Thursday, 1 June 2017

Kindergarten Graduation Alternatives

Each year at this time social media is full of ideas for kindergarten graduation ceremonies - some with caps, gowns and diplomas. There are so many reasons why my school district discourages kindergarten graduation ceremonies.  

1) They aren't graduating! They aren't leaving the school. With full day kindergarten now in every public school in Ontario they are simply going from one full day program to another full day program.  We don't graduate from grade one to grade two, so why from kindergarten to grade one?

2) Grade one is not academic boot camp and our grade one classrooms should be more like kindergarten classrooms. 

Too often, I hear adults say things to 'graduating' kindergarten students like:

"Oh, you're going to be starting big-school now"
"When you get to grade one, there's no more play.  You have to learn how to read now."

OK - no! A thousand times no.

What was developmentally appropriate in June is still developmentally appropriate when the students return as grade one students in September.  The ministry of education in the province of Ontario has provided resources and supports for primary teachers to ensure that the programs for primary students (grades 1 - 3) are more play and inquiry based; more like our kindergarten programs! 

Kindergarten is school.  Play is learning, Students in kindergarten are learning. They are engaged in all kinds of literacy learning, including purposeful, authentic, developmentally appropriate literacy activities.  Kindergarten students are already learning to read - they are developing their concepts of print, they are developing alphabetic awareness, and engaging in texts with their classmates and educators. Learning to read starts when parents and caregivers sit with a child in their lap and read to them. Learning to read starts long before children arrive at school.

3) It takes time away from kindergarten program. Instead of engaging in rich, play-based learning, kindergarten students are practicing marching into the gym for graduation, and practicing new songs to sing during the ceremony. 
4) Kindergarten graduation ceremonies are for the adults.  When asked why they have kindergarten graduation ceremonies, almost everyone talks about the adults: the parents love it, the parents ask for it, we've always done it and the parents expect it.  No one ever says it's about the kids. Education should be about what's best for kids and their learning.  

Please don't think I'm a party-pooper who wants everyone working and learning until the last bell rings on the last day of school.  I believe that celebrating transitions is important.  These rituals build community and mark milestones in life's journey.  So instead of a graduation ceremony, here are some alternatives:

Favourite songs concert: Instead of learning new songs for graduation, let's invite the kids to decide what their favourite kindergarten songs and activities are and share those. Invite parents and caregivers to come and engage in the songs and activities with the students instead of kids performing and adults watching. 

Family picnic and games:
Enjoy a picnic together on the school lawn with games, face painting, and music. 

NAEYC: End of the Year Celebrations

The parents will still have photos to post on social media and everyone can relax and have a good time celebrating all the learning and the time spent together in kindergarten.

Here is a great article with links to research if you're trying to convince your colleagues, administration, and/or parents to move from kindergarten graduation to something more appropriate:

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