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Nancy Bailey’s Education Website: Kindergarten Pandemic Learning Fears Should Not Be Tied to Screen Time and Rigid Drilling

Kindergartners and their parents and teachers struggle with the pandemic. When the focus is on problems with children learning online, whether a child will succeed, it might help to revisit what’s developmentally appropriate for a kindergartner.

Many reports are raising concern about learning loss in kindergarten. “What Kindergarten Struggles Could Mean for a Child’s Later Years” is an example. It tells of the concern parents and teachers have with young children mastering online instruction and learning.

Reporters, parents, and teachers need to avoid ginning up anxiety about children learning in kindergarten. Kindergarten used to be about play and socializing. Pushing children to retain information too early, drilled online, could make a child feel they’re slow, or like there’s something wrong, and they might not like learning.

During this strange time, children miss out on socializing and playing together, but fretting about learning loss is overdone, and these articles often lean towards pushing young children back into the classroom when it might not be safe.

It could help to reconsider kindergarten expectations.

Before 1983, the Princeton Center for Infancy and Early Childhood questioned the instruction found in first grade. They didn’t believe five-year-olds were ready for the demands and complexities of reading, writing, and arithmetic for another year or two. Nonetheless, they lamented, our culture, by law, has stipulated a child’s sixth birthday as the entrance date into the world of academe, when a child begins formal instruction in the three R’s in the first grade of elementary school (p.365).

The above quote is from, The Early Childhood Years: The 2-to 6-Year-Old by Theresa and Frank Caplan. The book is full of useful strategies and ideas for helping children learn.

Thirty-seven years ago, the authors expressed concern over six-year-olds reading and doing academics. Today, kindergarten learning expectations are higher than many think they should be. The kindergarten classroom changed to reflect this during NCLB, but children haven’t evolved to work differently. Kindergartners still learn best with the developmental activities that have always helped five-year-olds understand best.

During Covid-19, is it any wonder why kindergartners, made to sit still in front of a computer, doing drills, are having a tough time? If early childhood specialists worried about whether first grade was the best time for six-year-olds to learn academic skills, why did public policy push learning skills down to an even earlier grade level?

Consider another quote concerning reading.

The early progressive school teachers believed that delaying the three R’s until children were seven or eight years old would enable them to provide experiences much more suited to the children’s current interests and needs (p. 389).

Online learning is a relatively new phenomenon, and drilling five-year-olds, making them sit and face screens for long periods, can’t be good for them or instill a love for learning.

Most childhood specialists are not excited about online learning, and they discourage formal reading instruction in kindergarten. They disapproved of this push before Covid-19, so why would they like it now?

The benefit of online connection for kindergarteners is being linked to a kindergarten teacher and other children, to feel some semblance of a kindergarten class during a lonely time. Teachers who demonstrate love and kindness, introducing children to exciting and funny information students find memorable, create the best foundation.

Meeting online with other children and a teacher can help ease a child’s fears about Covid-19. The teacher’s role is critical. They can introduce learning in an interesting, developmentally appropriate way, or they can drill skills.

Here are some ideas and characteristics about fives from the book that might help, about what they can do and how they develop.

  • They are learning eye-hand coordination. Fives might unintentionally spill or knock things over (p. 368).
  • Five-year-olds are normally farsighted, and they shouldn’t examine things at close range too long (p. 368)
  • Fives talk a lot, and this adds vocabulary words. They ask a lot of questions, and want to know you’re listening (p. 373).
  • They like to fantasize, and collect words, sometimes rambling to avoid reality (p. 368).
  • They love nature and observing bugs and animals and the world around them (p. 368).
  • They like simple math and science experiments (p. 368).
  • A few fives can read, others pretend they can, but formal reading instruction should depend on the child’s ability (p. 368).
  • Fives like to play and enjoy puzzles and other manipulative and construction toys (p. 369).
  • Drawing and painting help develop perceptual skills for reading.
  • Five year olds like to dance and they enjoy music (p. 371).
  • Drawing oblique lines in a diamond shape still gives this age group trouble (p. 372).
  • Haven’t mastered classification. One five-year-old said “Sunday, Monday Yesterday, Wednesday, and November” (p. 374).
  • Fives are sensitive to praise and blame (p. 362).
  • They have a strong feelings for family and home (p. 362).

Here’s also the link to more links and books about Early Childhood Education from my website. If you have any to share, let me know, and I will add.

Reference

Caplan, T., & Caplan, F. (1983). The early childhood years: The 2 to 6 year old.New York: Bantam Books.

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Nancy Bailey

Nancy Bailey was a teacher in the area of special education for many years, and has a PhD in educational leadership from Florida State University. She has authore...