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Kindergarten Literacy and Science

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The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination. ~ Albert Einstein

Kindergarten Literacy and the Common Core State Standards

There is a storm brewing in early childhood education land.

Recently, two educators began a discussion over the Common Core State Standards, and whether or not kindergartners should be required to read by the end of the year. The conversation is creating a greater discussion about what kindergarten literacy really is. The post below shares both sides of the issue.

Peter Greene vs Robert Pondiscio: Should Kindergartners Be Required to Read?

I wanted to LIKE this post a million times.

First, I want to clarify that I am NOT an opponent, in general, of the Common Core State Standards. I do, however, have some reservations about basing so much of what we do, as parents, educators and schools, on this one set of standards. I think we are at risk of losing the parts of kindergarten that help ensure that our kids become great readers later on in school.

 

What Should All Kindergartners Know, Understand and Do?

Most early learning standards include multiple domains as part of a child’s “curriculum framework,” including social skills, motor play, creative arts, and other areas as part of teaching the whole child. Math, reading, science and writing are included as the parts of the cognitive domain. Early learning standards typically follow a developmental range from approximately age 2 to age 6, which would include most kindergartners and even some first graders.

The Common Core State Standards, which have become the only standards most American public schools even discuss, focus only on language arts and mathematics. With such a pressure for students to do well on the high-stakes tests in the elementary grades, our early grades have become hyper-focused on guided reading, reading skills, reading assessments, and reading support groups. Mathematics might be in there, but we are often hard-pressed to find science and social studies. Creativity, motor play and other areas are relegated to “Fun Friday,” recess, or other teachers, in the form of “specials.” They now assume a “nice-to-have” status that is easy to cut out, when test scores reveal reading problems in higher grades. Science, nature study and outdoor exploration find no place in most kindergarten curriculum.

We really don’t children who can read and write. We want children who are readers, who are writers, who are literate in all senses of the word. We want them to be able to speak about many topics, to ask questions and figure out how to answer them, and who are lifelong learners. When we define kindergarten literacy narrowly as reading and writing, we have ignored the foundations of oral language, experiential learning and inquiry that create scholars.

 

http://simplesciencestrategies.com kindergarten literacy

Rich learning experiences create opportunities for writing. {Photo credit: (c) Kim M. Bennett, 1996}

What is Kindergarten “Literacy?” How Should It Be Taught?

A report in the Washington Post outlines some interesting findings about the “new” kindergarten:

  • Many children are developmentally unready to read in kindergarten;
  • No research shows long-term gains from learning to read in kindergarten;
  • Play-based kindergartens show more long-term effects on learning than ones with a more academic focus;
  • Children learn from hands-on, playful experiences with materials, the natural world, and caring adults;
  • Active learning, conversation, and play give preschoolers the skills needed to be great readers in elementary school;
  • Teachers in successful, play-based kindergartens weave literacy and language into real-life experiences.
http://simplesciencestrategies.com kindergarten literacy

Kindergarten literacy includes a variety of receptive and expressive language opportunities. {Photo credit: (c) Kim M. Bennett, 1996}

 

It is sad to me to see kindergartens barren, no easels, no dramatic play. Construction centers and sensory tables disappeared long ago from most classrooms. Blocks and puppets have been replaced with skill worksheets and letter cards, and nature walks have moved aside to make room for “intervention” groups. We wonder why 2nd graders can’t follow a set of directions or solve math problems with counters, or why 3rd graders don’t know how to use a measuring cup or eyedropper in science class. All that “play” isn’t really play, is it?

When we give kids interesting things to do, they want to read about them, and write about them.

Two of my four children had very late birthdays, and were also readers before entering kindergarten. At home, they spent hours a day, exploring the outdoors and catching things in jars. They started school at age 4, and were four for a long while.

Could you pick them out in the class? Absolutely. Both by their rolling around on the floor and acting “immature” (read, like a preschooler), AND by their ability to read. They couldn’t sit still for longer than five minutes in class, but they knew the names of all the birds at the bird feeder, every insect in the garden, and the difference between a frog and a toad. Today, they would likely be considered not ready, age-wise, and their science knowledge would be  a footnote on the report card.

http://simplesciencestrategies.com kindergarten literacy

Conversation about real-life experiences creates a strong language base, essential for success in elementary literacy. {Photo credit: (c) Kim M. Bennett, 1996}

What are Your Thoughts on Kindergarten Literacy?

What are your thoughts on literacy in preschool and kindergarten? How do you feel the Common Core State Standards should be implemented in the early childhood years? Do you successfully weave science and the CCSS together in your kindergarten class? Leave a comment below.

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