The new kindergarten: Kids write ‘informative’ reports

Remember back in the olden days when kindergarteners used to be allowed to learn from playing? Now, in the age of the Common Core State Standards, 4 and 5 year olds are being required to do things such as write “Informative/Explanatory Reports” and identify topic sentences.

It’s happening across the country as part of the school reform movement that has pushed down academics to the kindergarten level, entirely ignoring the fact that many young kids aren’t developmentally ready for this kind of activity. A story in the New York Post says:

Way beyond the ABCs, crayons and building blocks, the city Department of Education now wants 4- and 5-year-olds to write “informative/explanatory reports” and demonstrate “algebraic thinking.”

Children who barely know how to write the alphabet or add 2 and 2 are expected to write topic sentences and use diagrams to illustrate math equations.

“For the most part, it’s way over their heads,” a Brooklyn teacher said. “It’s too much for them. They’re babies!”

Here is a New York City public schools unit for teachers to use with kindergarteners to help them write about gardens. It says:

This task is embedded in a unit that introduces students to informational texts as sources of information, or“teachers” that we can learn from. After spending time exploring nonfiction texts, through read alouds as well as collaborative and independent research, students will demonstrate their understanding by writing a book about what they’ve learned from a nonfiction read aloud. The unit length is approximately 3 weeks, depending on students’ incoming familiarity with nonfiction, and can be extended with enrichment activities.

and

Task Description: This task asks students to write an informative/explanatory report demonstrating what they learned from an informational text. Students will demonstrate their understanding of the main idea of the text – not all bugs are bad – by retelling key details.

The Oregon Department of Education offers sample texts from kindergarteners who are writing “informative/explanatory” report. One is called “My fabit Book is do you  Want to be my FRIEND.”

And here is  part of a draft document from Trenton Public Schools to teachers:

Trenton Public Schools Writing Unit of Study: Writers Participate in Shared Research: Writing Informative/Explanatory Reports to Teach About a Topic Grade: Kindergarten

TEACHER NOTE

WHY:
This unit immerses our kindergarten writers within the world of non-narrative writing. Immersing children in nonfiction is crucial for them to communicate facts as they see them in our world. Writing in these various genres helps students become more proficient readers of nonfiction genres as well. Your kindergarteners will be creating Informative/Explanatory Reports with the intention of teaching others about a topic they researched with the class. This unit of study is lifted from Nonfiction Writing: Procedures and Reports by Lucy Calkins and Laurie Pessah *book six from Lucy Calkins and Colleagues from the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project. Units of Study for Primary Writing: A Yearlong Curriculum (K-2). (2003).

Immersion:
When considering approaches of effective instruction to immerse your students in the writing work of this unit, you will lean heavily on read aloud and shared writing. It is important to model by writing your own report for minilessons and conferring. There are examples provided within the collecting lessons. Keep in mind that the examples represent one line of thinking for the sake of the model and paper choice usage and that your writers should be drafting several reports simultaneously so that they have several to select their top two from when it is time to choose.

Structure:
We are continuing to help students build stamina by writing many drafts and gradually increasing the number of minutes they write independently during the year now to 15 private /5 partner minutes.

It is important to recognize that the Informative/Explanatory Reports your writers will be creating are based on shared research that has been conducted with their class around a content area topic.

Writers will be choosing to write about smaller sub-topics within the bigger class topic. Facts should be included within their reports and confirmation of accuracy will be based on what they researched together. Writers will have to keep their audience in mind throughout this unit, ensuring that each report they draft is clear for their readers to learn from. Within this unit it is critical that writers select paper choices that match the purpose and message of their report drafts. There is a separate document for paper choices that go with this unit of study. It is very important that students understand the purpose of each paper choice as a tool to teach their readers. The following paper choices are included: Subtopics page (paper choice #1); Subtopic with Facts page (paper choice#2); Table of Contents page (paper choice #3); Categories page (paper choices #4),Report with Illustration (paper choices #5 and #6); Diagram (Parts of a…) age (paper choice #7); Kinds of… page (paper choice #8);Dedication page (paper choice #
9); Cover page (paper choice #10).

Look at the whole thing here.

Valerie Strauss covers education and runs The Answer Sheet blog.
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Valerie Strauss | April 3, 2013