When work becomes more important than play in kindergarten

importance of play This will be my third year teaching kindergarten (and seventh year teaching overall), and every day I become more frustrated with the demands we are making on kindergarten students. Research overwhelming states that children need to play to learn. Just read this and this and this and this.

I know how important play is, and I make every effort I can to put it into my classroom. But the urgency with which we are required to fit in so much curriculum and testing sometimes leaves me feeling powerless to do what I feel is best for my kids.

Sadly, this was a week in which I hardly let my students play. There were too many other things that they HAD to do.

In place of playing, here are a few things I asked my five- and six-year-olds to do this week:

  1. Complete 7 math worksheets.
  2. Write a personal narrative.
  3. Edit and revise their personal narrative.
  4. Sort spelling words according to their letter pattern.
  5. Read silently for twenty minutes each day.
  6. Take a state-mandated test on their "reading level."
  7. Memorize flashcards of high-frequency words, and participate in a daily song drilling these words.
  8. Write using a "graphic organizer" to demonstrate what they learned in science.
  9. Complete four math homework sheets.
  10. Summarize and retell a book each day, as well as tell me the title, setting, main character, problem and solution.

This isn't what kindergarteners should be doing in school. Third graders, maybe. But not kids who are still learning the most basic of life skills, including taking turns, having empathy, asking questions, and making observations.

To learn these skills, kids need unstructured play, small group interactions, movement, exploration, free time. I will continue to create pockets of time for these vital learning experiences. But it's an uphill battle.