Full day, less play

Full-day kindergarten will give Maryland children more time for learning, but less for play, reports the Baltimore Sun.

In a corner of her room at Manor View Elementary on Fort Meade, kindergarten teacher Laura Hobbs neatly arranged a little kitchen set, dolls, a small bed and play-food. She likes watching her students pretend, but she worries they’ll be strapped for play time given the long list of academic requirements for the school year that begins this week.

She has only nine months to get her 5- and 6-year-olds to identify the sequential property of numbers using the calendar, learn the alphabet, recognize letter sounds, learn how to sort by color and number, and learn to share and play nice with one another.

On Early Stories, Richard Colvin thinks the “academic requirements” aren’t really that rigorous.

Isn’t this what kindergarten has always been about? Learning to count, sort, start to read and play nice? This is overly academic? This is stuffing kids’ heads with facts? These are exactly the domains and expectations in good pre-k programs and, because most of these kids will have been in pre-k, they’ve probably mastered or are very close to mastery of them all. The other idea in here that always bothers me is that, because there is the potential that a teacher, school, or district will make developmentally unwise choices, they shouldn’t be given the opportunity to make such a mistake.

Disadvantaged children benefit most from more time for learning. Surely, adding more than three hours to their school day will provide time for letters, numbers and playing dress up.

A majority of schools now offer full-day kindergarten classes.

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Comments

  1. Moves to full-day kindergarten and pre-K programs simply reflect a long-growing trend in our population – that parents don’t know how, don’t care, or are too busy to teach their children the basics.
    My parents taught me the alphabet, numbers, colors, etc. before I showed up for half-day kindergarten. My sister has and continues to work on this basic knowledge to prepare her children for school.

  2. None of these “rigorous” concepts should have to be taught in kindergarten – their families should have done so BEFORE they stepped foot in the classroom. Either the families have already allowed too much “play” and too little preparation, or the kids are slow.

    My granddaughter, at four, is better prepared than that.

  3. Mark Roulo says:

    She has only nine months to get her 5- and 6-year-olds to identify the sequential property of numbers using the calendar, learn the alphabet, recognize letter sounds, learn how to sort by color and number, and learn to share and play nice with one another.

    What the previous two comments say. 1/2 day kindergarten is about
    540 hours (180×3). It seems to me that 540 hours should be enough time to teach the list above.

    I’d also like to mention that as a father of a 6 year old, 5+ hours of academics per day is *way* more than my child can handle. The last two or three hours would be a complete waste of time …

    -Mark Roulo

  4. My district has 48% of its students being mexican immigrants, many illegal. We are a wealthy resort community. 3 years ago, due to horrible performance of the spanich speaking students the district decided to FORCE all day kindergarten. They did this by subsidizing the poor kids and charging everyone else $250 per month tuiton for all day kindergarten. Colorado only funds half day kindergarten you see. If a parent chose half time their student was placed in a full time class and only attended for literacy and math. Half time kids miss lunch, recess, and all specials like art and music and PE. Parents were also told how poorly half time kids did (Which was only true if the class had a lousy teacher). Parents were forced to choose. Last year parents were paying for the priveledge to have 29 kids in a kindergarten class. The district pockets about $1,125,000 from this scheme, has enlarged class size, kept up with the whole language- balanced literacy garbage and Everyday Math. AND test scores on the state test keep declining. Long story short all day kindergarten may not be the solution.

  5. Cardinal Fang says:

    Isn’t this what kindergarten has always been about? Learning to count, sort, start to read and play nice?

    No, that isn’t what kindergarten used to be about. Back in medieval times when I was in kindergarten, we played nice, but we sure didn’t start to learn to read. That’s new.

  6. Where does it say they are starting to learn to read? I don’t think this quite qualifies:

    “She has only nine months to get her 5- and 6-year-olds to identify the sequential property of numbers using the calendar, learn the alphabet, recognize letter sounds, learn how to sort by color and number…”

    I’m pretty sure I learned all that before I first set foot in a classroom. I’m quite sure that my son did. It doesn’t take classroom-style instruction, but just the appropriate play materials and a little time with your kids. E.g., for the alphabet, they can sing along with the alphabet song until they learn it by heart, and play with letter blocks. Then they sit in your lap while you read one of those “A is for apple” books to them, over and over again, even after they’ve obviously got the whole thing memorized. (Little kids love repetition, even if it drives adults nuts.) That conveys the letter sounds quite well.

    To me, learning to read starts with the next step, putting the letters and sounds together. I don’t know if very many 5 year olds are ready for that, but if they aren’t going to start teaching reading, then there’s no reason for all-day kindergarten except trying to help kids whose parents neglected these simple things to catch up…

  7. My mom took time away from teaching to be at stay-at-home parent. She taught me my numbers, alphabet, colors, as well as how to write out my full name and memorize my phone number before entering kindergarten.

    Many families are not at liberty to have a parent at home for children during the pre-kindergarten time and depending on two-incomes for survival, a very young child is left with caretakers who may not be very caring during a very tender and formative time.

    I think we’ll find even longer hours will develop over the next decade. Children will play less. And with very compromised dynamics from home, we’ll see children who are stressed out like their parents. The deficit perhaps begins well before kindergarten… School districts and day care centers enjoy a boon while families and educators get compromised.

    Thoughts from a private music teacher…

    Miss JNET

  8. Kindergartners, even poorly prepared ones can readily learn this much and more with proper instruction. Last year I watched a K class of mostly low income students learn all the states and presidents (using songs), the planets, and they learned to read simple three leter words with phonics. It took concentrated efforts by the teacher, careful use of classroom time, and good curriculum. But the students also had lots of play time.

  9. Sorry–I did not proof read–the above should say “letter”.

  10. Okay, I know I’m late to this party. But, I’d like to address some of the comments above. Yes, many kids come knowing letters and numbers. However, very few go knowing all of their letter sounds, for instance. Sitting reading alphabet books as mentioned above does NOT prepare this skill, except for certain letters (M, R, S, those type). It certainly doesn’t prepare a child for all the different sounds that vowels make, or blends. It doesn’t necessarily prepare a child to *hear* more than beginning or ending sounds.

    Okay, that was point one! Point two is that not every child comes in knowing even the above. You can bluster on and on about how every child should know all of that before they come to school, but it doesn’t make it so. Unless you are out there advocating for the funding to what, assess every 2,3, and 4 yo in the country and provide remediation, you just can’t count on it.

    Point three: In my urban district, I have just started my 3rd and last child in kindergarten. He will leave knowing how to read and read well, if his older brothers are any indication. Kindergarten here is highly academic. The kids learn the letters, if they didn’t know them, but they also learn phonemic awareness, phonics, etc. It IS full day and I’m amazed by how much they have to do. I wish they did play kitchen more, though they do seem to be able to make the learning fun and varied enough that children at all levels like to be there.

    My oldest was in K 11 years ago, so this isn’t new, either. Kids in his class came in on a spectrum from already reading through knowing no letters. Some kids couldn’t count out, say, three blocks from a pile. That teacher surely did have her work cut out for her moving all those kids along — I’m happy to say that she did it, and it was amazing to watch! But, it was also clear that the kids who had parents who knew “what to do” with their kids were always going to be in a better position than the kids who didn’t have books at home, let alone someone reading to them every day. THAT’s where our problems are!