Is Kindergarten the New First Grade?

Hugo Oehmichen Im Kindergarten

Image via Wikipedia

They say you can’t go back.

What do you think?

I remember walking into P.S. 199 as a student teacher.  I had attended this elementary school as a ten-year old sixth grader…now I was 20 years old and a senior in college, pursuing my early childhood education degree.  How small the double wooden entrance doors looked now!  How tiny the seats in the classroom seemed!

It didn’t seem to be the same school that I had stored away in my memory banks.

Since January, I’ve been presenting the SHOW-ME-HOW Story-time Reading and Crafting Program to District 11 kindergartens and Pre-K’s.  It is really great to be back in the classroom, interacting with students and teachers and parents.

But today’s kindergartens don’t seem to be the same as those stored away in my memory banks.

Why do I say that?

  • When I was teaching kindergarten (back in the 60’s and 70’s), the children learned through play and there was very little “formal” instruction.  In today’s kindergartens, I see a lot of “formal” teaching of reading and writing…not just the ABC’s.
  • When I was teaching, kindergarten was a preparation for first grade.  In today’s kindergartens, there seems to be an expectation that the children will be reading and writing by the time they enter first grade.
  • When I was teaching kindergarten, we understood that children mature in their own unique ways…while it is true that some 4½ year olds are quite capable of learning to read and write (I had several who came to kindergarten already reading and writing and speaking several languages), it is also true that many children have not yet developed the fine motor skills necessary for holding the pencil and mapping out the letters.  With reading, we have the same situation…some children have the eye-brain coordination, but some need just a little more time to physically mature.
  • In my opinion, the only advantage to “pushing” these little ones to read and write is that, if there are problems such as visual impairment or learning disorders, they may be discovered at this earlier age and intervention can be arranged.  However, the down side is that we are already labeling these young children…and often these labels stick, even if it was just a maturity issue that was the cause.
  • Almost every kindergarten teacher I have visited with has mentioned the lack of time to READ picture books to the children.  Arts and crafts are also an area that is pushed to the back burner.  Now, all of you know how passionate I am about reading to young children…and how much I believe in the importance of encouraging children to express themselves in arts and crafts activities.  I realize that the curriculum and standards are mandated by the state…teachers don’t really have control over those things and are held accountable for the levels of learning their students achieve.
  • The almost frantic pace I observed in some of the kindergartens was even stressful for me…imagine how it must be for five-year olds!  They change activities (and rooms) as if someone is surfing channels on the TV with a remote control.  Perhaps they are used to it…having been exposed to the constant mini-bytes that are prevalent even on the educational TV channels.  Again, I undertand that most of kindergarten teachers would probably prefer to go back to a “kinder, gentler” type of classroom.  Don’t get me wrong…I do believe in routines and schedules for young children…I think they thrive when they know what the plan is…I just wish it was a less hectic plan.  I know it used to be in the kindergartens stored in my memory banks.

What do you think?  Do you have a child in kindergarten?  Are you a kindergarten teacher?  Do you agree that the kindergarten of today is the new first grade?  And, do you think this is a postive or negative change?


TODAY, APRIL 9th, is the LAST day you can purchase SHOW ME HOW! at 50% off the cover price on my website:  Parents, grandparents, teachers and daycare providers of preschoolers…please don’t delay…this unique resource is a shortcut to providing educational fun-filled self-esteem building acitivities for your children.  MOTHER’S DAY is just around the corner…what a wonderful gift this would make, even for an expectant mom!  And this is also the last day to enter to win the collection of craft supplies for your preschooler…purchase a book or fill out the contact form on my website or leave a comment on my blog about why you would like to win the prize. 

TOMORROW: Sunday, April 10th…I will be at the Covered Treasures Bookstore in Monument, CO from 2-3:30pm, talking about reading, crafting and cooking with young children and signing copies of my book.  For more details, please go to or call 719-481-2665.  The Book Fair (from 12:30-4pm) is for the benefit of the Tri-Lakes Community Preschool Tuition Assistance Program.  If you are local to Monument, Colorado Springs or Denver, please head on over to say hello and do your part to support early childhood education!

Tuesday, April 12th…I will be hosting Max the Dog as he continues his 36 day book blog tour.  For more details about the on-going contest and to see where he has been and where he is going, please visit:

About viviankirkfield

Writer for children - Reader forever Mom of 3, educator, author of SHOW ME HOW! BUILD YOUR CHILD'S SELF-ESTEEM THROUGH READING, CRAFTING AND COOKING. freelance writer, picture book junkie, love to travel, hike, cook, play Monopoly with my 5-year old grandson and go fly-fishing with my husband.

Posted on April 9, 2011, in children, children's picture books, crafting, Daycare Providers, families, Homeschooling, parenting, Positive Parental Participation, Preschool Teachers, preschoolers, reading to preschoolers, school visits, stay at home moms, Teachers, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 10 Comments.

  1. I totally agree.. My daughter is in playschool and when she’ll go for nursery admissions, it is expected that she’ll recognize numbers, a bit of spelling and writing as well. Gosh! Am glad she’s in a school that has experiences at the core of their learning module and they encourage reading, playing and using the senses to inspire learning. The pressure on young kids just seems to be increasing.. Sad!


    • Hi Prerna,
      Thanks for stopping by and commenting. :)
      I’m glad your daughter is getting to enjoy her childhood. It sounds like you made a wonderful choice.
      State education boards are always mandating “stuff”…I remember the NEW Math many years ago…and often the “stuff” just doesn’t work…but because the previous “stuff” didn’t work, they feel they have to replace it. I guess we can relate it to the fashion industry. There are several manufacturers and designers that stick with the classic look. But there are others that are constantly changing the styles, colors, lengths, ruffles, no ruffles, etc. Sometimes we are better off just sticking to the classic…especially when it comes to educating our children. I think that technology is great and children need to know how to use a computer…but little ones can learn so much through play and books and arts and crafts. :)


  2. I would revamp the school system entirely ~ with a focus in kindergarten, first and second grade of just getting kids to LOVE school and LOVE learning and LOVE stories and books and information.

    Third grade is soon enough to indoctrinate the masses. :-(


    • Hi Nancy,
      I thought it before and I know it now…we are on the same page about a lot of things. :)
      Children learn so much, not only about “subject matter”, but also about themselves, when they are allowed to express their creativity.


  3. When my son was in PK, he had homework and few moments to play. I was shocked.
    I find that children in PK should learn through playing and crafting.


    • Hi Olfa,
      Thanks for stopping by and commenting. There are so many different “schools of thought” about this (no pun intended). I know there are many young children who can learn to read and write in kindergarten…and I think the opportunity should be provided, but not at the expense of hearing picture book stories and doing arts/crafts and “playing”.


  4. Yes, the almighty state mandated curriculum has made it harder to sit and day dream… and we wonder why creativity is diminished in our classrooms.
    It’s hard enough learning and with all the quick changes, little is absorbed. My kids tell me it’s the tech age of sound bits. I want big bits back :-)
    I’ve been on college visits with my twins hence my absence…
    Finally catching up on comments!


    • Hi Eliz,
      I posted this on Social Moms and several others sites also. It is actually one of the featured blogs on the forum there…and I’ve gotten quite a few comments…so far, the feeling is almost overwhelmingly on the side that kindergarten today is overwhelming our little ones.
      Perhaps I need to pack up a soapbox and travel across the country, speaking to mom groups, parent/teacher groups and other organizations about how important it is to let kindergartens learn through reading (having picture books read to them), crafting and cooking. :)
      Maybe I need to get a soapbox


  5. Learning by doing benefits any child, regardless of learning style (visual, auditory, verbal, kinesthetic). At any age, play is the preferred way to learn, but this is especially true for the youngest kids. We don’t want to kill the curiosity of Kindergartners with too much structure.
    You can’t wait for the school district to take action, every parent must take the responsibility of educating their child because, as they say, “the buck stops here”.


    • Hi Suzanne,
      Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting! Parents are the first teachers…and can really do so very much to prepare their kids for school and reading readiness. I’m hoping that the easy format and fun activities in my book will encourage all parents, but especially those who might not have had a childhood of books and reading and positive parental participation.
      I’m going to hop over to your website…love the name!


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