Saturday, September 29, 2012

Let them play!

I have heard several stories emanating from elementary schools in my area and around the nation about the primary grade levels that concern me. Here in New York because of Race to the Top requirements, including teacher evaluation and value-added measures, our children's elementary days are broken into attendance blocks.  These periods must be a specific academic subject.  Free play,  playground time,nap time and recess are not part of the schedule anymore.  For a good read, check out an elementary teacher's take on this attack on childhood here and here. Fortunately my children's' teachers regularly take their classes outside for playground or recess. Does your kid's teacher ? Would a newer teacher or one who is afraid to break the rules not give their students the needed outlet in the day? Would a teacher who is concerned about standardized test scores or student growth numbers, try to squeeze in more academic time?

Free play is a major learning opportunity for younger children that builds creativity, cooperation, and social skills. We are in a rush to push academics earlier and earlier into the lives of children. I became concerned about this a few years back when my oldest was in kindergarten. Rest time was only for the very beginning of the year. I remember having nap time when I had half day kindergarten. I heard kindergarten teachers say their grade level is more like what used to be first grade. Are we helping our children reach greater heights by pushing higher level academics down or will we be doing long-term educational and social harm?

Does your child's school do this?  An important read on how early readers are being harmed by the use of computer literacy programs. Sadly, a teacher's professional judgment and experience are being taken away by computer based programs that this author is discussing.  RTI Assessments such as AIMSweb and DIBELS are another method of removing the human element from the education of our children. Early childhood and primary grades are about so much more than staring at a computer screen to learn. Human interaction, play and discovery are the best ways for children to learn and how to socialize. 

So what is the point of my ranting?  As a society we see more and more of a lack of human interaction.  Think about anytime you are in a public place, are people glued to their various devices? Our eyes seem focused on television, computers, iPods, smart phones, and video games throughout our day. Many children crave the use of technology, but should they spend growing portions of their school day doing the same? Are we creating a generation that lacks basic human interaction skills?


Concerns over the loss of creativity in our children.