What is Kindergarten All About?
By Jamaes L. Hymes, Jr.Ed.D
There is a lot of misunderstanding today
about kindergartens. I'd like to pass on a few ideas for you to mull over
about what a kindergarten looks like, and why; and what it is supposed to do.
I hope you find the ideas interesting and perhaps they may set to rest some
questions you have.
One of the troubles in understanding
kindergartens is that we all remember best what school was like in the years
not too far behind us - our high school days, 5th and 6th grades: sitting,
themselves answering the teacher's questions, getting a grade, doing
That is school, upper grade school. But
kindergarten isn't like that. Kindergarten is a school for five-year-olds --
that is the important point. And I don't need to tell you that your Five is
very different from your upper-grade youngsters.
So: Kindergarten looks different. It
sounds different. Kindergarten has a whole different style. It is for Fives.
It is geared to Fives. It is custom-made to fit children of this particular
The key question, then, is: What are Fives
like? For one thing, although they talk big and brave, inside of themselves
Fives are very soft. They are essentially shy. They put on a show of big, but
they know that the world is pretty overwhelming. They are timid, even the
toughest of them.
A school for these children - a school for
beginners - has to be a gentle school. It has to be a warm and friendly
school. Kindergarten can't and must not be a place that overpowers youngsters
and pushes them back. This means that the size of a kindergarten is important.
A kindergarten shouldn't have the feel of an auditorium or a stadium. It means
that children should be able to spend a lot of their time in little groups -
two or three children together, or even working alone - so they can be and at
ease. And of course, the soft tone and good spirit of the teacher are
What else about Fives? A note that always
strikes me is that they are doers. They are forever on the go. They are into
everything. Their nature will change as they grow older but right now, Fives
are not good sitters; they are not youngsters who can keep very quiet for
long; and they are not good listeners either. Instead, they have another quite
wonderful quality: They want to see and do for themselves.
What does this mean for a kindergarten? It
means that the emphasis has to be on reality and on action: on animals, on
jobs the children do, on activities they carry out, on trips they take, on
workers of all kinds who come into the classroom. The emphasis has to be on
chances for children to use their hands and to work tools: magnets, magnifying
glasses, saws, hammers...to work even with what look like playthings: clay,
blocks, paint, puzzles, sand...
Kindergarten is not a place for teaching
children by talking at them, not a place for growups' lectures. It is a place
where active children are involved in the goings-on. Fives learn best that
(James L. Hymes Jr. is a Past President of
the National Association for the Education of young Children and author of
many publications for parents and children.)
You say you love your children,
And are concerned they learn today?
So am I - that`s why I`m providing
A variety of kinds of play.
You`re asking me the value
Of blocks and other such play?
You`re children are solving problems.
They will use that skill everyday.
You`re asking what`s the value
Of having your children play?
Your daughter`s creating a tower;
She may be a builder someday.
You`re saying you don`t want your son
To play in that "sissy" way?
He`s learning to cuddle a doll;
He may be a father someday.
You`re questioning the interest centers;
They just look like useless play?
Your children are making choices;
They`ll be on their own someday.
You`re worried your children aren`t learning;
And later they`ll have to pay?
They`re learning a pattern for learning,
For they`ll be learners always
(Leila P. Fagg)
The ABCs for Parents
your child about the school day.
your child's day with a nourishing breakfast.
you child for doing well.
homework with your child.
your child to read.
a quiet place for your child to study.
your child responsibility.
your child to build self worth.
your child in making simple family decisions.
a library with your child.
your child on a schedule that includes exercise and sleep.
TV viewing by selecting programs with your child.
the time you spend with your child special.
and discuss changes in your child's behaviour.
to help your child organize school papers.
your child with good role models.
the activities your child shares with friends.
your child's right to have opinions different from yours.
an interest or a hobby with your child.
time to listen to your child.
your child to say "NO!" to unwanted touching.
places of interest with your child.
with your child to set up rules of behaviour.
and save records or articles that benefit your child.
results by encouraging your child to do better.
through these ABCs again and again!
WHEN YOU THOUGHT I WASN’T LOOKING
By Mary Rita Schilke Korzan
When you thought I wasn’t looking, I saw you hang my
on the refrigerator,
and I immediately wanted to paint another one.
When you thought I wasn’t looking, you fed a stray
and I thought it was good to be kind to animals.
When you thought I wasn’t looking, you gave me a
and I knew that little things were special things.
When you thought I wasn’t looking, you put your arm
and I felt loved.
When you thought I wasn’t looking, I saw tears come
from your eyes,
and I learned that sometimes things hurt - - but that
it’s all right to cry.
When you thought I wasn’t looking, you smiled,
and it made me want to look that pretty too.
When you thought I wasn’t looking, you cared,
and I wanted to be everything I could be.
When you thought I wasn’t looking - - I looked...and
wanted to say...
thanks for all those things you did when you thought
I wasn’t looking.
(by Ray A. Lingenfelter)
I dreamed I stood
in a studio
And watched two
The clay they used
was a young child's mind
And they fashioned it with care.
One was a teacher;
the tools she used
were books and
music and art;
One was a parent
with a guiding hand
and a gentle, loving heart.
And when at last
their work was done
They were proud of
what they had wrought
For the things they
had worked into the child
could never be
sold or bought.
And each agreed she
would have failed
if she had worked alone
For behind the parent
stood the school,
and behind the teacher
stood the home.
10 Reasons to Read Aloud to Children
by Susan Nixon, MA Ed.
1. Hear new words;
2. Develop sentence sense and an ear for rhythm;
3. Enjoy and compare diverse writing styles;
4. Create common connections to ideas (as a
5. Use reading as a springboard to discussion and
6. Gain new knowledge and understanding;
7. Hear standard forms of English;
8. Learn about a variety of writing genres;
9. Feel things they've never felt before;
10. Share a wonderful time with you and your
favourite read-aloud books!
Top 10 Signs of a Good Kindergarten
Kindergarten is a time for children to expand
their love of learning, their general knowledge, their ability to get along
with others, and their interest in reaching out to the world. While
kindergarten marks an important transition from preschool to the primary
grades, it is important that children still get to be children -- getting
kindergarteners ready for elementary school does not mean substituting
academics for play time, forcing children to master first grade "skills," or
relying on standardized tests to assess children’s success.
Kindergarten "curriculum" actually includes such
events as snack time, recess, and individual and group activities in addition
to those activities we think of as traditionally educational. Developmentally
appropriate kindergarten classrooms encourage the growth of children’s
self-esteem, their cultural identities, their independence and their
individual strengths. Kindergarten children will continue to develop control
of their own behaviour through the guidance and support of warm, caring
adults. At this stage, children are already eager to learn and possess an
innate curiosity. Teachers with a strong background in early childhood
education and child development can best provide for children what they need
to grow physically, emotionally, and intellectually. Here are 10 signs of a
good kindergarten classroom:
Children are playing and working with materials or other children. They are
not aimlessly wandering or forced to sit quietly for long periods of time.
Children have access to various activities throughout the day, such as block
building, pretend play, picture books, paints and other art materials, and
table toys such as legos, pegboards, and puzzles. Children are not all doing
the same things at the same time.
Teachers work with individual children, small groups, and the whole group at
different times during the day. They do not spend time only with the entire
classroom is decorated with children’s original artwork, their own writing
with invented spelling, and dictated stories.
Children learn numbers and the alphabet in the context of their everyday
experiences. Exploring the natural world of plants and animals, cooking,
taking attendance, and serving snack are all meaningful activities to
work on projects and have long periods of time (at least one hour) to play and
explore. Filling out worksheets should not be their primary activity.
have an opportunity to play outside every day that weather permits. This play
is never sacrificed for more instructional time.
Teachers read books to children throughout the day, not just at group story
Curriculum is adapted for those who are ahead as well as those who need
additional help. Because children differ in experiences and background, they
do not learn the same things at the same time in the same way.
Children and their parents look forward to school. Parents feel safe sending
their child to kindergarten. Children are happy; they are not crying or
Individual kindergarten classrooms will vary, and
curriculum will vary according to the interests and backgrounds of the
children. But all developmentally appropriate kindergarten classrooms will
have one thing in common: the focus will be on the development of the child as
(National Association for the Education of Young
All I Really Need To Know I Learned In Kindergarten
by Robert Fulghum
Most of what I really need to know about how to live and what
to do and how to be I learned in kindergarten. Wisdom was not at the top of
the graduate school mountain, but there in the sand pile at Sunday school.
These are the things I learned:
Don't hit people.
Put things back where you found them.
Clean up your own mess.
Don't take things that aren't yours.
Say you're sorry when you hurt somebody.
Wash your hands before you eat.
Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.
Live a balanced life—learn some and think some and
draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work everyday
Take a nap every afternoon.
When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic,
hold hands and stick together.
Be aware of wonder.
The Starfish Poem
Once upon a time there was a wise man
who used to go to the ocean
to do his writing.
He had a habit of walking
on the beach before
he began his work.
One day he was walking along
As he looked down the beach,
he saw a human
figure moving like a dancer.
He smiled to himself to think
of someone who would
dance to the day.
So he began to walk faster
to catch up.
As he got closer, he saw
that it was a young man
and the young man wasn't dancing,
but instead he was reaching
down to the shore,
picking up something
and very gently throwing it
into the ocean.
As he got closer he called out,
"Good morning! What are you doing?"
The young man paused,
looked up and replied,
"Throwing starfish in the ocean."
"I guess I should have asked,
why are you throwing starfish in the ocean?"
"The sun is up and the tide is going out.
And if I don't throw them in they'll die."
"But, young man, don't you realize that
there are miles and miles of beach
and starfish all along it.
You can't possibly make a difference!"
The young man listened politely.
Then bent down, picked up another starfish
and threw it into the sea,
past the breaking waves and said-
"It made a difference for that one."
The Blueberry Story
“If I ran my business the
way you people operate your schools, I wouldn’t be in business very long!” I
stood before an auditorium filled with outraged teachers who were becoming
angrier by the minute. My speech had entirely consumed their precious 90
minutes of in-service. Their initial icy glares had turned to restless
agitation. You could cut the hostility with a knife.
I represented a group of
business people dedicated to improving public schools. I was an executive at
an ice cream company that became famous in the middle 1980’s when People
Magazine chose our blueberry as the “Best Ice Cream in America”. I was
convinced of two things. First, public schools needed to change; they were
archaic selecting and sorting mechanisms designed for the industrial age and
out of step with the needs of our emerging “knowledge society”. Second,
educators were a major part of the problem: they resisted change, hunkered
down in their feathered nests, protected by tenure and shielded by a
bureaucratic monopoly. They needed to look to business. We knew how to produce
quality. Zero defects! TQM! Continuous improvement! In retrospect, the speech
was perfectly balanced….equal parts ignorance and arrogance.
As soon as I finished, a
woman’s hand shot up. She appeared polite, pleasant…..she was, in fact, a
razor-edged, veteran, high school English teacher who had been waiting to
unload. She began quietly, “We are told, sir, that you manage a company that
makes good ice cream.” I smugly replied, “Best ice cream in America, Ma’am.”
“How nice”, she said. “Is it rich and smooth?” “Sixteen percent butterfat”, I
crowed. “Premium ingredients?” she inquired. “Super-premium! Nothing but
triple A.” I was on a
roll. I never saw the next
line coming. “Mr. Vollmer”, she said, leaning forward with a wicked eyebrow
raised to the sky, “when you are standing on your receiving dock and you see
an inferior shipment of blueberries arrive, what do you do?” In the silence of
that room, I could hear the trap snap. I was dead meat, but I wasn’t going to
lie. “I send them back.” “That’s right! She barked, “and we can never send
back our blueberries. We take them big, small, rich, poor, gifted,
homeless, rude, and brilliant. We take them with ADHD, junior rheumatoid
arthritis, and English as their second language. We take them all! Everyone!
And that, Mr. Vollmer, is why it’s not a business. It’s school!”
In an explosion, all 290
teachers, principals, bus drivers, aides, custodians and secretaries jumped to
their feet and yelled, “Yeah! Blueberries! Blueberries!”
And so began my long
transformation. Since then, I have visited hundreds of schools. I have learned
that a school is not a business. Schools are unable to control the quality of
their raw material, they are dependent upon the vagaries of politics for a
reliable revenue stream, and they are consistently mauled by a howling horde
of disparate, competing customer groups that would send the best CEO screaming
into the night. None of this negates the need for change. We must change what,
when, and how we teach to give all children maximum opportunity to thrive in a
post-industrial society. But educators cannot do this alone; these changes can
occur only with the understanding, trust, permission and active support of the
surrounding community. For the most important thing I have learned is that
schools reflect the attitudes, beliefs and health of the communities they
serve, and therefore, to improve public education means more than changing our
schools, it means changing America. (or as in this case Canada)
"Good parents give their children
roots and wings.
Roots to know where home is, wings
to fly away and exercise what's been taught them."