Today I have three links to share related to joy of learning. In the first, an elementary school principal looks to bring back play in school, starting with Kindergarten. In the second, a former teacher reflects on the damage that leveled classroom reading can do to students' motivation to read. In the third, a mom and blogger shares straightforward advice for preparing preschoolers for Kindergarten, including making sure kids have plenty of time for play. I think that all three of these articles are worth your time.
Brett Gustafson: "It is clear to me, as it should be to all principals, that play is a necessary component of learning. This should come as no surprise to early childhood educators but many elementary principals are slow to embrace. I share this account with Defending The Early Years not to boast “Look how great I am!” because, had it not been my wife (who worked with Senior DEY Advisor Dr. Diane Levin in college), I might not have been so quick to try this experiment this year. I share this because I know there are many well-intentioned principals out there who don’t have the early childhood background to know how crucial play is for learning. Please share this with them to let them know, “Yes, you are allowed to do that.”"
Me: I am doing my part here to share Brett Gustafson's experience as a principal who is working to turn around a troubled school by bringing back play. Gustafson started in kindergarten, and ended up with an experiment in which one classroom focused more on academics while the other two went to a play-based format. Guess which style resulted in fewer discipline problems AND better academic outcomes?
Nicole Hewes: "...I believe that students will be more motivated readers if they are empowered to be involved in determining what a “just right” book means for them. Three key ways in which leveled reading programs potentially undermine student motivation are the lack of autonomy and empowerment given to students regarding what books they will read, their lack of translation into the real-world. and their failure to account for student interest as a factor in reading ability...If we all aspire to create lifelong readers, we must take steps to structure our reading instruction so that it reflects what actually leads to increased motivation and engagement."
Me: My six-year-old is currently reading a Magic Tree House book a page at a time, because it is so challenging for her. She wanted to take it with us out to dinner the other night. In the car, I suggested, casually, that she might want to try a book that was a bit less challenging, so that she could get more practice and learn more words. She took my point, saying that she found The Princess in Black a bit closer to her reading level. I gave her an example, explaining that she could probably figure out what C-A-S-T-L-E spells from the content, and then she would recognize it in other books. But I was very careful not to say that she couldn't read that Magic Tree House book. She pulls middle grade novels from my shelves sometimes to see what progress she can make with them. [Answer: not so much, yet.] But she finds the process of choosing both fun and empowering. Why on earth would I want to take that away?
Jodie Rodriguez: "It sounds so simple. But, it is the single most important thing we can do to help young children grasp language and develop a love of reading...Children need to hear lots and lots of language in order to talk, read, and write. Look for little ways numerous times a day to talk WITH your child...Don’t be afraid to use big words. There is no need to dumb down language when we are talking with kids. If your child doesn’t know a word you used, he’ll ask, and then you can have a quick lesson about the word... Oh, the power of play! Maria Montessori said, “Play is the work of the child.” Our preschooler’s day should be filled lots of free play and guided play."
Me: This was a tough piece for me to quote from because there are useful snippets all through. Basically, Jodie offers common-sense advice based on the importance of both reading and free play for getting preschoolers ready for Kindergarten. She includes examples of what has worked for her own family. I especially liked her advice not to be afraid to use big words in talking with your kids. This is something that I have always done with my daughter, and she sometimes catches me off-guard with her use of strong vocabulary words. Anyway, this piece is well worth a read for parents or caregivers of toddlers and preschoolers.