What Kindergarten should be: Doris Fromberg at TEDxMiamiUniversity


Translator: Isabel Pozas González
Reviewer: Luis Javier Salvador So, public school kindergarten
in the United States today is a public relations nightmare.
You might ask why. Many adults believe that young children should learn concepts and skills in very direct ways. With high-stakes tests today,
school administrators pressure teachers who then pressure children with drills, and passively sit for whole groups sitting with paper and pencil tasks. So we can compare 19th-century child labor with 21st-century child labor. Now look, many people will look at 21st century well, there’s nothing wrong with that,
they are sitting at desks, right? They’ve got shoes on, for the most part. In any case, we need to consider that young children learn in quite different ways. They learn by comparing physical experiences. They learn by comparing their interactions with other people and with their own feelings and they learn an enormous amount through their imagination and pretense. So, let us take a moment together
to pretend and use our imaginations. Imagine that these keys are yours to the automobile of your dreams. Price is no object, think of the make and close your eyes if you need to. Think of the color, brand new. It even has a full tank of gasoline
— (Laughter) — at this economy — Okay. But, you knew there was a but, there is no lubricating oil. Without the lubricating oil all the parts will not work together. And pretend social play for young children is the lubricating oil, the lymphatic fluid that pulls together the logical parts and the creative parts of the brain. And we know our brains are built to make connections constantly. So, let’s look at what happens when children engage in pretense. You, be the physician. I broke my arm, OK? Right away the planning takes part of the logic of the brain. The becoming is the creative part of the brain. One child might respond to my broken arm: “Poor dear, I’ll get you a bandage”. A different child might respond to the same situation: “Hold on, I’ll call 911, I’ll get help”. A third child might respond: “Bad child, I told you not to jump from that table”. So, in each case we have a chance to assess: What is the experience that the child brings to school? And children from one another begin to understand different perceptions of the world. What they are doing in that situation is they are engaging in oral collaborative playwriting. Say that again, oral collaborative playwriting. And that is on the continuum between talk, write, write, writing into reading and reading. Since we entered this room there are likely a half dozen new books and maybe a dozen new articles on the research values of pretend play and they are four. It helps social competence. It helps language development. Statistically significant improvements in IQ. And even connection making and problem solving. And there is very important research
that high-fantasy children whose families pretended with them
when they were little have the capacity to be more patient, more perseverant and better with connection making. Another condition for learning
is physical interactions in the world. So, when children are building
with the beautiful kindergarten floor blocks or any three-dimensional materials, they’re creating the spatial perceptions that they will need to understand concepts in mathematics, chemistry, physics and geography. Still another condition for learning takes place when professional teachers
create conditions for surprise. We have an expectation, we have a real experience. Surprise! That’s where learning is evident and that’s where teachers can assess learning. You can see four-year olds predicting that the large horseshoe magnet will attract more paper clips because big is stronger, it should happen. Surprise. The smaller one does. When Albert Einstein was four years old and his uncle gave him a compass, he was intrigued and claims that event as an important starting point to his scientific imagination because he had to imagine an unseen force. So, in these days what happens
is we have a society that tells us we need hundreds
of thousands more people to do science, technology,
engineering and mathematics. On the one hand, there are
all these jobs going begging. On the other hand, when my colleagues and I,
and when teachers bear witness and visit hundreds of kindergartens
around the country, they say the children aren’t engaging
in the interactive physical activities and social activities that can
give them the imagery to learn science and technology
and engineering and mathematics. And then there are reports that
there are school administrators who are actually throwing out
these valuable blocks in the garbage. So, is it possible that these high-stakes tests are contributing to a form of
sanctioned child abuse? Wow! Listen. Professional kindergarten teachers are always assessing children for a particular purpose. They need to figure out how to
challenge them to the next steps that they are ready to learn,
to provide just the right balance between risk and success. So the children can feel
competent because we know that if children feel competent, they feel
the possibility they can move forward and they can deal with an occasional setback. However, if we look at what teachers can do, we know that they can assess
children in these many ways, just by looking, by listening,
by seeing their drawings, by seeing their writings. I hate lice, OK? And looking at all — and that’s a kindergarten writing — and looking at their constructions because the constructions become more complex. The writing becomes more complex. So you see assessment developing over time, OK? Children need time to percolate. What the standardized tests
are doing now is categorizing. There is no evidence that
it makes a difference in learning. And frankly, if we weigh ourselves in the morning, will it make a difference during the day unless we change how we take nutrition. So, who benefits?
Let’s look and follow the money. Large global corporations
and publishing companies are making a profit with many millions of dollars
of public funds by printing all of these tests. And then, they make many more millions
of dollars creating scripted programs that they expect teachers to read out
at the children who sit passively. OK. So, what’s to be done? We have a cascade of principals
fearful of their jobs, other administrators fearful of their jobs, teachers fearful of their jobs,
who then dump on the children. For young children, school for many of them may be the most stable part of their lives. They want to please adults, they want to comply even with the most ridiculous requests. But then, there are some children who are truly honest. They are called problems. Right? They might act out or simply withdraw. They might lose their trust in schooling. OK? So, where are we with all of this? The cost to school resources
and to human civil life is not worth it. We read about all this bullying
that’s going on, more and more. OK. Enough said on that. There’s other fallout
that we need to consider. And it is the case that many school districts recognizing the additional pressure on children are raising the age of entry to kindergarten. Currently, we have children
between 57 and 62 months of age in different states, receiving entry to kindergarten. They have just hatched, OK. In some states, they’re raising
the age as much as two months and over the next few years,
four to five months. Another fallout is that families
are leaving their children out of school for one whole year additional,
recognizing this pressure. Listen, folks. The contracts have been written, the testing movement for high-stakes tests is an enormous conglomerate quite powerful. But there is research that can
give us a little bit of help. And that is there is research
that points to the fact that kindergarten children
do better in standardized tests when their teachers have
professional certification and preparation to work with young children. So, let’s look at what that means. Most states in the United States have some provision for early
childhood teacher certification. 40% of the states, however,
have a general certificate kindergarten through sixth grade
and most of those people have never been prepared
with how to match teaching with the conditions for learning
in kindergarten, or Pre-K or BI. 100% of school administrators
have absolutely no requirement to prepare, to match kindergarten teaching
with the conditions for learning. How can we expect people to walk in and
knowledgeably observe a kindergarten classroom, then, coach the teacher, supervise the teacher
and then evaluate the teacher for the job? In our society, we need people
who can make connections, who can be flexible thinkers,
who can work collaboratively, who can deal with the predictably unpredictable nature of our future. So, we know that teacher
and administrator education means that we need good scholarship. Scholarship is important,
research tells us that. For example, in 1935,
my colleague tells me that her mother in the Middle West finished her first year of college,
came back to her farm community and was immediately installed as the teacher because she was the most educated
person in the community. For our 21st-century teachers, we need to have people who can translate adult understandings into the concrete, active experiences that young children can perceive. The teachers and the administrators need a repertoire of such experiences coming out of the social sciences and the sciences, so the children have reasons to represent
with drawing, with construction, with writing, and have reasons
to read and measure and calculate. We need to engage with families
in advocating to state policy makers and maybe even the federal government to see that school administrators,
where it all begins to filter through, have particular preparation in understanding how to match teaching with the conditions for learning of young children. Then, they would be better able to observe and coach, and supervise teachers. So, to quote philosopher John Macmurray: “All knowledge is for the sake of action and all action is for the sake of friendship”. So, let’s be friends with young children, let’s make sure that the people who work for them are highly qualified to match
teaching with learning, so that the young children
can have great expectations in their lives. Thank you. (Applause)

17 thoughts on “What Kindergarten should be: Doris Fromberg at TEDxMiamiUniversity”

  1. Dr. Fromberg is extremely well thought of in the early childhood teacher education community. We love the fact that she is sharing this message for people who have not thought about these issues as deeply and thoroughly as she has. Political concerns from administrators have over-shadowed these ideas and have made decisions about early childhood curriculum that only serve the system and not the child.

  2. I think to get them out of school and to put them in to home-schooling is all dependant on which country that child is in. If you think of poverty in a majority of countries are they really better of by being home-schooled?

  3. In kindergarten I played with the geometry blocks and used it as individual play-pretend. When my teacher discovered this, she looked at me askance and told me to do MATH instead! I was like “Eh I AM doing math!” I’m playing with geo blocks & that is LEARNING! What was I expected to do? Six years later, I look @ this TEDxTalk. I have seen many like them. I LOVE them! But what I also understand is that my teachers were teaching me simple math were under immense pressure on themselves and then they get stressed out and they put the pressure on the kids. THANK YOU TED AND TEDX!

  4. In Switzerland (or at least in the area where I live) the cut-off date for entering kindergarten is pushed to just about ten days after a child turns 4. When I entered kindergarten it was about half a year after a child had turned 4. This meant the youngest of my classmates were 4,5 years old and the oldest were 5,5 years old. Back then some children were in kindergarten for two years, others just for one. The ones who only went to kindergarten for one year started a year later, at 5,5 to 6,5 years old. So one could say some children attended the first and the second kindergarten year and others only the second. Nowadays both kindergarten years are mandatory in the area of the country where I live. (Unless I'm REALLY mistaken. Most definitely it is EXTREMELY common to attend kindergarten for two years, starting at age 4 to 5 and leaving for school – first grade – at age 5 to 6.) What is expected of those children regarding their native language and maths is the following: They SHOULD be able to write their surname and they SHOULD be able to count to ten. They don't learn to read or write in kindergarten. They don't learn to add, subtract, multiply and divide in kindergarten. It's basically school for illiterates that can't count or do math AT ALL. And it is very normal even for very smart children to not be able to read on their first day in first grade. In first grade every week another letter of the alphabet is taught. I remember being in first grade in 1991/1992 and reading texts that consisted of nonsensical words because they comprised of only two letters of the alphabet. Switzerland has been known for having a good school system for decades now. Kindergarten pupils don't get homework assigned. And they don't sit on desks. They sit in a circle on small chairs singing with the kindergarten, discussing, telling stories, listening to stories with the kindergarten teacher and they sit on one big table where they all complete the same task like painting the cat from the book with the cat stories their teacher reads to them every morning. Kindergarten pupils attend kindergarten for about 22 45 minute lessons a week. 4 lessons each morning and 2 lessons on one afternoon.

  5. Another brilliant citizen, to go along with others I've seen on these talks, like J. Katz. "Principals fearful for their jobs, administrators fearful… teachers fearful…" – I'm sorry, but after a while this sounds like cowardice, and enabling. If enough teachers, principals, etc. realize these for-corporate profit tests and scripts are "child abuse", then why don't they inform and organize the parents and protest/strike? These companies raking in millions and paying off politicians are no different than drug cartels, result-wise. You ultimately either do something or you don't, as generations slip away. All of society eventually pays the price- people with kids and those without.

  6. It is incredibly importany that our educators grow to assess and guide preschool children in their learning, by attending to the highest possible professional education. Thank you for sharing this TEDX lecture online 🙂

  7. hi assalam Prof ..glad with U ..very soft spoken your ..liked my ex lecturer Prof chiam Heng keng from UM Malaysia..I'm ameenatul rohayu

  8. How can we change the "system"? besides homeschooling. It seems like people are "woke" but the tests and assessments haven't stopped. We need to support the science behind early childhood development and keep devices out of pre-K – 6th grades. Yes, tech is everywhere but children don't need 12+ years to learn. Adults have learned quickly how to use the most current platforms without having to use/learn it throughout the school years. Maybe those of us that are concerned should write our Representatives on the Hill for support for our teachers and educators alike.

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