Monday, April 13, 2009

The Importance of Early Learning Experiences: How Playing IS Kindergarten Readiness!

Otherwise known as the Ooey Gooey Lady, Lisa Murphy is one of my favorite presenters. After a little time with her you feel good about doing what you love for the little people who need you so much. You also laugh so hard you feel like you just did an ab workout. Even though I'd seen most of this presentation before I went to get a little kick in the pants to recharge for the rest of the school year. The handouts for this presentation are available for free on the Ooey Gooey website.

Lisa started with the seven things we must do with children each day. They are:

  1. Create
  2. Move
  3. Sing
  4. Discuss
  5. Observe
  6. Read
  7. Play

Lisa shared with us a graphic she calls "The House of Higher Learning," which is a simple house picture with all sorts of academic topics listed randomly. Underneath the house is the foundation, labeled "Play," which has the first six things in the list above as its components. In early childhood education we create the strong foundation which future teachers will build upon. Without play, the foundation is weak. Our job is to give children lots of experiences so they are ready to learn more academic topics later.


Creating doesn't always mean art and it can't always be something that you can bring home. Building and imaginative play are two such creative endevours, as is problem solving. Lisa then went off into an interesting discussion on the 80 stages of scribbling and announced that "horizontal lines are underrated." She's basically talking about the need for a child to have mastered crossing the midline before being ready for school. She explained that just because a child hasn't crossed the midline at the age we normally send children to school doesn't mean he needs an evaluation. It likely means he just needs time to mature. She explained that even though we send kids to formal schooling earlier than other developed nations we have the lowest literacy rate of developed nations because we're asking kids to learn what they aren't ready for.


It's important to move and kids learn best when they have a chance to move. Even so, in the U.S. 40% of schools have eliminated recess. That's 16,000 children. There are three types of learners: visual, auditory, and kinesthetic. Your classroom should suit all of those types even if you don't learn best in one or more of those ways. The squirmers require movement in order to process information. Lisa pointed out that the U.S. is the only country that allows direct-to-consumer drug marketing. We are also the largest producer and user of ADHD drugs in the world. Coincidence? Just because a kid can't sit still doesn't mean he needs to be assessed ad then drugged, it means he needs to have his learning style appropriately engaged.


Bev Bos says, "Songs are the hooks to hang memories on." Musical intelligence is the first one you get and the last one you lose before you die. When you can't remember anything else in old age you'll remember the songs you learned as a child. It's important for us to give kids some of those songs. And yes, they are learning when you're doing music with them. If you don't know any fingerplays, get to know Hugh Hanley.


Social and emotional competence is more important than knowing the alphabet. Do the kids know how to get their shovels back? If not, help them learn before those shovels become staplers and office supplies. In the handout was an excerpt from an article about how people skills help kindergarteners more than knowing ABCs. Discussing is about learning problem solving and practicing listening and social skills.


Incorporate all the senses, not just looking. Take time to use all the senses.


Read until you can't read anymore. Learn how to fix books so the children can see how much you value them. Provide good books daily. Your goal isn't to get to the end of the story but to instill a love of story. Make sure children see you read. Have books all around your classroom, not just in the book area, and take some outside with you.


Playing is not really a seventh thing, but it is the cement of the foundation. If you don't play while you're doing the other six things the foundation is weak. Play keeps it all together.


  1. I agree that Kindergarten teachers build the early foundation that later teacher build upon. These seven areas help build children's cognitive abilities even though it may not seem like it. It also helps there motor development, especially in the play and move categories. I think that is an interesting point about other countries having higher literacy rates because of us trying to teach kids how to read before they are ready. I think that kids get discouraged if they are trying to learn how to read and cannot, which can lead to not enjoying reading when they are older. I also think that the move section is very important. Kidergarten students have a lot of energy. I have learned in one of my RSED classes that this age is too early to consider someone ADHD. Being able to move a lot will help calm students down while have fun. Observing also helps build a foundation for future teachers. This is one way to learn about a lot different objects and give students the experience in working with them. Overall, I think these are seven great and very important musts in teaching Kindergarten.

    Mary Katherine Moreland

  2. Mary Katherine, it's very interesting that you read this from a Kindergarten perspective and you were able to agree with what Lisa Murphy said. Her audience, though it certainly included K through 3 teachers, was primarily preschool teachers. Her workshops deal exclusively with those experiences children have before they go to formal schooling and yet most of it still applies in Kindergarten, at least to my way of thinking.

    I think a lot of this also applies to older children. I was talking with a friend of mine who teaches middle school (6th to 8th grade in my kids' school) and she said she was "warned" about a boy who just couldn't stop moving. He's been having trouble sitting still since 4th grade, when there's a lot more sit-down work added to the curriculum. Miraculously, when he got to 6th grade and the students change classrooms each period, most of his wiggly problems disappeared. She said that's what convinced her to make sure her 6th graders were getting enough movement throughout the day. Their behavior was better and they could pay better attention during formal lessons.

    I think I was getting tired when I wrote about observing. Observing things with children teaches them skills they can use throughout their entire lives, not only for academic purposes but for sheer life enjoyment.

    Thanks for commenting. Let me know if there are other things you'd like to see on this blog.