1/2 day vs full day Kindergarten: Do we have a winner?




  1. The Question:
     I am doing research on the benefits of full day kindergarten. I am looking for feedback from teachers who have taught both half and full day K. Please let me know your feelings about full day compared to half day.
    The Answers:
    Amanda Rahe Thompson
    I have taught both. I taught half day Kinder in a private school where many of the students went home to be with SAHMs (the acronym for Stay At Home Mom.) In that situation half day was fine. We had a jam packed academic half day with one recess and then they went home to play with and have down time with siblings. Unfortunately many families do not have that luxury and in that case full day is best with social skills, play and downtime built right into the day. Students usually ended up the same academically in both situations.
    I do want to add that it seems to me that more kids are baby-sat by electronics during their time at home. When that is the case I say full day all the way!!
    Jane Wooten Ayers
    The first few weeks are tough on the kids because they tire easily, but with all we are required to cover I prefer whole day. I have done both. I put my literacy and math stations later in the day and the kids do really well because they enjoy this time. I was surprised how well they work and pay attention in the small groups that late in the day.
    Lori Pickrel Vinti
    Would say full day is the only way to go. I have also had one child go through full day and one child go through half day; HUGE difference in what they were taught in a days time!! The full day child received a lot more academically than the half day child.
    Diane Senk
     I taught half day Kindergarten, full day but every other day, and then full day every day. I really disliked alternate day because of the inconsistency for children (and LOTS of other reasons.) The most significant difference is with very young or at risk children. With full day every day almost all of my children achieved benchmarks, even though we have a Dec. 1 cutoff date for entrance. Full day allowed me to include more play and develop social skills. It made a huge impact on 1st grade – children already know lunch and bus routines, they are used to the full day and come in with more skills and confidence.
    Lynn Green Robinson
     So true. I teach full day and we push those little one unmercifully. It doesn’t matter that they aren’t ready for that. It’s April and I still have kids who fall asleep in the afternoon. Try teaching things to someone half asleep. We have a kitchen area for play, but we only use it on rainy day inside recess. There’s a piano in my room and I haven’t played it in over 2 years. No time. And now our county is going to rate us a teachers on our students’ test scores. In kindergarten. Are you sure you want to teach K?
    Oh, and yes, I taught 1/2 day, but to fit all that needs to be into the curriculum, you have to have full day K.
    Deborah Hurlbert
    I have taught both but have taught full day for all but about six of the 19 years I have been teaching. I did a research project for a Master’s class and some of the research that I found said that there were benefits to full day but they were mostly gone by the time kids got to third or fourth grade. We also compared Dibles scores between full and half day students at the same school in the same years and found no notable difference. You only have time in half day to do what is required. There was no time for enrichment. I liked teaching both but certainly agree about the pressure to succeed and believe it is much more likely to get them to meet the current expectations in a full day classroom.
    Denise Baker Dillman
     I taught 1/2 day for over 30 years and this year we went to full day. Kids are further academically, but we have had many more discipline problems. Many still sleep in the PM. Research has shown that, even though they are ahead now, it will all even out by 3rd grade. The kids need to have time to be kids and quit pushing them so much!
    Linda Plumlee Riley
    I have taught both. With 1/2 day, it seemed that once you got started, it was time to go. With some of the kids, that’s all they could handle. They weren’t quite ready for a full day. With the expectations now, I don’t see how you could get everything in in just a 1/2 day setting. They took out our naptime last year, so ours don’t even get that anymore. It seems like I am teaching 1st grade to K now. (I have also taught 1st.) Some are EXHAUSTED by the end of the day.
    Erica Holloway
    I teach in a program that runs from 8:45-2 p.m., and noon on Fridays. It’s a good compromise between full and half day…and most of my kids go home to an at-home parent or grandparent, so they are getting reinforcement there. I do find that it’s tough to cram everything in, especially on the short days.
    Erin Herward Thurston
    We just moved from half day to full day this year. I really like full day – more time for projects, enrichment, play and fun. Plus I feel like I really know my students. Half day was so rushed! In full day, you do have to pace the day appropriately. Getting the schedule right is very important. You need snack, recess, centers, rest, etc. for it to work. I am very glad to work in a good school system and having a principal who trusts my judgement. Good luck – I definitely would not want to go back to half day.
    Debbie Crocker Baker
    I’m a first grade teacher and I would say kids definitely need a full day kinder, considering all they have to master by the end of first grade. With the new Core standards even more is expected of our kids.
    Brenda Smith Browning
     We’ve been doing 5 day, all day kindergarten for at least 16 years now. I can’t imagine a half day, not with all these little kinders need to know.
    Juli Benson McCarlson
    Full day – way to go…allows time for some fun and rest…
    Robin Schroeder Hromadka
    The full day lets us put some of the fun back in Kindergarten!
    Heather Carbajales
    I’ve never taught half day, but with the rigor of the new common core standards and expectation of my county I couldn’t imagine only teaching half day. It’s hard to get everything in even with a full day (8:30-3:00). They have a few breaks (1 20 min recess, lunch, and a “special” like art, music, etc.) each day, but the rest of the day is academics.
    Ad Nerb
    Only option is full day… More time for in depth lessons. With sooo much expected from them, nap, snack, n “official” recess time is non existent. By the end of our year our kids are at a mid year first grade..so full day is best. Don’t know what is expected with half day k? We dont even have half day pk… They’re all full days
    Margaret Chiorazzi Cornish
     I taught full day K for 9 years. There was time for recess and rest time built into the schedule. With everything that is required now, I can’t imagine how 1/2 day teachers get it all in.
    Buena Kaylor
     I’ve done both and I’d hate to go back. There’s not enough time in the day with FULL day Kinder!
    Heather Buchman
    The truth is that there are many variables to consider when you look at long term learning outcomes for 1/2 vs full day…and the research comes down on both sides of the issue, depending on the type of research you read. My oldest child went for 1/2 day, my youngest for full day, and the oldest has consistently outpaced the youngest sibling academically, because the K program outcomes only persist for the first few years of elementary school. Thus the segregation of “primary” vs. “intermediate” grades & the natural evening-out of developmental readiness tend to negate most of the early benefits of a full day K.
     That being said, I teach full day K and I could *never* get all that I do accomplish with these babies academically into a 1/2 day session. What are we doing to these kids, though, in the name of standard expectations? I worry about their long-term perceptions of themselves as learners and citizens more than their math and reading skill sets. They are 5 or 6, for goodness sake. I am considering a new career, because I have seen children who are perfectly bright, capable little human beings begin to doubt their abilities because of the kind of material we are throwing in their direction…and I don’t know if I can stomach having to cram learning into children who barely see their parents or siblings, who end up calling me ‘mom’ because I am more of a mom to them than their own folks, or I am to my OWN kids!
    Lorena Molina Verdial
    I was a full-day K teacher for six years. Now I’ve been teaching 2nd grade for the last 3 years. I could see the benefits of full-day. Kids took two weeks to get used to the new schedule. Once they go to first grade, they don’t complain at all. The other benefit I see, is that kids tend to go watch TV all afternoon. So I rather have them at school having a nap, than wasting their time at home doing nothing productive. That’s how I see it. 😉
    Yvette Snell Kennedy
    I’ve done both and prefer full day. For one, it’s less students, assessments and small group/individual planning to do. I also just felt spread a little thin and not much time between classes for set up and a prep time. There isn’t as much extra time in full day like you would think, however. With lunch, a rest, recess and extra bathroom break, that takes up a lot of the time. But I felt full day gave me more balance where we had ample time for whole group, small group, individual, “must do’s”, free centers and special cooking or holiday activities.
    I was in different states, but the standards were pretty much the same for both. You have to remember, most of them are just to be introduced. Don’t have to be mastered. There is a lot of pressure, but stick to your guns on what’s developmentally appropriate. I’d have kids doing great with reading, writing and math and some that just weren’t ready for a lot of what was introduced. We only did a short math lesson in the afternoon, though. The rest of it was lunch, rest, snack, centers or recess. But I was able to do a lot of individual lessons then and a great time to pull for assessments.
    Karen Burnat
    I think it’s so very sad that so many people want a full day to jam more academics down little one’s throats. Finland has been rated the best country at educating their children and they don’t even start school until they are 7. More academics at an earlier age are not producing a nation of smarter students. Sad that we can’t learn from countries that are actually making their education system work….
    Gloria Sanchez Craine
     I am reading all of these comments and I think it is so sad as well! Just because the K standards are so rigorous doesn’t mean a full day of K is good for kids! In my district it’s not a FULL day of developmentally appropriate practices. It’s a full day of cramming stuff into these kids and if they don’t get it, meetings are held with parents and it’s just so STRESSFUL when all they need is TIME!
    Sarah Hussmann Johnson
    Full day is much more beneficial. All of our academics were in the morning and specials/projects were in the afternoon. However, it was at a private school so not all kids may be able to handle a full day.
    Catherine Cason Rutkoski
    Thank you so much for all of your input! I am giving a presentation tomorrow on the benefits of full day kindergarten and all of your comments are very helpful…
    Jennifer Toscano Wilkin
    I know I’m in the minority here, but I much preferred half day. I feel I get less done now then with half day. But we also have 31 little ones now as opposed to the 20 we had before. I still have kids that fall asleep in the afternoon. This is only the third year our district has been full day. The change was made for financial reasons, not what was best for kids. By doing this we eliminated first grade reading intervention. It will be interesting to see what our results are on a few years to see if this actually saved us money in the long run.
    Rhonda Aultman Watwood
    I agree that we should look at what successful countries do and actually pay attention. I fear that we push some children so much at an inappropriate time that they learn to dislike school. If you are being asked to do things that you just are not ready to do – it is frustrating. We actually have babies in after school tutoring when they would do fine if given the time to develop. After school they should be playing and being loved on. My son is graduating this year with honors. He went to a half day program, came home, ate lunch, took a nap and then played in the yard with me and his brother. I teach whole day, but just feel guilty when I see the children so tired and frustrated at times. They are five and six. Learning comes easily if you are ready for it. Please don’t just look at the comments that say it is good and accept that as fact. Look at research for what is developmentally appropriate for five and six year olds. Look at what the best educational systems do and talk about that.
    Lori Fehr Crockett
     I have taught half day and full day in Texas. Now I’m back to half day in Utah. I LOVED full day. We devoted the entire morning to literacy. Math was at the end of the day after “specials”. The best thing was to actually have planning time in addition to a lunch!
     It’s funny how the expectations in Texas with a full day are the same as they are in Utah with a half day. There was more time to actually teach in depth with a full day rather than shove it down their throats with a half day. The full day was MUCH MORE enjoyable for everyone including ME!
    Roxanne Lee
    I teach full day and love it. The kids, though, are expected to do what first grade used to do. They are throwing more and more on to our little kids. We have one recess and one special class a day. I do read to my kids and try to squeeze in puzzles, centers etc. They need to be able to move around some. : )
    Laurie Burky Vosicky
     The differences are HUGE! When I taught half day, there was never enough time to get to everything. I had to pick and choose only the most essential skills to teach. No time for fun. I feel like I was shoving everything at them so quickly and they never had time to practice what I was teaching. No time for questions, explorations, practice, socializing… In a full-day program, my students have the luxury to learn without all of the pressure of time constraints. They achieve SO much more! The long day has never been an issue. They get a 20 min. Snack/quiet time each afternoon to regroup and they are good to go. Full day is most beneficial for my lower students because it gives them twice as much time to practice their skills. I hope we NEVER go back to half day!
    Sarah Hudson
     Hardly any of the kids have stay-at-home parents, and most have already been in full-day day care, so it’s not a total shock to them to be in school for 6 hours. Most then go on to an after-school program and don’t get picked up until 6 pm. It’s sad but reality. I LOVE full-day because we have actual time to PLAY–groups, centers, music, art, blocks, etc. We teach our many many lessons, and we have high expectations because the districts expects the kids to achieve a certain level, but the KIDS shouldn’t feel any pressure!!! We all know they learn through playing, and the full day allows for those opportunities.
    Diane Tetzner
    I have been teaching kdg for 8 yrs now – I am a mother of 4 adult children. I wish we could put the brakes on some of the curriculum we are expected to cover in kdg . I would like to get DPI into the classroom & see the discipline issues we have because we are pushing too much too soon. I agree with checking out what is successful in other countries. Let’s not race to the top or leave any child behind, but slowly guide them & yes teach them when they are ready. I believe we would have less discipline issues then . Just my thoughts
    Cheryl Zablow
     Try teaching on an Early Bird-Later Gator schedule where half your students come in for small group time, the students overlap in the middle of the day, and then the early students go home and you have the later students for their small group time. Works great for larger class sizes!!!
    Cindy Tuisku
     I’ve taught both and I love full day! We have time for art, science, rest, and “children’s choice” including blocks, painting, playhouse, puppets, inventions, play dough, etc. The pace is so much better than trying to cram everything in half day. I think half day is more tiring on the kids, since it’s so fast paced.
    Lauren White
     I taught half day and the middle of this year i went to full day. I enjoyed half day but felt i never had enough time to get it in and felt like i wasn’t a good teacher at times. With full day i now have time for some fun stuff or doing a lesson on a holiday etc where as in half i would have to give up math time to do anything like that. I feel i get the curriculum in now and still have time for the extras. I am enjoying it. Also less tests to grade and report cards. I was doing 38 now have 15. Love that! Also in my district the full day is for students who scores low on dibels when registered for k and half in theory is for the higher kids who can attain it in half day. Doesn’t always work and we have all been hoping to go all full day with what we are required to accomplish for PA standards. Though kdg is not mandatory in PA….but don’t get me started on that!
    Cindy Patterson VanGavree
    Full day is awesome! Centers first thing, then core curriculum in the morning. Science, social studies, journals in the afternoon. Lots of Dr. Jean. Enjoy.
    Rita Gregory
    This is my first year teaching full day; the last nine years I taught a four hour program. My class size is larger this year, but nevertheless, the kids have mastered the material that I used to teach in June. Don’t know how I would do CCSS without the extra time…plus the children who need intervention have more opportunities to get it, though there aren’t as many this year.
    Liz Standring Hagerty
    Just read all these comments – we are a passionate group of people aren’t we? I really love how we have differences of opinions but can express our ideas RESPECTFULLY!! On so many of these sites people start personally bashing each other. Way to go K teachers! You are a class act!
    Jamie Butterfield Berube
     I love teaching full-day k. It is more relaxing than a half day schedule. Of course, even in a full day I still don’t get all activities in, but there is more time to really get to know all students. That’s the huge difference for me.
    Cecilia Doyle
     I think I’m a little late and most has already been said. I not only teach K and have done it both ways but I experienced the differences with my own children. With full day the kids don’t seem as rushed. There is time to let them talk about the things being taught. Also time for them to explore, try things, and revisit them later in the day… Also allows to “play”…because we all know that is important and they learn so much from it. The standards are what they are, but at least with full day I feel like the kids have time to learn and develop at their own pace. It allows for more differentiation…
    Carolynne O’Neal
     Cheryl, I love Early Bird Later Gator Schedule. Wow, what an idea. Wish I could do it!!!
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3 thoughts on “1/2 day vs full day Kindergarten: Do we have a winner?

  1. I’ve always argued Kindergarten teachers need proper representation for collective bargaining negotiations. Kindergarten teachers should have a full time assistant or “Aide” in their rooms and be placed 3-5 steps above their base salary on their district’s salary schedule. Unfortunately, many districts don’t include Kindergarten faculty in discussions regarding “all day every other day” or “half day every day” services. Kindergarten licensure requires specialized course work at the graduate level in most states so lets offer the professionally courtesy to K teachers by asking for their input to what works best.

  2. AS long as play is the focus and it doesn’t mean more sit-down worksheet activities…inquiry and social/emotional skills are more valuable to children in the long run than reading early or too much teacher directed lessons. That’s what research supports. (any gains in academics level off at Gr. 3).

  3. I have also taught both, and full day is the only way to go. My students are not nearly as tired, as we don’t have to push so hard. Half day was always frantic. With full day, there is time in the afternoon for all the things we know are really important, free choice with blocks, playhouse, playdough, easel paint, etc. as well as science and art. I hope we never return to half day!

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