I've been in education for 20 years, and there's a disturbing trend afoot in kindergartens around the US
Being a kindergartner today is very different from being a kindergartner 20 years ago. In fact it is more like first grade.
Researchers have demonstrated that 5-year-olds are spending more time engaged in teacher-led academic learning activities than play-based learning opportunitiesthat facilitate child-initiated investigations and foster social development among peers.
As a former kindergarten teacher, a father of three girls who've recently gone through kindergarten, and as researcher and teacher-educator in early childhood education, I have had kindergarten as a part of my adult life for almost 20 years.
As a parent, I have seen how student-led projects, sensory tables (that include sand or water) and dramatic play areas have been replaced with teacher-led instructional time, writing centers, and sight words lists that children need to memorize. And as a researcher, I found, along with my colleague Yi Chin Lan, that early childhood teachers expect children to have academic knowledge, social skills and the ability to control themselves when they enter kindergarten.
So, why does this matter?
All work, and almost no play
First, let's look at what kindergarten looks like today.
As part of my ongoing research, I have been conducting interviews with a range of kindergarten stakeholders — children, teachers, parents — about what they think kindergarten is and what it should be. During the interviews, I share a 23-minute film that I made last spring about a typical day in a public school kindergarten classroom.
The classroom I filmed had 22 kindergartners and one teacher. They were together for almost the entire school day. During that time, they engaged in about 15 different academic activities, which included decoding word drills, practicing sight words, reading to themselves and then to a buddy, counting up to 100 by 1's, 5's and 10's, practicing simple addition, counting money, completing science activities about living things and writing in journals on multiple occasions. Recess did not occur until last hour of the day, and that too for about 15 minutes.
For children between the ages of 5 and 6, this is tremendous amount of work. Teachers too are Kindergartens fail to let kids play - Business Insider: