Saturday, December 27, 2014

Extension of kindergarten

Parker and Temple, in their 1925 book, Unified  Kindergarten and First Grade Teaching, explored the relationship between kindergarten and First Grade, both the extension of kindergarten activities into first, and the reverse. In the reverse, they stated, "Our problem here is to determine the place that arithmetic, writing, and reading have had and may properly have in the kindergarten."

They noted that some kindergartens were well in advance of first grade students in the area of arithmetic. The use of Froebel's games and handwork gave Kindergarten students an advantage in numbers, shapes, and fractions.

In handwriting, they suggested that in Kindergarten children had a natural problem having to do with immature motor development. They noted that psychologists had recommended only a limited amount of handwriting, consisting of "large letters made either on the blackboard or with soft pencils on paper."

When it came to reading they noted that a complex problem exists "resulting from variation in mental ages." We know that children learn to walk at a various times normally in their first 13 months. Pediatricians will tell you that when a child walks has nothing to do with their ultimate success. But these days, when it comes to reading,  if a child is not reading immediately upon entering kindergarten, parents enter a state of panic, that their child is dumb or being ineffectively taught.

The pressures on reading mount. Children too often learn to hate reading and to be resistant to all efforts to get them to read, whereas if left on their own in the company of avid readers, reading will come on its own, awakened by the child's curiosity. But even so, the age at which children are expected to read has been forced downward and to the child's disadvantage.

Froebel's gifts can induce curiosity at all ages. But if schools today were to make use of what Froebel invented, and used kindergarten's gifts to stimulate math at earlier ages instead of reading, and to leave that for second or third grades when children are more universally ready for it, we would not be at such a handicap in comparison to other nations. You can put much of the blame for the current state of American schooling on the shoulders of those who chose to ignore the efficiencies of Froebel's kindergarten.

Shown above are shapes made with gift number 15 that consists of thin sticks for weaving shapes. Number 16 has sticks joined at their ends so they can be manipulated into various shapes.

After experimenting myself with gift number 15, it has become clear that the development of dexterity was one of the gifts that came to the child through play with the kindergarten gifts. Forming the shapes illustrated in the Paradise of Childhood would these days be challenging for many adults. I feel quite reasonable in suggesting that the development of small motor skills in kindergarten would be most useful in second grade when students would then develop their writing skills, and when through use doing interesting things in kindergarten and first grade, their manual dexterity and fine motor skills have been developed.
“The proper education of the young does not consist in stuffing their heads with a mass of words, sentences, and ideas dragged together out of various authors, but in opening up their understanding to the outer world, so that a living stream may flow from their own minds, just as leaves, flowers, and fruit spring from the bud on a tree.”--Comenius
Make, fix and create...

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