I have three new articles to share with you today. The first two are about how early education has become more academic and less playful, particularly for less advantaged children, despite evidence in favor of play-based learning. The third article, by Starr Sackstein, suggests some ways to re-think elementary school homework to make it less harmful.
How ‘twisted’ early childhood ed has become — from a child development expert http://ow.ly/NshI300kNoD @valeriestrauss via @frankisibberson [This piece is from November 2015, Strauss shares a speech by Nancy Carlsson-Paige that is more relevant than ever today.]
Nancy Carlsson-Paige: "Play is the primary engine of human growth; it’s universal – as much as walking and talking. Play is the way children build ideas and how they make sense of their experience and feel safe. Just look at all the math concepts at work in the intricate buildings of kindergartners. Or watch a 4-year-old put on a cape and pretend to be a superhero after witnessing some scary event."
Me: Carlsson-Paige makes the particular point in this piece that "It’s in low-income, under-resourced communities ... where children are most subjected to heavy doses of teacher-led drills and tests." She talks about the number of kids who are suspended from preschool. She laments that despite clear research on the developmental benefits to kids of play, schools, particularly schools serving less advantaged children, are moving in the opposite direction. I, too, think that this is a crisis. I'm doing my small part here to keep spreading the word and getting people thinking.
Lara N. Dotson-Renta: "Research has shown time and again that children need opportunities to move in class. Memory and movement are linked, and the body is a tool of learning, not a roadblock to or a detour away from it. Any parent who has brought home a kindergartener after school, bursting with untapped energy yet often carrying homework to complete after a seven-hour day, can reasonably deduce why children today have trouble keeping still in their seats. Many children are getting 20-minute breaks, or none at all...
It would be unwise and impractical to pretend that children do not need any structure, or that academic skills are unimportant in school. Yet it is necessary to recognize that the early-childhood classroom has been significantly altered by increasingly rigorous academic standards in ways that rarely align with how young children learn."
Me: This is yet another piece, full of links to research, about how the increasing focus on ever-earlier academics in schools runs counter to what child development experts know about how kids learn. The author does mention how some individual teachers and schools are effecting change in this area. However, she notes that "for now (such practices are) unlikely to become widespread given the current focus on assessment and school readiness, particularly in underserved communities." I think that last point is especially telling. And sad.
Starr Sackstein: "There is a lot of research out there that supports its negligible purpose and positive support of achievement; yet, many are tied to the belief that students must have it to be successful. Parents are a large part of this challenge as many think that for a class to be rigorous, homework must be given. But it's time to rebrand our concept of "homework" - we need to give it a facelift and use it appropriately."
A list of suggestions / questions follows. My favorite is "Reading should be an expectation not a homework assignment (and PLEASE NO reading logs)"
Me: In this balanced piece, Starr Sackstein isn't saying to get rid of all homework. But she does suggest getting rid of busywork, finding other ways to teach kids accountability, and giving students more choice. I think that her point about parents being a large part of the challenge is going significant, but I'm not sure what to do about that beyond sharing research about the detrimental effects of homework with my own networks.