I was out sick on Friday (with, naturally, a migraine). This morning when I greeted the kids at the door, one little boy looked at me with interest and a little relief.
“I see you’re feeling better,” he said, sagely.
At the art table today I had stegosauruses to cut out (S is for Stegosaurus, after all). I learned that many of my little boys can’t cut. They can’t even figure out how to hold the scissors, let alone point them in the right direction or open and close them. It was exhausting trying to help them. Mental note: we need to do lots more simple cutting.
The school got me a sub so I could attend a data meeting today, and again tomorrow. We (the school) won a big early literacy grant, and part of the deal is we use a new literacy assessment system. It’s actually pretty good, I think, but has been pretty time-consuming. Now that we have initial data, we need to learn what to do with it, and how this will inform what we teach in the classroom.
I need to do small groups to work with kids to get them to achieve the components of the literacy assessment….and I have never been all that successful at small groups. (I will take any advice you have on the subject, gladly.) My head started to hurt a little, and my heart rate to increase with trying to figure out how I will make these changes and add this instruction to my short daily schedule.
Our preK portfolios arrived, and they are new and improved, and even have a teacher’s manual. The afternoon teacher and I sat down to go through it, and we found things that don’t make good sense. For example, the directions say to have the children point to the letters on the letter name assessment page and say the names of the letters. Right. The children aren’t going to do that. That would mean we are really assessing whether or not they can point, can move left to right, and do a return sweep, AND name the letters. We talked to one of our preK superiors, and she gave us permission to point to the letters ourselves, and have the children name the letters we point to.
So we have to do the portfolios (letters, sounds, concepts of print, colors, shapes, numbers, one-to-one correspondence, rote counting, etc. etc. etc.) in the next two weeks. We have to go back and retest (using the new literacy assessment that goes with the grant) at a higher level a few of our students. And our Americorps volunteer has to administer yet another assessment — a pre-reading assessment that measures letters, sounds, rhyming, vocabulary, and alliteration — also in the next two weeks.
The afternoon teacher and I started giggling about teaching to the test. In preschool. I think we might just be feeling a little overwhelmed.
All of which gives more weight to my strong feeling that public schools have no business doing preschool. What absolute nionsense and how unfair to the kids.
But then that would leave many of the students talked about on this blog, as well as the ones I teach, those in poverty, with no access to preschool. If public schools didn’t do it they would all have to pay to go to a private preschool and those students who need preschool the most would be denied access.
Sarah, I don’t know who you are, but I LIKE YOU. Let’s be twin friends.
It’s a really fine line. In an ideal world, my preschool would be all choice time (playing at centers), story time, and recess, with a few walking field trips thrown in here and there. But I did that before (in kindergarten) — I had a totally child-centered classroom and at the end of the year, my students were still woefully unprepared. That kind of classroom makes the assumption that the kids are ready for school, they know how to listen, and how to talk, that their parents have been reading to them and talking to them, and they have basic knowledge/vocabulary/phonemic awareness skills. Students who live in poverty and are raised by under-educated parents don’t have that background, and it would be an injustice not to give them all the things they are missing, and all the things they need for success. One way to do that is to figure out (assessment) what they don’t know that they need to know, and then move on from there.
However, the danger is that you go overboard. Right now I am overwhelmed.
I ran a day care program for 18 years. At any given time 60-75% of our kids were placed in day care by CPS. We knew that most of our kids had not been read to, lacked experiences, had limited vocabularies and lacked an understanding of how to “do school”. So those were our focus. We took lots of trips, read constantly and surrounded them with books, introduced them to letters with experience charts, a writing center, dictation and as they became interested. There was lots of environmental writing. We counted like crazy in meaningful contexts. How many kids are here today? Can you get enough plates for everyone and set the table? We grew plants and had pets. We cooked with the kids and made sure there was a recipe chart on the wall.There was a mix of large and small group activities and of child and adult choice. At the same time there was lots of time for unstructured play so we could help them develop badly needed skills in sharing, negotiating, taking turns and making your feelings known in acceptable ways. We were well aware of the things they needed to know to be successful in kindergarten and made sure that all those things were embedded in the activities we provided. It is possible to meet the needs of all kinds of kids without violating what we know are best practices for preschool children and without exposing kids to the pressures of testing and unreal expectations. I worry that we are raising a generation of kids who will know how to take tests and learn what is being tested but will lack creativity, higher level thinking skills and a love of learning because those things have been “schooled” out of them and I worry even more that more and more Early Childhood programs have become complicit in this process.
jwgmom, I worry about that too.