“So, what are kindergarteners capable of learning? For this question, we turn to psychologist Benjamin Bloom. In the 1950s, he led a team of researchers to create a cognitive learning guide, which shows at what stage children can understand various concepts. Each level is based on the one in front of it, similar to a staircase. The levels of learning are:
Level 1: Knowledge. The child has already been taught a concept and just needs to remember it. For example, after he learns about measuring time he can repeat that a week has seven days.
Level 2: Comprehension. The child understands what the concept means. She can tell you in her own words why keeping track of time through weeks is important.
Level 3: Application. The child can come up with examples of how the concept can be used. He realizes that when he marks seven days off a calendar, a week has passed.
Level 4: Analysis. The child can break down each idea and think of it in ways that weren’t introduced. At this level your child can figure out what something does. She now understands that she can count down weeks until her birthday.
Level 5: Synthesis. The child can apply the concept to new situations. For example, he may start counting down weeks because he knows he has to return a library book in three weeks…”
…Imagine walking into an American kindergarten 30 years ago. You would have seen kids doing lots of different things: singing, dancing, playing, fingerpainting, and maybe even a little formal instruction. Walk into almost any kindergarten today – particularly in public schools – and you will see something quite different. You will see kids sitting down, listening to the teacher, and learning how to read and write. As I argue in my book, Boys Adrift, the kindergarten of today looks very much like first grade looked 30 years ago. So is this acceleration of the early elementary curriculum a good thing or a bad thing?
I think it’s a bad thing…
Forewarning: if you’re not into teaching, this entry will bore you to tears.
As I researched kindergarten psychology and developmental milestones, I came across this article. The title is a bit misleading, since the introduction mostly talks about the shifting goals of American kindergarten classes from creativity to book-work, but the author makes a good point: timing is key.
After teaching 20+ classes a week of 5th and 6th graders, it’s tricky to switch to kindy mode. My older students are beginning to accept abstract thought and grammar, but the 5-year-olds still think it’s great fun to clap their hands and jump like frogs. When I first started teaching kindergarten, I had a well-structured PPT plan that, within 5 minutes, fell naturally to pieces. I accepted it peacefully: the kids were happy.
Trial and error and back-up games have been the keystone of my kindergarten lesson plans so far. But it’s come to a point where I don’t want to just Google ”kindergarten animal games” and pull something out of the hat: I want to understand kindergarten psychology enough to create my own activities. And that means, I’m coming to accept, throwing the book-based lessons out the window and letting kids be kids.
Movement, funny sounds and voices, patterns, absurdity— these are some of my kindergartners’ favorite activities. The rule of thumb seems to be: if you look like a fool, you’re doing it right. I’m a little shy if another teacher is in the room, but leave me alone and I will do the most ridiculous facial expressions and sounds. Their laughter is the reward^^
I’m trying to remember what it was like to be a kindergartner. My earliest memories are playing with clay, patty-cake hand patterns, bright pictures in storybooks, playing with toy boats in water… Everything is new to a kindergartner! I want to teach these kids English and get a poem stuck in their head that they’ll parrot back to their parents. But in the end, as long as their first experience of “English” is a joyful one, that’s all I can ask!
Classes today went absolutely swimmingly.
My coteacher for 6th grade had to substitute for another class after the teacher’s mother passed away on Monday. So, after the principal denied our request for a substitute (I can’t say I blame her…), I was left to teach the 6th graders alone.
And they did alright! Yesterday was a bit of a challenge as I adjusted from my role as “friendly, foreign teacher” to main teacher. But this morning, I gave the classes a talk about respect (which they probably didn’t understand, but I put on a stern face, so they got the idea) and class progressed along much more smoothly.
Today’s one of the first days in a while when I really felt like hey, this is something I could consider doing full-time.
Tomorrow and Monday I have vacation to spend time with my parents, which means a 4-day weekend!
…Now if I can just get through my kindy classes this afternoon without stressing to pieces, this should turn out to be a pretty fine couple of days.
The main reason I feel so relieved and pleased that classes are going well is because it means I’m finally learning the value and necessity of “acting” stern in class. Ever since I started teaching classes alone at my hagwon, I’ve been stuck with this subconscious need to befriend my students, instead of guide them. And finally getting myself to accept that students need a leader and firm discipline to keep them in line has made a huge difference in my classroom management.
It’s not perfect, by any means, and I’m still sweating buckets and use enormous amounts of energy to keep it all in order. But it’s not the amount of effort that you expend that ensures success, its the direction in which you exert your effort; pushing down on a rock won’t make it move, but if you push in the right direction, with the same force, you’ll get much more results.
On Thursdays after lunch, I teach two back-to-back kindergarten English classes. They’re only 30 minutes each, but I spend about quadruple the time planning each one of them.
I’ve never trained to be a kindergarten teacher, so each class is an experiment… I want my classes to be fun, enjoyable and challenging for the kids, so I’m doing my best to keep track of what works and what’s a total flop.
Here’s one example pic of my post-class lesson plan notes…
Kindergarten classes can certainly be a bear.