the troubles in understanding kindergartens is that we all remember
best what school was like in the years not too far behind us - our
high school days,
5th and 6th grades: sitting, themselves answering the teacher's questions,
getting a grade, doing homework...
school, upper grade school. But kindergarten isn't like that.
Kindergarten is a school for five-year-olds-- that is the important
And I don't need to tell you that your Five is very different from
upper-grade youngsters. So: Kindergarten looks different. It
has a whole different style. It is for Fives. It is geared to Fives.
It is custom-made to fit children of this particular age.
question, then, is: What are Fives like? For one thing, although they
talk big and brave, inside of themselves Fives are very soft.
essentially shy. They put on a show of big, but they know that the
world is pretty
They are timid, even the toughest of them.
for these children - a school for beginners - has to be a gentle
It has to be a warm and friendly school. Kindergarten can't and must not
a place that overpowers youngsters and pushes them back.
means that the size of a kindergarten is important. A kindergarten
shouldn't have the feel of an auditorium or a stadium. It means that children
be able to spend a lot of their time in little groups - two or three
or even working alone - so they can be and at ease.
And of course, the soft tone and
good spirit of the teacher
are exceedingly significant.
about Fives? A note that always strikes me is that they are doers.
They are forever on the go. They are into everything. Their nature will
as they grow older but right now, Fives are not good sitters; they are
youngsters who can keep for very quiet long; and they are not good
listeners either. Instead, they
have another quite wonderful quality:
They want to see and do for
this mean for a kindergarten? It means that the emphasis
has to be on
reality and on action: on animals, on jobs the children do,
on activities they
carry out on trips they take, on workers of all kinds
who come into the classroom.
emphasis has to be on chances for children to use their hands and to
work tools: magnets, magnifying glasses, saws hammers...to work even with
what look like with playthings: clay, blocks, paint, puzzles, sand...
Kindergarten is not a
place for teaching children by talking at them, not a
place for grownups' lectures. It is
a place where
active children are involved in the goings-on. Fives learn best
L. Hymes Jr. is a Past President of the National Association for
the Education of young Children and author of many publications for
parents and children.