Where Has the Play in Kindergarten Gone

What has happened to kindergarten?  Where has the PLAY gone?  

Learning through play: Let children learn through play in kindergarten.
Some schools offer a TK (Transitional Kindergarten) program, the models are different from one classroom to the next and the curriculum may or may not be developmentally appropriate for a young five year old.  Some TK's have a specialized curriculum that was designed for a TK, others are just using the kindergarten prescribed program, and trying to make it fit.  That of course is like trying to put a square peg into a round hole.  The whole idea behind offering a TK program is to give those young school-aged children a "Gift of time" Rather than forcing them to learn an entire year of curriculum that for many is far beyond their reach, they have two years to learn in ways that are developmentally appropriate. They have time to learn how to be a responsible and respectful student, they have time to learn how to play, they have time to be a kid in kindergarten. 

There is also the blended model, but what is that really? Isn't that just a for a combination class?   With so much emphasis being put on academics, we have taken the "PLAY" out of kindergarten.  It is now up to me to be even more creative then I feel I already am.  I need my kids to pass the DIBELS benchmarks and the progress monitoring, the monthly district assessments, and the phonics screeners. But WAIT- I want my kids to LOVE school.  I'm their foundation to their lifelong education.  I am often their first introduction to academic learning.  If they come to school not liking kindergarten, then I have failed.  Who doesn't love kindergarten?  It is supposed to be a magical introduction to school.  It is supposed to introduce them to learning, playing, making friends and leaving with the desire to want more, the desire to want to learn how to read.  It isn't supposed to give them stomach aches because they know I am going to ask them to segment words or read from the list of high frequency words they should already have mastered. 

So what do we see happening to our little babies, and yes, I call them babies, they have a lifetime to grow up and be kids, teenagers, young adults and so forth.  They are our babies. Our babies are not learning how to play, they are not learning how to share, take turns, or be creative. Our kids are coming to us with less language, they are now the generation of handheld devices.  I see little ones younger than two years of age holding onto a tablet or cell phone. Gone are the days of the alphabet game on car rides, listening to the wee-sing or Raffi songs.  Now they are listening to Taylor Swift while playing Minecraft.  A short trip to the grocery store calls for the device to keep them entertained and quiet.  When I was a kid our entertainment was the radio and playing I Spy. as we looked for letters on license plates. I know we need to educate our kids in order to be a competitor in the global market, but at what cost?  Do kids who learn 100 or more sight words in kindergarten, who can compose and decompose numbers 11-19 and who can write a narrative report, perform better when they are in middle school and high school then those students who learned to read in first grade and who learned two digit addition in second grade?  I ask this question, because I really do want to know.  Are these kids better human beings, are they learning life skills that will take them a long way in life or are they just leaning how to recite rote information, click on apps and be non-verbal.

By forcing children to learn more at a rapid pace and younger age, we are taking away their ability to develop cognitive, social, academic, and developmental skills that could actually prepare them to be better students later on.  We are stifling their ability to formulate expressive and receptive language skills.  We are taking away their time to develop social and emotional skills as well as their fine and gross motor skills.

So, with all that being said, I know that come August many teachers will be faced with teaching kids who truly aren't ready for the rigors of today's kindergarten.  How can we meet the vast needs of our babies?  I for one am planning on bringing play back to kindergarten,  I plan to spend more time developing language skills, social skills,  and fine and gross motor skills.  You might be thinking but how??? My goal this year is to focus more on the learning through exploration and play and to use centers that don't always have an exact outcome.

I know this is going to be difficult, but I am willing to give it a try.  After last year with so many kids crying about how school was too hard and all the assessments I had to but my babies through, it is time for a change.  I know I won't be able to change it all over night, but baby steps in the right direction is what I am aiming for. The next time someone asks me the question of "Where has the play in kindergarten gone?"  I want to say nowhere, it is right here;. We learn through play in my kindergarten classroom.


connie said...

I couldn't agree with you more! I hope you'll post a lot about your play based centers and open exploration - I would love to see it in action, and maybe steal some gems for my own class :)

AngiB said...

Thank you! I have come to the same conclusion. My goal this summer is to explore and research for next year. I cannot wait to see some of your successes!

Unknown said...

Me too!

Anonymous said...

I love it! I strongly believe in play in the classroom. I teach ELLS and it is the best way to get kids comfortable enough to try talking and using language to meet their needs (like making a request). I'm glad you see the need for play. It's near and dear to my heart and it is so important to the development of our babies! Kudos for a well written blog post!

acroes said...

This post hit close to home...as a first year teacher I was shocked at the lack of play in my classroom! I say "my" but I honestly just did what my grade level was doing. No play kitchen, no sensory bin, no play dough, no exploring! Reading this made me feel validated in my concerns and I definitely plan to slowly implement these kindergarten gems back in our day. Thank you for posting!

Anonymous said...

I have been fighting this fight for almost 10 years. Its heart breaking. I'd love to see what you show to administration to support your room. Only because everything that I show them, they come back with an argument for the opposite.

Susan Russell said...

This insight is so wonderful! I fought hard back before I had my children to make my Kindergarten classroom play-based. Other Kindergarten teachers would comment how I wasn't "teaching" my students the proper math skills or that THEIR students could read and mine couldn't. After spending time with children aged 0 - 5 and seeing how play really does aide in the five developmental domains, I am pushing myself to keep it play based in my new Kindergarten classroom. I know it works. I know that the children will love coming to school and love school in their future because the proper foundation was set for them from the beginning. Thank you for this!