In support of a “developmentally appropriate” classroom

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The Question:
I work in a private k that strives to implement developmentally appropriate practice. Today I was visited by a child study team of a public school where one of my students will be attending first grade. The head surveyed my room and told me it “reads more like a transitional-k,” motioning to my blocks, easel, and dramatic play centers, and seemed chagrined when I told her we did not have standardized test scores to provide her.
I am sick at heart.
Is this what public schools are pushing in K? I wanted to tell her that in addition to most of my class reading between a d-e level (not all but more than 2/3rds) my kids actually add mixed change at the dramatic play center, create and use words like tint and shade at the easel, and have built everything from the Museum of Natural History to the Great Wall of China with those blocks. But I didn’t since I’m sure none of those things are one of those precious tests everyone loves so much.
 I’m in a bubble I guess, but what is the new norm for k?
The Answers:
Diane
 You should have told her that. And no. That’s not what public school teachers are like. Administration- sure. Teachers, no.
Jill

 Maria Montessori would be crying for the children. Her philosophy/pedagogy is Following the Child. Nothing could be more appropriate if you want mankind to continue evolving intellectually and spiritually. I am Montessori trained through and through. I was a directress for more than twenty years and have been teaching in public school for seven years. 
The standards movement is a reaction to corporate pressures not a response to the needs of the child. The movement focuses on the product at the end of schooling rather than the process.
What you are doing seems to align more with child centered learning and rather than doing less….do more!!
We should not be bullied into programs that are damaging to the Psyche and futures of our precious children.
Read “The Magical child” by Joseph Chilton Pierce and any of Montessori or Rudolph Steiner’s writings about child development.
Arm yourselves with knowledge. Prove your rationale and be the best educators you can be.
As for me, I walk a tight rope. I find where Montessori aligns with common core.
Following the child can be challenging in these days of curriculum companies vying for dollars and pushing workbooks and assessments at our schools, but we all must push back! If we have to throw our blocks at them then so be it! JK!
Zana
Your room sounds GREAT!!!!!!!! All Ks should be like yours….our society is not helping our kids…but YOU ARE!!!!
Sharon
 It is important for teachers like you who recognize all that children learn through play, speak up. I have worked with children for over 30 years, am a validator for NAEYC Associate Degree Programs and for Center Accreditation. We KNOW that the path through test scores is not the correct path. Keep up the great work.
Lori
 While I do find kindergarten expectations to be somewhat developmentally inappropriate at times, for the most part I agree with the more advanced curriculum and learning expectations. I agree with an earlier post about this nation babying our kids. Kindergarten has had to adjust as the rest of the grades are also more advanced. I begin the school year by explaining that kindergarten is now what 1st grade used to be……preK is where they learn by playing. In my school, they have reading and math learning centers, writing workshop, science, and social studies every day. Recess is when we play. We have critical thinking activities every morning as students arrive. Yes, there are way too many assessments, but if you choose to teach in public school, then it is just that way. Frankly, with the behavior of the kids these days, too much playtime equals trouble. I keep my class busy and engaged in learning so that they do not have time to get in trouble.
Suzanne
 You have every right to be chagrined, as you say. Were the public school people teachers or “clipboard-types” who visited you? If you asked a teacher how they felt (I AM one), you would be pleasantly surprised, although heart-sick at the thought, to find that we would love to be able to have a classroom such as yours. We can’t have play time, we HAVE to concentrate on testing and test results to the Nth degree, and our students are so often thrown together in a mix of developmental stages that all the testing in the world is not going to help educate. There is little or no room left for creative play; we have to stick to such rigid testing schedules and preparations that any child who is not at an acceptable level in reading or math, or both, tends to be labeled right away and eventually gets lost in the system. When we try to teach in the manner you are allowed to teach, we are shot down and most likely disciplined to not following procedures.
Jeanna
Creative play needs to be a part of their day. I truly feel that the age requirement for kindergarten needs to change if they want to expect this much out of the students. Some kids are not physically or mentally mature enough to be successful without feeling overwhelmed at this age, but because of financial reasons parents put them in school because they can’t afford not too, because they’re too old for preschool and can’t afford daycare. They need to be kids too! At least that’s how it is here in a rural town of 500.
Denise
 I too, work in a private K and still have a developmentally appropriate classroom. Glad to hear I am not alone in this issue. It’s sad to me that lots of schools/districts have forgotten about teaching the “whole child”…
Stephanie
 Stay in your bubble! It is awful what public schools are doing to these little ones!
Laren
We still have our blocks and dramatic play, etc. although we don’t get to them everyday, the kids are only 5& 6. they need to make their learning real life through play! That being said, yes unfortunately testing is the way of the public schools…..
Tonya
As a public school kindergarten teacher in Wisconsin, I can tell you that the teachers in my school do not push for standardized test scores. I teach at a kindergarten center with anywhere from 25-19 teachers over the course of 11 years. Recently, our state adopted the PALS test and it was implemented this year. We have to give the test to each student. I feel that the standardized test scores are state driven for us. As a group of kindergarten teachers, we have assessments that we use to guide our instruction, to make sure the kids will be ready for the rigors of first grade. And yes, it is all changing BUT we must keep the play the part of the learning. I think it sounds like you are doing what I see a lot in my school…giving kids all the tools they need to learn.
Kristine
Keep doing what you are doing! I teach K in a NYS public school, and this is the agenda for most. I am lucky, however, to teach in a district that does NOT push this. I still teach 2 half day programs. If you need any co for action in what you are doing, read any of David Elkind’s books. He is a guru of early childhood development.
Maureen
 If anyone knows of any organizations or groups who are working to stop the madness that is invading the early childhood teaching and insisting on taking out the learning centers, dramatic play and developmentally appropriate methods, please post. I have been retired for 3 years but have a passion for keeping appropriate expectations in kindergarten.
I recently substituted in a kindergarten for the last 18 days of school. Most of the time I had to do assessments which took valuable class time and frustrated the children as well as me. I am heartsick about what is happening. I taught kindergarten for 35 years. Finally, when I finished the assessments that were required I brought in my music and books and taught the way I like best. You should have seen the difference on the kids faces. I was encouraged when I read this post this morning.
Amy
 I teach in a program similar to yours. I have had similar experiences. I told one observer, “just because we do it different, doesn’t mean we’re wrong, or that you are doing it right.”
It’s frustrating trying to do what I feel is right & developmentally appropriate while needing to prepare them for the realities of the public educational system.
Val
A true developmentally appropriate curriculum is extremely rigorous. Yet we spend so much time assessing that I often feel like I don’t do it well any more…
Stephanie
 You sound like a great teacher! Standardized test are inappropriate in K and first (and second). Stand your ground and keep teaching appropriate K!!!
Nancy
 I taught pre-k for 12 years. I said I’d never go to K but did anyway. Public school k is developmentally INAPPROPRIATE. I’m going to first next year. Please continue what you’re doing. You know your students learn through PLAY.
Cathy
 Maureen~ I feel the same way. It is madness, and the continued push isn’t helping our youngest learners. I belong to The Alliance for Childhood. Their focus now is on the importance of play. OT’s are a great resource for dev app practices. So encouraging to read the posts!
Maria
Sounds like your class is an amazing example of developmentally appropriate practice!!! Your students are having an amazing kindergarten experience, as they should, and hopefully the “heads” learned a lesson from you!!
Beki
It sounds like you’re covering the same standards. Pull out Montessori and beat them with it.
Gloria
 I taught K for many years and will teach it. Again. It is pure cruelty. So sorry this happened to you! Sounds like you are doing an absolutely wonderful job in YOUR classroom. Your students are blessed to have you!
Colleen
 Speaking of “bubbles”…. I saw a post where a teacher was holding a sign that read, “Kindergarteners should be blowing bubbles…not filling them in.” Something to think about…hhhmmmm.
Karen
 She’s wrong. And she knows nothing about early childhood education. Plus, it’s none of her business. Don’t change. YOU are the one that’s correct.
Kristy
You are doing great things. I’m a retired public school teacher, and now I homeschool my son. I made the decision out of the same concerns as you. I have a feeling I would love your classroom.
Peggy
 I taught in public kinder and it is not developmentally appropriate at all… Very sad that they are pushing so much and not giving the foundation that you are able to give. You are lucky to be where you are.
Beth
I wish all K classes were like yours! I am appalled at the thought of giving kindergartners standardized tests! Kids can still be kids and learn at the same time! Keep up the good work and don’t bow to the pressure.
Nancy
 I’ve taught K for 7 years in two different public school districts. This last year was the hardest as the rigorous curriculum and assessments required are becoming more and more developmentally inappropriate. It breaks your heart when kids just ask to color or paint or play. We’re making changes in the wrong direction and I’m sure they’ll find out scores will not improve because the kids are not given time to be kids. Keep doing what you’re doing!
Kimberly
 Yes, unfortunately public kindergarten is developmentally inappropriate, I had been out on maternity leave and when I returned the interim had blocks in a center. I didn’t think much of it, I used them to retell the three little pigs, but after an admin round, I was called in and told to remove the blocks and give them to pre-k. We took a standardized test this year, and some of my babies cried. It’s cruel and unusual punishment to make a 5 year old sit still and quiet that long!!
Jennifer
 I’m having to give up my housekeeping area in my K classroom next year because there just isn’t time to use the materials. We have been so pressured by the Common Core Standards and Standardized Tests it is like 1st Grade now. Makes me sad for the kids.
Gina
 I’ve taught K since 1978. Many things have changed over the year with play time getting shorter and shorter and the same with rest time. We were asked our opinion this year if we thought the list for classroom materials should still include kitchen, blocks, etc. Many of the younger teachers said no. I thought back to classrooms I have seen with amazing “free play” areas like you said and dress up areas. Just think of the ways these children are learning to express themselves, build creativity, practice being part of a “family” with baby dolls, cooking, etc. It is sad.
Susan
 When I did my student teaching 35+ years ago at a primary school in London (from Florida)’ the students I had were 4-6 years of age.
In January, they were ALL reading and writing, no standardized tests, and not so many “play” centers as we have. I was astonished at how much further ahead their children were at their age than ours. The children were very happy. I noticed the same with my husband’s (he was American) cousins from Belgium. They were much less worldly and “grown up” in their ways and play, yet much further ahead than our counterparts. I am a kindergarten teacher and one of the few who doesn’t think what we are trying to teach our kids is developmentally inappropriate at all. HOW we teach it (all paper and pencil, rote facts) is wrong. Personally, I think in America we the parents have made our children fragile. I remember my college classes telling me that I couldn’t tell a student flat out that their answer was wrong or their work wasn’t quality work. I might damage their psyche. I had to find a kinder, gentler way to say it. I went over to England, chose a lead teacher to work under who was dynamic! She was also an artist and very creative. I remember when a little boy brought her his work and said, “Miss, I’m finished.” I saw his work and thought, “Wow, that’s amazing writing!” We’ll, the teacher read it, looked at him and said with much enthusiasm, “That’s rubbish! Go back and do it again!” I was flabbergasted on many levels, but I watched as the boy turned around and with his back to the teacher, broke out into a grin while telling his friend he had to redo it. I learned a lesson that has stuck with me my whole career: you have to have high expectations for children or they won’t rise to them, and if you treat children as though the are fragile, they will become fragile and won’t be able to take any criticism. We have done that in America, in our schools and with all of our political correctness! Sorry this is so long, but I had to give a different point of view.
Cathy
That IS how it is going in public schools, but with good administration teachers can try to keep as many DAP as possible (like not making one give their blocks to a younger grade level). Oh, and I’m pretty sure that NO ONE loves those tests at all! They are shoved down our throats by the politicians, none of whom have education degrees or experience, yet make all the laws and rules about how we teach.
Maggie
You have described my classroom. I feel that children need to have fun when learning. We push them to work in books all day they will he turned off by school and won’t like it at all. 
Peggy  
Maureen … I agree with you…. I just retired from kinder and would love to find out any associations that support dev. appropriate kinder to help and support my friends that are still trying to teach with the pressure and rigor we had to deal with… Somewhere it has to stop… Each year there is more pressure on our poor little ones:(
Susan
 They can handle it if the grown ups will learn to change their ways.
Teresa
 I’m sure it depends on the maturity of the child, but my children went to public school and were reading and writing by January in their kindergarten year and they loved school. They were like sponges absorbing all the learning they could, I actually think school held them back. They were such eager learners.
Amanda
 I teach in a public school in Texas and we literally tested the entire months of October, January and May because we had four tests to give 22 kinder kids individually. Its very frustrating because I feel like I have no time at all to teach! And we don’ t have time for all the fun kinder stuff….makes me sad!
Nicole
 We are losing nap time and increasing math from 1 1/2 hours to 2 hours. No centers! Just literacy and math stations
Sarah
There is a huge variation in public kindergartens from state to state, district to district, school to school. Happily mine is like yours!!
Yasmina
No naps, classroom play areas or recess in our school for kindergarten…they have it built in their p.e. time! Also, whole-group testing with privacy folders…then they wonder why the kids are so burnt out. My 1st grade daughter already hates school because she says all the thinking hurts her brain
Joanne
 Wow! K’s really need to play and learn the rules of life as well as the academics. Your classroom sounds a lot like mine and they really did learn, too!! With such a push on academics so early, the little guys will get burned out before First grade.
Becky
 I want to teach where you are! That’s what Kindergarten should look like!
Terri
 New norms in some schools include reading 75+ sight words by the end of the year, and writing 3 correct sentences on a given topic….whether the child begins the year speaking a word of English or not. There are public schools that recognize the importance of nurturing the ‘whole child’, but many are killing the joy of learning from day 1.
Diana
 Kindergarten has become the old first grade. More academics and less free choice play.
Mary
 I am happy to say my county has just made the jump back to play based centers after several years of only academics
Jaydee
 I focused on academics and play based centers in my classroom last school year. I also used academic centers during R/LA a math. Starting in August, K students will be required to take a standardized test. I think I am going to get rid of the play based center due to the scores being posted at the end of the year. I am also getting rid of nap time in the fall.
Leischen
 We are a public school and the admin all push hard for more rigor. No more dramatic play/home center, no blocks, no easel, no puzzles, etc. Yes to a lot of testing. We are also given writing prompts where the students are expected to write 3 to 5 sentences and stay on topic with correct capitalization, spaces, and punctuation. They expect correct spelling of about 70 sight words and spelling other words phonetically as they hear them. They want to see no play, just hard working quiet students learning about 70m high frequency/sight words, reading leveled readers, predictable books, pattern books, writing sentences and paragraphs, adding, subtracting, practicing fluency, building words and word families.
Michael
 Creativity is being slowly removed from our entire educational systems. Foundations of math, language, arts, are being taught like computer programs.
Sara
We’re being pushed to do sooooo much ! that the basic stuff are being lost! ABC – 123 – letters and sounds, I guess after this new common core and kinder, why not jump into 3rd grade and test them F-cat. I’m in Florida….
Terri
 My experience with private kindergarten is that they are not developmentally appropriate and push tests! I am sooo tired of public education getting a bad rap.
Pamela
 I have taught kindergarten in a public school for 7 years. The assessments are not beloved by any of us, I can assure you of that. It’s unfortunate that a fellow teacher shared judgement and negativity with you when she visited your classroom. I am often involved in something our district does called teacher lab. We have opportunities to visit each others classrooms and before doing so, we are reminded of a set of norms, which says that we are grateful for an opportunity to visit another classroom, and we are there to observe and learn but never judge! It’s too bad this wasn’t in place for the teachers visiting your classroom. What you are doing is great, and lots of public school classrooms, in good districts are doing just what you are! (Although maybe not quite as well, considering the amount of assessments we have to do!)
Tandy
We had our blocks, puzzles, scissors and crayons pulled from K this year
Elaine
It is so sad that we have had to remove our blocks, home center and even art easels from our classrooms. My students must read over 80 sight word and spell them correctly when used in a sentence. Oh, and they must be able to write two good sentences with caps and punctuation or I have failed them as a k teacher!
Pam
 Big Brother has taken over education. If they don’t learn to think for themselves they won’t question later. If teachers use only the prescribed lessons, the better to control the masses. Sounds off the wall but this just what is happening.
Jill
 My question is WHO exactly is pushing this “standardization”? And for what reason?
Jane
 Agree! From Mississippi Gulf coast where we have implemented CC 2 years ago. Not only is it rigorous; good luck finding resources. I was late coming into this career 12 years ago, but I already know nothing lasts longer usually than 3 years. Lol
Lisa
 I have been teaching for almost 20 years now-all of that in a public setting. I began my career in 2nd grade for 9 years and now Kindergarten for 11…it has changed dramatically in what is expected of 5-6 year olds. Can a 5-6 year old learn 70 sight words? Sure. Can they take a standardized test? Sure. But the question should be: “What price are we willing to pay for these precious children to gain these skills?” They are losing their true learning experiences that are what a 5-6 year old need to be complete…play, creativity & INDIVIDUALISM!!
Denise
 You have to stand up for what you know is right and what works for the student. It’s not about what it “looks” like to an administrator that just passes through your room once and doesn’t know the full picture or what success you are having. You don’t know that admin.s background either. But pretty much dramatic play is out these days, mostly because my room isn’t big enough for it. Which is not good since kids learn through play!
Lori
 I have also removed my play kitchen and blocks, etc……no time for that.
Edie
 Terri Mitchell — I agree. There are lots of public schools that have wonderful teachers, who are using best practices, which are developmentally appropriate. I teach full-day K in a public school in MA and, while we do have formative assessments for reading. which can take a long time to administer, we are basically allowed to teach our children through active learning. We have a garden at our school, and I have a vermiposter (worm bin) in our room. Children are sponges and will learn what we expose them to. Fill their hands and minds with science and they can learn it. They love to read and write and have incredible imaginations and can write non-fiction and persuasive stories. And they can tell and act out fairy tales and TALK and LISTEN to their friends (oral communication is so important!!!) Take the common core and then teach it your way, so that it works for your own class. Incorporate all the things that you KNOW are right and teach it that way.
Anne
 I am so glad that I teach transitional kindergarten now. Kindergarten standards, but totally developmentally appropriate. The kids are learning a lot, but it’s interesting and fun for them. And, no benchmark tests. The way kindergarten use to be when I started teaching over 25 years ago.
Gail
 37 years of teaching for me. I am so sad about the pressure placed on students to “pass the benchmarks”. My room has been forced to become a glorified “first grade.” Taking an early retirement!!
Carrie
 Wow! I’m in Ontario Canada and we have a huge play based learning push. Standardized tests in kindergarten sounds like a recipe for lots of tears. Clearly teachers are not making these decisions because any teacher would know how inappropriate this all sounds.
Barbara
 I believe it’s insane to try and turn five year olds into academic gyros instead of allowing them to be children and develop at age level appropriateness! Now don’t get upset when your middle school kid thinks they are smarter than you and they really don’t need any discipline anymore! So many valuable lessons are learned early on and character is being formed and all the necessary social graces need to be taught while the children are young! What are we trying to do, raise programmed kids like computers? It takes a lot of variety to be a well rounded educated citizen!
Robyn
 You are right and they are wrong! I teach in public schools and would love to do what you do! A “study team!” Such pretense! They should study and learn from you!
Lynn
 I would dearly love to teach in a developmentally appropriate K. Public school K is what 1st grade used to be 10 years ago.
Karen
I agree with how you are teaching and we are fighting hard to keep it that way in my district. Play should be at the center of everything. Every one who truly understand and RESPECTS children and their need for play gets this. Do not let this discourage you! Be proud that you have a child centered approach!!!
Dale
 Yes, it has changed and yes due to CC it is changing even more, but let’s not put aside all of the work an appropriate K class can do for a child. I can also say that at our public school we do our own testing at the beginning of each grade so a child who enters without any ‘standardized testing’ would have some. I think we are the best teachers when we do what we truly believe in. Keep doing what you know is right.
Joan
 Don’t forget with cc there is rigor and relevance. In addition, with Blooms Taxonomy, the highest level of thinking is creativity. You are on the right path to learning with k. My children leave not only with great reading and math skills but are also problem solvers. Developmentally appropriate practices take a lot of work but the rewards are great. I have taught for 34 years.
Randy
Tablet!!! Mostly we use the easel to sort and the play area for a workstation game but sometimes I can figure out some play integrated with it.
Suzanne
 Oh goodness Lori, I agree with Karen and feel you may need to research developmentally appropriate practice through use of a play based curriculum and its benefits for all children! It is frightening to hear these comments from an early childhood educator.
Melissa
 I think it cycles back in forth in the public schools. Don’t give up the way you are doing things. It obviously works for you.
Marina
They need to read Bruno Bettelheim and his theories on the importance of play to a young child. I applaud you!
Amy
 Thanks for all the feedback. For the two people Sue and Lori who asked us to see the other side, I have to say that while I do use DAP as the foundation for all I do, please make no mistake. My students are held to very high expectations and are high achievers. The crux of my post was to lament the fact that all the problem solving skills learned through interacting with your environment are diminished when that environment is stripped down to workbooks and assessments. They need to experience and practice things in order for the assessment to be fair. We journal, use writing prompts, and are delving much deeper into many topics than classrooms that do not use a play based center driven curriculum. My kids are reading words like incubator and fertile, plus had the added bonus of keeping chicks for three weeks. Not only are they engaged and enjoy coming to school but they are gaining real world experiences that will hopefully sustain them in their future years tethered to a desk.
 Another aside- we were filling pots with a 1 cup measure for our garden. We counted that it took 10 cups. Upon showing them the half cup measure I asked how many scoops it would take to fill the same pot. Roughly half said 5 (because 5 is half of 10) but the others all said 20 because it is smaller. Make no mistake- just because it’s fun doesn’t mean it’s not educational. I was blown away- especially since my poor room “reads as a transitional k by the looks of it “. Lol.
One more and then I’ll stop. I am a member of NAEYC. I served on the board of my local chapter for many years. Only 2 board members worked in public schools. Most were college profs or private school teachers. The breakdown of our active membership reflected this. Does anyone have an opinion as to why so few public school teachers seem to know about NAEYC? I’ve had parents who teach in p-3 schools who have never heard of it.
Lynne
 I also teach in a private school. Develop a good relationship with the public school district child study team. They have come to respect my opinion and my program even though it’s different from theirs. We have more freedom of approach than some public Kinders, but we still do CC.
Patty
I tend to believe that many people in (and out of) our field forget that Kindergarten is not “School Age” it is still in developmental realm of Early Childhood!  When the idea that “With the way kids are today, too much playing leads to trouble.” is held by a Kindergarten teacher- I’m am deeply baffled and truly saddened. Appropriate social interactions is the #1 thing a child learns through playing with each other and with you- the teacher. I’ve worked in both types of classrooms and found that when I was always having kids sit at tables and centers, confined to workbooks and pencils, I would get more, and repeated, troublesome behaviors. I’ve learned that engaging, interactive learning with one another, not next to one another, is where those appropriate social interactions can be taught, modeled and fostered.
Barbara
 Amy, what is NAEYC!
Susan

One thought on “In support of a “developmentally appropriate” classroom

  1. Someone walked into your room and in 5 minutes thought they knew everything about what you do? They are the ones in need of education. If your kids are safe, happy, engaged, and growing, then you are doing everything right to prepare them for the rigors of academic kindergarten. Tests measure a miniscule snapshot of what a child knows. Keep doing what you know is right and appropriate for children.

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