Every year I hear and read arguments on both sides of the teaching battle regarding the expectations we are given, the methods for measuring success, and what is developmentally appropriate for our students. Personally, I teach Kindergarten and have for three of the four years that I have taught. On one end I hear other teachers grumble that five year olds shouldn’t be expected to read yet, but our standards and assessments demand that they do.
The thing is: These are children and every child is different. They are all raised in different surroundings with different experiences. They have different parents. They have different diets, different exercise options, different stimulation. Some are overbooked and some are never spoken with. Many are struggling to learn English, while others are bilingual. But, even barring all of that, every child is different.
So what makes us think every child should reach the same goal at the same time? What makes us think every child and every classroom should be working at the same pace?
Let me mention a few things before I go on:
- Texas standards want Kindergarten students to be able to read consonant-vowel-consonant (cvc) words and consonant blend (ccvc, cvcc, ccvcc) words and know at least 25 sight words by the end of the year. This aligns with being able to read a level D book.
- Our adopted reading curriculum teaches cvc words (up to Level B) and about 36 sight words throughout the year.
- The majority of my students live in subsidized housing. Most of them do not have the untested soft skills needed to be successful. Many are stressed and struggle with hunger, family death, incarceration, poor healthcare, etc.
- These are 5- and 6-year olds.
If you look at my board, you will notice that it is not limited to Kindergarten expectations. It tracks up to Level J (End of First Grade) and 200 sight words. You will see that a good portion of my class has surpassed the given curriculum for the entire year. It is also clear that not all of my students are growing at the same rates. Two cannot read yet. A third have only mastered Level A (and some of those struggled).
They are all learning. They are all growing. That is all that I can ask and all that should be asked. They will grow at different rates. They will struggle at different points. Our classrooms should reflect that.
My classroom follows my students. I have activities that can be used at varying levels, both on and above Kinder expectations. Much of their reading work is independent. My low students aren’t pushed and forced beyond their level and my high students aren’t bored and stifled with a slow pace.
Learning and growth is encouraged and fostered. This is what is developmentally appropriate.