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Eight ways kindergarten holds the key to 21st-century instruction

6. Express

Mixing different forms of media and communication is an essential component of kindergarten class. Children look at photos, listen to music, watch video, tell stories, and of course, read books. We understand that people communicate in a variety of manners, and we bring them into play in our classrooms.

In upper grades, our entire world is expressed through text. For whatever reason, it seems that the only valid form of expressing knowledge is through text. Outside of class, students constantly interact and create video, music, and more. In class, we have students read from textbooks and almost exclusively require them to respond in writing.

7. Move

Children need to move. We all need to move. It’s healthy for both body and mind. We understand that in kindergarten. The furniture is arranged to facilitate movement, and we often have children move around to different parts of the room depending on the activity. Outdoors, it’s essential to provide time and equipment for play.

The mantra of upper school is to sit still and face the front. Classes are designed for quiet, motionless, obedient activities. That can be excruciatingly difficult for many students.

8. Relate

Finally, in kindergarten we strive to make learning as meaningful as possible. Learning has meaning as defined by its relevance to the lives of students. If children can’t relate to it, then it won’t hold their interest.

On the other hand, the number of bleary-eyed, daydreaming students in upper grades is testament to the fact that they don’t relate to much of what passes for learning in class. It’s usually a predefined package of content defined by an “authority” sitting far from the lives of our students—physically and emotionally. Just as importantly, this predefined content package is becoming increasingly inadequate in preparing our students for their lives after school.

If you have a few moments, I’d strongly encourage you to take a stroll down to the lower grades in your school. In fact, the lower the better. Spend a few minutes observing the dynamics in class. Note the energy, laughter, and enthusiasm … the genuine thirst for learning. Then ask yourself: Why can’t it be that way throughout school?

Sam Gliksman is the author of iPad in Education For Dummies®. He has been leading technology applications in business and education for over 25 years. As an independent educational technology consultant, he advises educators on how to integrate technology into learning initiatives. Sam leads the iPads in Education community, Sam can be reached by email at and via Twitter at @samgliksman.

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  1. spider78

    July 5, 2013 at 11:12 am

    Amen, brother! Until we get out from under these oppressive state and federal mandates to test, test, test we are destined to be a nation of conformists instead of a nation that actively promotes creative risk-taking and innovation. It will require nothing short of revolution, but the education establishment doesn’t have the stomach for it? And where is the media on this topic?

  2. stanjeff

    July 5, 2013 at 12:06 pm

    Great article. Couldn’t agree more. One thing as educators we do need to be careful about though is to make sure we are celebrating the change that has taken place. Statements like “in upper grades, our entire world is expressed through text” imply this is the case in all classrooms. There are many teachers going to great lengths to use several forms of media and sometimes we forget the progress that has been made. It helps feed the outdated stereotype of the teacher standing at a blackboard reciting information. While it still happens, it has diminished considerably as new teachers are hired with innovative new techniques.

  3. peteysmith

    July 5, 2013 at 5:11 pm

    Having been a kindergarten teacher for almost 20 years I look back with nostalgia as I remember what kindergarten looked like. Today we too have been overloaded with teaching content with direct instruction methods touted as the best way to teach. Play is rare and in some schools recess has been eliminated. For the first time, my students had to be assigned a specific seat in which to work jand centers were discouraged. I was surprised by the mention of a pet in the class, this has been outlawed for years. Students socialization is now very scripted with cooperative learning protocols. I am hoping that common core will bring some balance back to the instructional setting, but there are varied interpretation and views of good practice to reach these goals. I am reminded daily that I teach 4,5 and 6 year olds, but I think those that decide what good teaching looks like forget what is developmentally appropriate and healthy. With class sizes also rising above thirty, they also do not consider what is feasible. My district administrators would not promote the kindergarten described in the article, though I wish my class was encouraged to look more like the one described.

  4. janettaplanetta

    July 5, 2013 at 5:57 pm

    It seems so simple to me. We teach in Kindergarten the way everyone learns, and then we squeeze it out of them, diminish the environment, year after year, until school becomes awful. Why?

  5. rackerly

    July 6, 2013 at 3:41 pm

    Excellent outline of what needs to change for schooling to be an education. In each section: paragraph 1 defines education, the last paragraph defines mere schooling. I wish everyone knew the distinction and didn’t confuse the two.
    Good job!!!

  6. froebelusa

    July 7, 2013 at 4:05 pm

    Kindergarten is shadow of what it was 175yrs ago, but it changed the world in ways too numerous to count. Mitchel Resnick called it “Europe’s greatest invention.” Take a look at what was originally, it informs the discussion of how the US got where we are.

  7. jimshaeffer

    July 8, 2013 at 2:53 pm

    Unfortunately, from what I hear from teachers in elementary schools, kindergaten is no longer like the kindergatten described here. It’s all about academic readiness for 1st grade.