Kindergarten was designed as an introduction to schooling, and one that should help children discover that learning can be fun. But many believe that kindergarten has become the new first grade, and that pressure on schools to demonstrate student progress, even at the kindergarten level, has led schools to take the playfulness out of kindergarten. This week, Wisconsin Public Radio examined this issue by interviewing Christopher Brown, an associate professor of curriculum and instruction in early childhood education at the University of Texas at Austin, who says that heightened standards have pushed some teachers to forgo the emphasis on play and spend much more time on structured learning.
“Unfortunately, a lot of the research is showing that those opportunities for kids to have those times to play, those times to engage with others, are diminishing specifically to engage in academic instruction,” Brown said.
And this trend is not only exhausting for children, it has resulted in some teachers leaving the profession because they no longer feel like they can do what they love.
“They miss the opportunity to engage with kids in a more playful manner, to be able to follow kids’ interests, to be able to pursue a project that kids want to learn more about, rather than being told what to teach and when to teach it and how long to teach it,” Brown said.
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Today’s kindergarten classroom is much different from even that of 20 years ago. Heightened standards have pushed some teachers to forgo the emphasis on play and spend much more time on structured learning, says Christopher Brown, an associate professor of curriculum and instruction in early childhood education at the University of Texas at Austin.