Kindergarten literacy is dear to my heart. Last weekend I was going through my Twitter feed waiting for a session to start at the Virginia State Reading Association Conference, when I noticed an article tweeted by a friend, Laurie Elish-Piper. It was about kindergarten, so I was skeptical to say the least.
I truly believe kindergarten is the most important grade. “People” in education talk about how important a solid foundation is, but don’t draw the same lines about kindergarten. The days of sand tables and nap times are gone and putting an emphasis on early learning is imperative. I have the highest respect for Heidi Anne Mesmer and Marcia Invernizzi, but I wasn’t so sure about what they would call the “Myths” of kindergarten.
I am so excited to say: It is spot on!
MYTH 1: Kindergarten literacy instruction is teaching reading or pushing down the first-grade curriculum.
Fact from Mesmer and Invernizzi: “Kindergarten literacy instruction is responsively teaching young children the many facets that support their literacy development in many areas.”
They do a great job of breaking down all the skills we teach in kindergarten that truly lay the foundation for learning. They also explain the not so subtle difference between the terms “literacy” and “reading.” Students are exposed to “listening, speaking, reading, and writing, as well as motivation, comprehension and vocabulary.”
MYTH 2: Kindergarten literacy instruction is developmentally inappropriate.
Fact from Mesmer and Invernizzi: “”High-quality literacy instruction in kindergarten is developmentally appropriate and backed by decades of solid research.”
Thank you, thank you, thank you. I have said a million times with my arms stretched out wide “developmentally appropriate” is THIS range. What is development for one child is not for another. Should we always cater to the lowest common denominator? I don’t think so. Do we have to differentiate? Absolutely. If a child is developmentally ready to pull up on the side of the couch BEFORE the baby book says he should, should we push him down? No. If a young child sits at a piano and starts to play earlier than his peers, should we tell him to stop? No. Likewise, if a child is ready, why should we stop. I think the biggest problem in the “developmental” argument is far too many people making decisions about what is and is not developmentally appropriate, have no idea what they are talking about.
MYTH 3: There is no time for play, fun, or socio-emotional development.
Fact from Mesmer and Invernizzi: “Kindergarten literacy instruction should be FUN and engaging.
Kindergarten should be engaging and exciting and fun. It should include repetition and practice. Students should be allowed to talk, interact, and problem solve in real situations. I won’t talk about the utter ridiculousness of half-day kindergarten and the lack of time for conversation and problem solving. Here’s a great quote, “Literacy itself is inherently social; it is sharing information, stories, and ideas.”
MYTH 4: One size fits all.
Fact from Mesmer and Invernizzi: “Kindergarten literacy instruction cannot be the same for everyone.”
The story of two kindergartners: One student needs actual instruction with letters and sounds to gain understanding and clear letter/sound associations. One student has been reading for a while and is reading chapter books. The only thing inappropriate about these kindergarten students is that someone deemed a one size fits all curriculum. We should honor their time and their abilities and give them what they need.
MYTH 5: More testing OR no testing.
Fact from Mesmer and Invernizzi: “High-quality literacy instruction is driven by certain types of literacy tests.”
Tests, tests, and more tests. All tests are not created equal. Should we have tests, of course. Should we test EVERYTHING. No. Should we test with running records and benchmark tests to know exactly what the student knows and what they need. The first criteria for determining if a test is necessary should be this: What will be done with the results? If the results are not used for understanding the student and forming instruction, don’t give it.
MYTH 6: Other countries are doing kindergarten more effectively than the United States.
Fact from Mesmer and Invernizzi: “Literacy instruction in the United States is challenging for a number of reasons.”
There is no blanket answer for this one. The most important thing about comparisons is making sure we are comparing apples to apples. Other countries have other limitations on education, limiting who is educated, how they are educated and when they are educated. High success rates in these countries is based on the population they educate, not the whole population. We allow education for all and inherently we report all educational needs and results. Educators must look critically at results from these studies and make sure we are apples to apples.
I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed this article.
As I present to educators, administrators, professors, and people making education decisions…this article gives great basis for the “real” kindergarten.
The kindergarten that is developmentally appropriate for ALL students.
The kindergarten that is filled with quality in America.
The kindergarten that uses assessments for real reasons and not just scores.
The kindergarten that is filled with educational play and excitement.
We can’t diminish its value. We can’t shrug it off. Mesmer and Invernizzi give all us “kindergarten enthusiasts” hope.
The kindergarten that has become the very foundation of all other learning. We can’t dismiss it.
If you would like to read the entire article…and give it to everyone you know, here it is. 6 Myths About Kindergarten Literacy Instruction by Heidi Anne Mesmer and Marcia Invernizzi.