills. Work with them on not interrupting. Make them wait. This sounds simple, but we as parents have been addressing their every need instantly for the first years of their lives. Make them do things for themselves like clean up their own dishes after dinner and get their own towel ready for bath time.
- Read to them, and with them, constantly.Early literacy that begins in the home is the single best way to prepare your child for school. Find the books they love. Share the books you loved at their age. Find a book store and hang out.
- Enroll in a preschool that fits your child. Do your best to block out the noise of others. Your instinct is best.
- Share your excitement about learningand being curious.Let your child see that you still love to learn. Talk often about your fond memories of school.
Expect your child to thrive and do well. Kindergarten is still a place of joy, wonder and excitement.
Written by: Dr. Pamela Roggeman, Academic Dean, University of Phoenix College of Education
Dr. Pamela Roggeman is a proven academic leader familiar with and passionate about technology in progressive education and has extensive experience designing curriculum and preparing teachers in a university setting. Roggeman currently serves as the Academic Dean for the College of Education at University of Phoenix. Roggeman currently serves on the National Advisory Board for Spark 101, a member of the 114th Partnership focusing on STEM education and the ETS NOTE Educator Prep Advisory Council. Previously she worked as a program coordinator and clinical instructor and led secondary education programs for the graduate and the undergraduate colleges at Arizona State University. She also served more than 17 years as a secondary education teacher and was named an Arizona Educational Foundation Teacher of the Year Ambassador of Excellence. She earned both her Bachelor of Arts in Education and Master of Arts in Education Psychology from The University of Arizona. She achieved her Education Doctorate in Education Leadership and Innovation from Arizona State University.