"academic" pre-k

Discussion in 'General Education' started by punchinello, Mar 21, 2009.

  1. punchinello

    punchinello Comrade

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    Mar 21, 2009

    When my children were ready for a pre-k program (4,5 years old), I looked for a school where play was the priority. I didn't care about them learning anything academic and always figured it would all come in time during K, 1st, 2nd. Today they are in college, HS, and middle school and have had successful school experiences. Lots of straight A years, homework always done, honor roll, etc.

    The pre-school where I teach now (4,5 year old class) is very involved with academics - rhyming words, addition sentences, vowel sounds, patterning. It is what kindergarten was 15 years ago, from what I can tell. My students seem ready for all this and are very focused on the traditional 3 R's.

    Now my question. Does it matter? My children's preschool is still in existence nearby and I wonder...will there be a difference between the kids who just play before K and the ones who are writing CVC words and full sentences. (kid spelling, of course) Obviously they will recognize some of these skills more quickly when they enter K, but will there be a difference once the "strictly play" kids are exposed
    to the skills? Does it all even out eventually? I always thought it did. So then what is the point of teaching my 5 year olds about bar graphs and vowel sounds?

    Don't get me wrong, my students have lots of play time in the classroom and 30 minutes per day outside. (1/2 day program) I don't have a set curriculum, so can do as much or as little as I want. The parents seem to like the academic exposure and the kids are not at all stressed with it...they love it, actually, and are little sponges - very easy to teach. I do as little paper/pencil as possible, keeping the learning to hands on activities.

    Anyway, I'd love to hear your thoughts.
     
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  3. Blue

    Blue Aficionado

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    Mar 21, 2009

    As long as the learning is based upon hands on activities, you should be all right. But, Piaget and others have studied how children learn. Most children are not able to understand the abstract until older than 3-4. You might enjoy reading Piaget's theories.
     
  4. Aliceacc

    Aliceacc Multitudinous

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    Mar 21, 2009

    Like you, I searched for a Nursery School that treated my 3 year old like a 3 year old. The one all my kids eventually attended had as it's motto "Learning through Play." I served as the president of the Parents Board of Trustees for several years, and believe they did (and still do) an excellent job of socializing their young students.

    One school I remember touring promised me that my son would learn the Pledge of Allegiance right away. I couldn't help but wonder: "He's three!!! He has no idea what Allegiance is!!!" We took a pass on that one!

    I'm a big believer in letting kids learn through play. There will be time enough for sight words and addition down the road. I think preschool should be about socialization, separation, and learning to love school.
     
  5. kimrandy1

    kimrandy1 Enthusiast

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    Mar 21, 2009

    I never taught my kids the Pledge, either, for that same reason, Alice. My students, I mean. However, now I must....our curriculum dictates it and my principal even "quizzed" a couple of students on it. ARgh.

    I'm all for play-based, hands-on learning, but it's really hard to do that when some of our objectives are things like "recognizes and substitutes medial vowel sounds in words." But I do work hard to make most things hands-on and age-appropriate, with very little paper-pencil tasks.

    I do make sure we have age-appropriate and engaging centers, and we have a daily center time of at least 40 minutes, with 20 minutes of playground time a day, plus a social snack time, all within a half day schedule.

    What do I think comes from the most academic of PreK classrooms? At least in my case (a state-funded PreK for kids who are at risk of not being ready for Kdg...whether that risk is because the kid is ESL, poor, has an IEP or a medical/family circumstance) is that the kids who have parental support come to PreK ready to learn and grab onto the academics and go! Those that don't have that support (and, therefore, a sort of academic background) start out behind, and it's still hard for them to catch up...because it's not like we don't encourage those that are ahead to keep growing. I mean, I have kids start who know a handful of letters, can write their names and can count to 10....and then I have those that haven't ever used a crayon or pencil in their lives.

    Kim
     
  6. punchinello

    punchinello Comrade

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    Mar 22, 2009

    Thanks for your responses.

    The interesting part about Piaget (I do remember a little bit from my training looong ago) is the pre-op stage spans over so many years. I absolutely agree with 2's and 3's and young 4's - it is pointless to have lessons on elementary-type skills....calendar, pledge. But what about older 4's and 5's?

    As they get closer to the next stage of development, when is it appropriate to gradually introduce some of those more abstract concepts?

    I don't know if it matters, but my students are from an affluent area where high achievement is expected. They have every advantage in life, the biggest problem I see is too much time with the nanny, not enough with mom.
     
  7. McKennaL

    McKennaL Groupie

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    Mar 22, 2009

    I have 2 kids...and treated the pre-school search differently for each.

    My oldest was VERY much into reading, drawing, and as soon as I noticed that her scribbles looked like letters and showed her how to write her name... well, she hasn't given up the pen since. For HER, i went with a preschool attached to our local jr. college. It was more about experiences. Socialization. Imagination. EXACTLY what she needed and LOVED!

    My second did his 3 year old year there...but I worried about him NOT hitting the ground running in kindergarten. HE cared LESS for books, "what's THAT color called?", etc. For HIM, we went with the local park district pre-school that was much more academic.

    I would say they started their kindergarten years on pretty much the same level. But had they not been there... they would have definitely been behind the other kids from the start.

    Punchinello wrote...

    "I don't know if it matters, but my students are from an affluent area where high achievement is expected. They have every advantage in life, the biggest problem I see is too much time with the nanny, not enough with mom."

    Not nanny's here...or at least not my end of the economic scale... but DEFINITELY stay at home moms who already gave their kids LOTS of trips to the libraries, gymboree, and the like. You KNEW at what point your child HAD to reach BEFORE going into kindergarten. If they weren't there... well, again, my son was in their kindergarten readiness summer school program before knindergarten.

    (NOTE: PLEEEEASE don't go thinking I was a mom pushing them to read before speaking, learning french in their free moments, or placing them on a pre-school waiting list before they were born. Nope, not me. BUT... when in Rome, you have to keep up with the gladiators or you end up with the lions.)
     
  8. KinderCowgirl

    KinderCowgirl Phenom

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    Mar 22, 2009

    I wish someone had done some sort of study following kids from both kinds of schools. I think it would be really interesting to see if there was a difference in the long run.

    Here there was a trend a few years ago where even Pre-K teachers were not allowed to teach the children writing. Based on evidence that if a child lacks the fine motor skills they end up developing all these funky grips for holding the pencil and actually worse handwriting. It didn't last long.

    I do think kids are lacking the education in social skills that they used to have and that inevitably has to affect this generation growing up. I also notice a lack of creativity - imagination. I can't tell you how many times a student will ask me if they should color the sky blue? They are so used to being specifically instructed they can't think for themselves. Remember some have been in day care since they were infants and most daycare centers now offer academic instruction as well.

    A friend of mine was bragging that at her son's private school they taught him to multiply in Kinder. She got mad at my response but almost any child can be taught to memorize the multiplication tables - he had no understanding of what the process was or what it meant simply that 5 X 5 =25. So when it comes time for him to apply that knowledge, he's going to be lost and actually have to unlearn to relearn it. I feel like I'm treading water some days teaching things like time and money that are abstract and not going to be retained in any meaningful way - it's just above their heads. I feel like they will pick up those skills in future grades but no one is going to go back and teach them how to make friends (or keep friends).
     
  9. MissFroggy

    MissFroggy Aficionado

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    Mar 22, 2009

    My school follows Piaget's theories closely. I will say, from K-2 if you took our kids and compared them side by side with kids from more academic programs, they would be "behind" in some areas... however, in other areas they would be very much ahead. Our kids are articulate and speak up for themselves and have fantastic social skills and awareness of others. I also think a lot of my students are naturally "above grade level" but that probably has more to do with their parents and socio-economics than anything we do. My students (first grade) play for a couple hours a day, inside and out. But when we do academics, we do them well. We also have small classes (10-14 kids) so they get a lot of attention.

    Anyway, while some kids are "behind" in some areas early on, MOST of our students are amazingly prepared by the end of 5th grade.

    Even though I say kids are "behind" in first grade, I don't think this is really true. Almost all of my students read well above grade level (and came in reading above grade level) and also are above grade level in math. What we aren't doing as much of is the little things, like memorizing math facts, memorizing states/capitals, learning specific grammar rules (of course we do the basics) and so forth. Our curriculum is rich, but a lot of what we do goes for depth rather than breadth. if you use that approach, for sure there are things that get lost in the meantime.

    Anyway, I think a lot of our students do great with a play based preschool and K BUT I do worry about the kids that do K at our school and go to 1st grade in public school. I KNOW some of them are behind. I also know some are ahead... but because of our program, it can cause people to distrust us. Oh well....
     
  10. Hoot Owl

    Hoot Owl Aficionado

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    Mar 22, 2009

    I have identified, second grade, gifted kids (sometimes that's questionable) and 99% of the time they've attended some type of preschool. We evaluate each child every year for placement in a gifted class for the next year (keeps us from illegal tracking).

    I.Q.'s really don't/shouldn't change over the course of a child's life time. But, by the time these identified kids reach the fifth grade quite a few of the kids I started out with are no longer in the program because I think they were over-achievers to start with.

    There's a lot of interesting research out there about I.Q., genetics vs. environment, economics and I.Q., race and genetics, etc...

    My children both learned to read before they were 4. I never pushed it but they were in a preschool setting where they played most of the day and did some academics. Both my kids grasped reading because they wanted to so badly. I never got to read to them as often as they wanted me to read, so they learned as quickly as they could. I always had huge stacks of books for them to read and they'd honestly read for hours at a time or just enjoy looking at the pictures.

    If a child is intrinsically motivated to read, don't hold them back. Play is vital and it grieves me to think that little kids who aren't ready to color, hold a pencil, or identify initial consonants, and medial vowels are being pushed to do so. You can't make a kid ride a bicycle until they're physically able, pushing kids before they're ready will just make them hate school and not having a school ready for your kid is disastrous as well.

    The bottom line is you want your kids to be socially well adjusted, happy, successful, financially independent, and good citizens.
     

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