“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!