Robert Slavin, creator of the reading program Success For All, and before that creator of the reading program CIRC (Cooperative Integrated Reading and Composition), says we know how to make sure every first grader can read.
Imagine that your job were to ensure the reading success of every child in a Title I school by the end of first grade, and you had flexible resources to do it. You'd make sure kids had language-rich preschool and kindergarten experiences,
So far so good, but then he blows it by endorsing the current fad of pushing first grade academics into kindergarten.
learned phonemic awareness and letter sounds in kindergarten, and were taught using proven kindergarten- and first-grade reading programs that emphasized systematic phonics, comprehension, fluency, and vocabulary.
Kindergarten is not the place for academics. Gesell Institute of Human Development Executive Director Marcy Guddemi agrees.
Guddemi said quality early education programs for ages 3 to third grade, the years defined as early education, are essential in providing proper experiences and exploration, rather than to learn more letters earlier.
The extra time in kindergarten spent on so-called academics has come at the expense of schema-building, the foundation for reading comprehension beyond mere decoding. Kindergartners should cut and paste. They should also visit a bakery, the newspaper, the fire station etc., etc. They should plant sunflowers and morning glories, raise butterflies, and experience a whole host of other activities. They should go on field trips every week. When it rains, they should play in the mud.
In Japan, kindergarten teachers are likely to take the kids out into a rain shower and let them model creeks merging into rivulets, and rivulets merging into rivers, flowing into a lake (puddle), as well as the powerful effects of water erosion. On a windy day, the kids will run around with makeshift plastic bag kites, learning how the wind inflates the bag. All these experiences and many more form the treasury of reading comprehension. Children create and refine schemata as they assimilate each new experience.
In other words, schema provides the context for comprehending what we read. Even adults who are excellent readers may decode perfectly but still perceive the result as gibberish is they lack the appropriate schema, as illustrated by the following little piece of prose.
The increased flexibility to adopt a divisional basis other than a territorial or field of use basis entails the need for provisions to prevent abuse and facilitate compliance. Capability fluctuations, whether market-driven or strategic, that materially alter the controlled participants’ RAB shares as compared with their respective divisional interests create the equivalent of a controlled transfer of interests and should therefore equally occasion arm’s length compensation. Accordingly, the temporary regulations modify the change of participation provision to classify such a material capability variation, in addition to a controlled transfer of interest, as a change in participation that requires arm’s length consideration by the controlled participant whose RAB share increases, to the controlled participant whose RAB share decreases, as the result of the capability variation.
Young children, more so than adults, need time to build schema. Pushing first grade into kindergarten is a quick and dirty route leading only to the facade of increased academic achievement.
As Guddemi said “Unfortunately, in an effort to close achievement gaps,” parents and schools have embraced a philosophy that earlier is better. Kindergartens these days burden children not only with “reading,” but also math. More and more schools require kindergarten teachers to teach them to calculate according to algorithms as if they do not know that children can learn an awful lot of math without ever putting pencil to paper. All kinds of activities teach mathematics and number sense, like puzzles.
Let the children play. Of course, the best kindergarten teachers plan and guide play activities. The worst thing we can do is push first-grade academics into kindergarten and call it advanced academic achievement.