Kindergarten Should Teach The Way Young Children Learn

Beverly Falk’s Words of Wisdom

Last week on the Inside School Research blog at Education Week, Holly Yettick posted the article Study Finds That Kindergarten is Too Easy.
Yettick writes:
“Kindergarten might be the new 1st grade but it is still too easy. A forthcoming study in the peer-refereed American Educational Research Journal finds that students make bigger gains in reading and math when they learn more advanced content such as adding numbers and matching letters to sounds.”  
Not everyone agrees.
Here at DEY, we want to highlight a response to the article that
The importance of supporting the development of the whole child – social, emotional, physical development as well as cognitive development – in the early childhood years. Kindergarten is already suffering from the push-down of academics at the expense of active learning and play-based experiences that research confirms is the most appropriate and effective way that young children learn not only academics, but also what are critically important foundations of learning – self-regulation and the dispositions to learn.
Knowledge of child development and from the practice-based research of teaching young children strongly supports the notion that the best way to prepare young children for optimal development and the ability to handle rigorous academic content is to provide them with rich opportunities to engage their minds, investigate, explore, problem-pose, and problem-solve and have experiences with rich literature, block play, dramatic play, sand/water play, trips, cooking, science investigations, and interdisciplinary projects. Strong social connections/relationships with caring adults and explicit and intentional teaching in the context of such activities is what supports children’s academic growth. Even studies from the field of economics ( James Heckman’s 2013 study of the factors that contributed to the success of attendees of quality early childhood programs) point to the emphasis on social-emotional development (not academic content) as the most meaningful influence on the children who have attained life success as a result of attending a high quality early childhood program.
Kindergarten should teach the way young children learn – in the context of warm, caring relationships that take into consideration children’s developmental readiness, the riches of their cultural and linguistic backgrounds, and the muti-modal, active nature of young children’s learning. Didactic instruction, rote memorization, worksheets and other paper pencil activities, as well as the use of formal standardized tests do not belong in kindergarten. The primary “work” of kindergarten age children (their developmental tasks) are to make sense of the world through play and active learning. This approach to learning will lay the foundations of understanding, motivation to learn, and self-efficacy that lead to later academic success.”
You can read more from advocates and Dr. Denisha Jones by visiting our blog and learning more about the importance of preserving childhood in the early years.

About Guest Contributor

Posted by Beverly Falk, Professor of Early Childhood Education at The City College of New York.

She has been a classroom teacher, child care center director, public school founder and principal, district administrator, researcher, and consultant – at the school, district, state, and national level.

She has been a Fellow of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching’s Quest Project (2005-2007); a Public Scholarship Fellow of the Colin Center for Policy Studies at CCNY (2010-2011); the founding editor of The New Educator, a quarterly, peer-reviewed journal that is published by The City College of New York’s School of Education in partnership with the Association of Teacher Educators (ATE) (2004-2017); and a Senior Scholar at the Stanford Center for Equity, Learning, and Assessment (SCALE), an organization that supports innovation in performance-based assessment for teachers and students (2010-2016).

Her publications include over 100 articles and books, including High Quality Early Learning for a Changing World:  What Educators Need to Know and Do (Teachers College Press, 2018), Defending Childhood:  Keeping the Promise of Early Education (Teachers College Press, 2012); Teaching Matters:  Stories from Inside City Schools (The New Press, 2012); Teaching the Way Children Learn (Teachers College Press, 2008); and The Power of Questions:  A Guide to Teacher and Student Research (Heinemann Press, 2005).

Beverly Falk, Professor of Education at CUNY