Too Much Too Soon? Comments on an article

For one of my classes (Educational Psychology) we have to read an article each week and write a paper on it.  This week, the article is: "The New First Grade:  Too Much Too Soon?"

Too Much Too Soon?

Are we asking too much of our students, too soon? At what cost? I believe that we are; or at least asking too much of the wrong thing. At earlier ages, a child’s world fuels curiosity; curiosity fuels experimentation, experimentation fuels learning.

Rote learning (including the rote learning of sight words) leaves little room for natural curiosity within that teaching method. Yes – a child can learn that “b” + “at” reads “bat” – but this is like teaching them to play Beethoven without letting them first listen to the music. With the emphasis on “reading at grade level”, there is also an emphasis on “seat work”, and seat work does not fuel curiosity. Life fuels curiosity.

I recently read an article about a school called “waldkindergarten” – or “forest school”. Originating in Scandinavia, the schools I have read the most about are in Germany, and most of the websites are in German. The basic concept is a “school without walls.

This type of school uses a child’s inner curiosity and need for movement to teach them about nature, science, natural consequences, physical education, and more. It does this while improving gross motor skills, logic skills, and awareness of the world around them. Waldkindergartens believe that a child who is able to build on the foundation of motor development is better able to manage his or her own body.

Being able to manage his own body enables a child to recognise and use shapes, signs, deal with quantities and abstract numbers. Only a child that has learned to orient himself in play and experience can bring this orientation to paper or on a blackboard.

Just like in any other kindergarten, we offer paper, pencils, paint, brushes and scissors, and teach the children how to use them. Children who were able to run around and let off steam in kindergarten are able to sit still and concentrate later in school, as they have learned to occupy themselves with simple things and with few distractions in nature.

Children who have mastered day-to-day life in the forest, together with other difficult situations, and have learned to make arrangements and stick to them have gained social skills for living and working together. Skills that are not only valuable at school. )

In this type of school, children are learning. They are learning about the world around them, they are learning about “how stuff works”, they are learning about the limits of their own abilities.

Incidentally, this pressure for “too much too soon” is demanded by standardized, high-stakes testing. What do the Germans call this testing? Amerikanische Prffung (American tests). Whether or not high-pressure performance in first grade leads to better learning in high school and beyond really remains to be seen. But for those children who “make the cut” in kindergarten, childhood is lost forever.

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3 thoughts on “Too Much Too Soon? Comments on an article

  1. This was a great story. If I remember correctly, you are in the education field, right? If so, I am curious about your thoughts on this story. My youngest DD is in first grade. Many of the first grade parents are upset because they feel that the teacher is not pushing the kids hard enough. They want them to be reading sight words, but the teacher is preparing them to learn phonics along with sight words. As a parent, I want my children to be able to "sound out" words that they are reading rather than stop when they come to a word in a story that they don't know. Maybe I am crazy. I think that first graders should be learning the basics and not memorizing stories. Would you mind giving your opinion on this?

  2. It's been a while since I've been in an early elementary classroom - but with No Child Left Behind, it's all about testing - Our professor did mention that studies are showing that children taught to read with phonics do better with reading later on than children who have been taught using "whole language".

  3. My kiddos attend a small-ish private school. I wonder if that is why our teachers want the kids to learn phonics. (I'm not sure if we have to fully follow the No Child Left Behind standards in private school. I guess that I should find that out, huh?) My third grader, who was taught phonics along with basic sight words, reads so well at age 9 that I am amazed. In a few short weeks of phonics, my first grader can sound out words in additon to the basic sight words that they learned in kindergarten. I don't understand why some of the parents want a "word list" a hundred miles long without them learning phonics. I'm not in the education field, but it seems to me that learning phonics makes your "word list" longer just by default because you can actually READ.

    Anyway, I'm done ranting. 🙂 Thanks for your opinion. I think that I might share that tidbit that your professor mentioned with some of the moms in the school parking lot.

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