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Friday, 15 July 2016

1. The Calendar

Most preschool classrooms have a cozy carpeted area where the teacher sits in a chair and the students gather on the floor for Circle Time. The focal point is typically a gigantic calendar, intended to help the children learn about time. The teacher says with over-the-top enthusiasm: “Okay, class, yesterday was Monday. Today is Tuesday. What will tomorrow be?” Although they've been doing this same routine for months, the kids look at her blankly as if she asked them how to solve global warming. Someone calls out Sunday. Another guesses Friday. A third timidly suggests Saturday. Running out of days, someone finally announces Wednesday. The teacher then delightfully proclaims,Correct! as if that kid were some kind of genius.
Like many other activities in preschools today, calendar time is developmentally inappropriate – an idea co-opted from elementary schools and forced upon children too young to handle it. According to the NAEYC (National Association for the Education of Young Children), there is little evidence to suggest calendar activities are significant for children below the first grade. That's because children need to mature before they truly understand the concept of time. Think of a young child on a long road time, constantly asking, "Are we there yet?" His parents reply, "Two hours" or "twenty more minutes" or "less than an hour" but no answer satisfies. That's because those measures of time are utterly meaningless to him.
Furthermore, while calendar time teaches about numbers, counting, and patterns, experts in early childhood education argue that kids learn these essential mathematical skills more efficiently when handling concrete materials. When a skilled teacher guides them during small group activities --- asking questions and prompting exploration – students get far more from the experience than when they do whole group calendar time.

2. A Second Language

In the new global economy, it makes perfectly good sense for children to learn a second language. A person who knows a second language has more job opportunities, improved brain health, and a deeper connection with different cultures. The question parents should ask, therefore, is not whether or not their youngster should acquire a second language but when they should acquire it.
In order to attract more business in a competitive market, many preschools now offer a second language – typically Spanish or French (but Chinese has also become quite popular). Owners con gullible parents into believing earlier is better, even though research shows the opposite. It's now thought that early adolescence (ages 11-13) is the ideal time to acquire a second language. That's because students have already become proficient in their native language (both speaking and writing) and can now effectively integrate a new language without undue confusion. Their strength in their first language serves as the foundation for building a second one.
When children are expected to acquire a second language before they're proficient in their first (ages 7-8), there's a risk of semi-lingualism. This term describes people who speak two languages but are adept at neither. They're at a low-level of development in both languages with obvious deficiencies -- unable to think and express themselves adequately. That's why parents should resist the sales pitch of preschool owners who say it's a good idea to teach little kids a second language when they're still developing their first.

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