The Shift: The Development and Learning of Kindergarten Age Children

[ Music ] [ Music – “She’ll be Coming ‘Round the Mountain” ] [Narrator:] Kindergarten marks the transition from pre-school to the K-6 world. Effective Kindergarten programs are based on the development and learning needs of 5 to 6 year old children. From birth through the preschool years, the basic wiring in the brain has been built. However, significant shifts in brain development happen between ages five and seven. Attention spans increase, and children start to become more self-directed. [Megan Gunnar:] When children come to kindergarten, they’re at very different stages of what we call executive function and self regulatory abilities. Being able to regulate yourself, to listen to instructions, to remember what you’re doing and to follow a plan, to inhibit inappropriate behavior, and to keep in mind all that you have to keep in mind, these are the components of what we call “executive function”. Which can really be thought about as almost an air traffic control system of the brain. [Nikole Logan:] Being knowledgeable of other people’s feelings and what they’re thinking, paying attention to conversations and responding accordingly – all of those are the basis for what is happening in terms of academics in a kindergarten classroom.” [Narrator:] Five and six year olds learn best through playful engagement in activities that interest them. Purposeful play is one of the most powerful ways young children learn. For example, in dramatic play, children can collaborate, problem-solve, engage in symbolic thinking, and use memory and language. [Carol Schjei:] Kids who are five and six learn through play. And really if they have to learn social skills, playing board games, playing card games, playing inter dramatic play, having open-ended activities where they can just create is very vital to kids and their learning. [Megan Gunnar:] Imaginary play in general is just a very helpful scaffold for the development of executive functions. When you are playing an imaginary game with another person, you have to decide what you’re playing, remember what you’re playing, negotiate over roles, stay in character – all of these things actually require executive functions. [Megan Gunnar:] A creative kindergarten teacher will know what she wants children to learn. She’s got a plan. And she sets up the play so the children will achieve that goal. But by using their own thoughts, ideas, and they think they’re playing. [Narrator:] All areas of development should be part of the kindergarten curriculum. [Carol Schjei:] Because the more opportunities that a child has, physical, social or emotional, the more they have to draw on for their transfer of knowledge or their background knowledge. The more you know, the more you know.” [Music] [Narrator:] During their preschool years, many children master the basic skills of running, climbing, jumping, throwing, and catching. By five and six, children can combine and master these skills. While writing and keyboarding become increasingly important in school, the route to developing these skills comes first through children strengthening their hands and fingers. Activities such as drawing, painting, working with clay, and constructing with small blocks or other material builds strength and coordination of the hands and fingers. In addition, physical activity has been found to increase cognitive function and social skills, while reducing behavioral problems and increasing attention. [ Music ] [Narrator:] Between 5 and 6, many children develop the ability to reason and predict because they can coordinate multiple ideas at one time. For example, they understand that a letter written on paper also has a certain sound associated with it. How a child approaches learning is just as critical as what he is learning. These approaches include the ability to tackle and persist at challenging or frustrating tasks, to follow directions, to take risks, to make and learn from mistakes, and to work as a part of a group. Supporting the development of these learning approaches is just as important as learning the sounds of letters or being able to count. [Carol Schjei:] Some come in, they’ve been in daycare. They’ve been to Pre-K, and they’re very – you know – very capable learners. They know how to do a learning situation, but it takes many weeks for some children sometimes to even talk. [Narrator:] Environments for young children must be designed for diverse learners. [Carol Schjei:] There needs to be stimulation in the room, but not too much stimulation, so it’s all about balance. And also just about the resources that the kids are using in the room whether it be print labeling the room or posters you have written out as a class, or a writing center.” [ Music ] [Narrator:] Pre-schoolers learned sounds, words, and basic communication. Five and six year olds engage in conversations in which each person has a turn – and they have a large vocabulary. They form sentences and express their ideas. [ Music ] [Narrator:] The kindergarten year is an important time in a child’s life to build a positive self-concept and to increase the child’s confidence level. [Nikole Logan:] Schools often approach kindergarten education with the academic expectation in mind, and one of the wonderful aspects about early teachers, so kindergarten, early childhood, 1 through 3, we also know that there’s a social-emotional component that’s a hidden curriculum. [Carol Schjei:] First of all, it’s really important for me that I create a community in the classroom, because I need the kids to feel really safe. As a person, if you feel safe then you’re potentially more likely to take a risk and try something maybe that you don’t know. And that’s how you learn. And so it’s really important that they feel like it’s OK to make a mistake, so building community is a big part of setting up a developmentally appropriate learning situation.” [Narrator:] The teacher’s warmth and support is critical to helping children feel secure and valued – which builds a child’s positive feelings about school. [Nikole Logan:] A child’s confidence, their reflection of themselves in the room, a reflection of themselves in the way the teacher responds to them and interacts with them, a reflection of and validation of who they are based on how their peers respond to them, all of that are things that the teacher can control based on how they structure their environment.” [Carol Schjei:] And also a big part of it is setting up a relationship with the families. Families are their child’s first teachers. And for a child to be successful, the child, the teacher and the families all have to work together” [Narrator:] Important social skills are being cooperative, resolving conflicts peacefully, following rules, and complying with the requests of adults. Children who have friends at school also have higher academic performance. [Carol Schjei:] The great thing about five and six-year-old kids is that they’re very empathetic. They want to be liked, they want to please. So they’re just full of love. So the big thing is just making sure that everybody feels safe, and that we just understand, you know, that it’s expected that you’re kind. It’s expected that you do your best.” [Nikole Logan:] We know that when children are supported through their social-emotional development, the academic component will surface and become more successful in terms of trajectory over time. [Narrator:] The kindergarten year holds so much promise! Through their kindergarten experience – that includes meaningful, intentional play, children should find joy in their accomplishments, build self confidence, and learn to love learning! [Music]

3 thoughts on “The Shift: The Development and Learning of Kindergarten Age Children”

  1. Very well done. The video explains how kindergarten children learn and how to teach them. A must-see for all adults, educators and non educators!

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