David Elkind

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Introduction

Quoting from the Wikipedia:

David Elkind (born March 11, 1931) is an American child psychologist and author. His groundbreaking books The Hurried Child (1988) and Miseducation (1993) informed early childhood education professionals of the possible dangers of "pushing down" the elementary curriculum into the very early years of a child's life. By doing so, he argued, teachers and parents alike could lapse into developmentally inappropriate instructional and learning practices that may distort the smooth development of learning. He is associated with the belief of decline of social markers.
He also wrote Ties that Stress: The New Family Imbalance (1994), All Grown Up and No Place To Go (1988), and Reinventing Childhood (1988).

Here are two student projects discussing David Eklind's work. The authors are students of Alexa Parker, writing in a teacher education course.

Author: Iva Alexander

School Readiness

What actually constitutes children's school readiness related to education? Many areas effect children's school readiness and constructivism. Is it academic training and the amount of knowledge acquired or the child’s level of intellectual, social and emotional level and the levels of reasoning developed by the child as he or she matures? When are students ready for school? The rapid growth of technology has caused early education to compete in our modern world. Education has turned into a race to start early and the students are expected to know so much more that they are not allowed to have time learn. Readiness for school is not in the student’s leading element, rather it’s in the student’s level of intellectual, social and emotional readiness and what the expectation of the schools program expectations are.

Constructivism

Constructivism of what exist outside of our experiences and how it relates to our learning process. Constructivism relates to the middle ground for environment and up-bringing that contributes to the way learners learn. Human intelligence and reality interact in our daily world by mixing mental activity and the knowing reality, which defines constructivism.

Academic training for children is now being started at an even earlier than previous rate. Children are being taught numerical and literacy skills at the expense of getting time to play. High academic environments give little time for children to be creative and expressive and can cause uneasiness of mind. Play provides a solid background that helps children to be prepared for later academic learning. Elkind writes "Accordingly, there is little evidence to support the view that school readiness is a product of an early introduction into academics. In fact the evidence points in the other direction and suggests that play may provide the most solid grounding for the later attainment of literacy and numerical skills." (Elkind 2008) Educational learning comes from a wealth of knowledge. Teachers need training in child development to be able to adjust and develop teaching methods to ability levels of their students. Social knowledge awareness is needed to be fully educated as well as individuality. High stakes testing has reduced student’s individuality and creativity to test scores.

The Maturing Child

Children’s level of maturation is a very important aspect of their readiness for school. Students that are not yet ready only need more time. Their experience helps to give them background for learning. Play helps children socially, intellectually and emotionally. Children attain a different set of capabilities at different stages of their maturity. Constructivist tries to include students in the process of learning. Through experiences students can make knowledge belong to them.

The child’s level of intellectual, social and emotional level and the levels of reasoning developed by the child as he or she matures are all contributors to child’s education. Another factor is his or her background that will effect how the student will encounter school readiness. Children need time to mature and play. This will help children to be ready for school. Play helps students to be able to communicate, work cooperatively and follow directions. All of these skills are obtained best in pre-school. This idea also relates with constructivism as prior knowledge influences the current knowledge and it involves students in their learning process.

Reference

Elkind,D. 2005. Response to Objectivism and Education: The Educational Forum 69(4) 328-334

Elkind, D. 2008. Some Misunderstandings of School Readiness Exchange The Early Childhood Leaders Magazine since 1978, n180 49-52 March/April

Author: Lynda Aberasturi

Play versus Academic Learning

Play for young pre-kindergarten and kindergarten age children is vital for social and academic growth in a child. Some schools have replaced the traditional play-learning scene in these kinds of classrooms with more academics that require learning all the usual things kids learn in play, but including numbers and letters. The new kind of curriculum involves testing, very little play, and in some cases home work. How does this affect our children and what are the long term effects? Should schools continue in their present circumstance of teaching heavily to academics, or should academics be kicked out and play reintroduced? Is there a way to meet both objectives by looking at play learning as an extremely important factor in a developing child?

Research over the years have shown that play improves physical, intellectual and social-emotional development. (Elkind,2008) Unstructured play where the children make their own rules and make up their own games is the best kind of play that develops imagination and independence. Play promotes growth in a child by increasing their curiosity, imagination and fantasy. It enables children to experience new learning experiences. Children learn the basics in play like recognizing colors, shapes, and sounds, size relationship and gravity. For example, when playing with blocks, the blocks fall the child rearranges them and they may fall or stay depending on the level of skill the child has developed. Play enables children to experience love, respect, and social connection, through friendships, cooperation, and competition. Play in young children in a setting with other children provides a rich environment for children to develop their fine and gross motor skills in the arts and crafts that are provided for them. According to Israeli psychologist, Sara Smilansky,

Socio-dramatic play activates resources that stimulate social and intellectual growth in the child, which in turn affects the child’s success in school.” (Elkind,2008 p.4)

Play then is an essential skill that prepares a child for academics in first grade and beyond. Academic learning occurs in play, but when the child ready for it, not when a teacher is structuring all the learning. A study indicated that most kindergarten teachers believed that their students should have a play orientated classroom versus an academic classroom. People question whether play-learning is as beneficial in preparing a child for kindergarten as in academic learning, where play is limited and math and language skills are taught. Many parents and educators view learning as a race in which the child must learn as much as possible in the academic world as soon as possible. In this setting, tests drive the instruction, providing much less time for children to play, and in some schools eliminating play time altogether. Total academic learning with very little play creates a stressful environment with high levels of test anxiety. Studies by Kathy Hirch-Pasek have shown that children from academic pre-schools are less creative and have more negative feelings about school than children that attend play- orientated pre-schools.(Elkind,2008) In fact these tests show that there are no gains in reading and math for children in academic pre-schools versus play-orientated schools.

According to Elkind “The decline of children’s free, self-initiated play is the result of technological innovation, rapid social change, and economic globalization.” (2007). Now-days children are more at home indoors because of this change then in by gone years, much time is spent sitting and watching TV. Another contributor to children playing less is that most children come from single parent homes or homes in which both parents work out of the home, so this shifts the children from staying at home with mom to being taught by others. Thus instead of spending more time engaged in child’s play these children are being taught by adults in adult led and organized activities. Another factor is that global economy has promoted the idea that education is a race and children need to be taught academics, while leaving out the play that develops these skills along with social skills, that children so badly need to become a well- adjusted student in school and in academics. Some kids may be ready for this kind of education but some are not and these skills are been taught children before they are developmentally ready. Elkind states, “ . . . evidence suggests that the most effective early childhood programs are those adapted to the child’s level of intellectual, social, and emotional development”( 2008). Educators have implemented structured, academic education in the place of child directed play. However, because of the current factors of today, it seems that play will probably not be returned to pre-schools as in years past. The answer then is a balance of play and academic instruction, shortening the amount of time children spend in front of a TV instead of outdoors in child initiated play. In area where outdoor play is not probable, adults need to take the initiative and incorporate more activities into their daily lives, and the lives of their children. Elkind suggests, time spent in a gym exercising, or playing in a park, hiking and other activities that do not require a lot of structure. Given half a chance children will begin to play on their own.

Play, were children make their own rules is the best kind of play for young children, because it develops their imagination, independence, curiosity, physical, intellectual and social-emotional development. Play provides a time for children to develop their fine and gross motor skills; it also enables them to experience love, respect, and social connection through friendships. Play prepares a child for academic learning when they enter first grade. Many people have bought into the idea that play is not developmental and is not beneficial. They see a mostly academic pre-school as he most beneficial. Studies have shown that play does indeed prepare a child for later academic learning. Pre-schoolers that have attended schools in a play rich environment are better equipped in socio-emotional skills than pre-schoolers that are in an environment that focuses on academic learning. Since society has changed rapidly in the last decades it appears that educators need to balance out the curriculum to include more play and less rigidity in regards to academic studies.

I think that parents and educators have jumped from one methodology to another without looking at the long term effects of either program. I would suggest that pre-schools find a balance between play-orientated learning and academic learning. Play after all, is extremely important to children. Not only does benefit them physically, but mentally as well. Play develops a child in so many ways whereas a total academic setting leaves a big hole in the socio-emotional development that may impair a child for life. I think the old axiom of “All work and no play make Johnny a very dull boy indeed” would be true in regards to a total academic pre-school and kindergarten.

I think too much emphasis on academics with very little play puts a lot of stress on children before they are developmentally ready to receive it. This is turn could cause test anxiety, and burn-out in years to come instead of creating a youth that is dedicated to higher learning. However, I have seen where teachers in elementary to middle school have slowed down the curriculum and have not included enough interesting learning to students to feed their curiosity, so that students lose perspective and vision and just go with the flow to barely make it out of one grade and into the next. Educators need to work in a partnership to provide students with beneficial learning that will guide them on without burn-out, but insure that students are motivated, educated, and have the proper tools to proceed into their chosen field.

References

Elkind, D. (2008, March/April), Some Misunderstanding of School Readiness. The Early Childhood Leaders’ Magazine, 180, 49-52.

Elkind, D. (2007, November/December), Preschool Academics, Learning that Comes Naturally. The Early Childhood Leaders’ Magazine, 170, 6-9.

Elkind, D. (2008, June), Can We Play? Greater Good Magazine. Retrieved October 18,2008, from the World Wide Web: http://www.sharpbrains.com/blog/2008/06/09/cognitive-and-emotional-development-through-play.html

Authors

This Wiki Page was developed by Lynda Aberasturi and Iva Alexander in the fall of 2008.