This is a subject near and dear to my heart. There is a clear collision in modern American kindergarten between increasing academic demands and serious developmental differences between students. This four to six year old period is a time of major development, particularly in areas around writing, reading and reading comprehension. There are large differences in developmental capability amidst kindergarten students.
In addition to the variability between individuals, there now appears to be a systematic variance between the sexes. Research tells us that the language center development in the average 5 year old boy is equivalent to that of an average 3 1/2 year old girl (Sax, 2001, p. 5). We wouldn’t expect a 3 1/2 year old girl to master the academic demands of kindergarten. Yet in assigning expectations based on attendance of kindergarten, regardless of individual developmental readiness, we are doing the equivalent in many cases.
Kindergarten can be a critical period for students. It is their first introduction to formal education. It is a time where they begin to form opinions and expectations of themselves in an academic context and of school as an institution. I feel it is essential to provide the most positive, supportive experience to kindergarten students. Part of that experience must be a clear recognition of their individual developmental readiness and the necessity of finding academic success for each student during this time. Some of this burden falls upon the parents and their preschool advisors to properly evaluate a child’s readiness for modern kindergarten. But necessarily much of this burden will fall on kindergarten teachers to provide this positive experience. Understanding the developmental landscape of this age group can make that task clearer, if not easier.
Lenroot, R., Gogtay, N., Greenstein, D., Wells, E., Wallace, G., Clasen, L., Blumenthal, J., … Giedd, J. (2007, March 17). Sexual dimorphism of brain developmental trajectories during childhood and adolescence. NeuroImage, 36(), 1065-1073. Retrieved from http://www.boysadrift.com/2007Giedd.pdf
Sax, L. (2001). Reclaiming kindergarten: Making kindergarten less harmful to boys. Psychology of Men and Masculinity, 2(), 3-12. Retrieved from http://www.boysadrift.com/Sax_APA_2001.pdf