Tag Archives: CDC

Survey Says: Kindergarten and The 5 Year Old



The traditional learning environments in the 21st century prides itself in training to focus on the prize (usually meaning college), ignore lesser and more instinctual needs (such as horseplay with peers), and ultimately push themselves to the learning rigor that is expected of students who ascribe to the school’s philosophy.

Thing is, part of the learning culture bubble in these schools is the increasing number of students who ‘act out’ or get ‘suspended’ for being unable to successfully meter themselves per the color system of conduct. Or there are those who are sent to the Dean of Students when the behavior they display is divergent from the rigid norm – this can range from protestations to full out tantrums.

The familiar explanation among circles is that these students need more discipline and structure to survive and thrive. Ironically though, the more the external constructs are being imposed on them, the more unnatural the social-emotional fit becomes. But how then to reconcile students’ emotional expressions, most of whom are not fully developed versions of themselves, with the constructs of institutions that have no time or place to develop such skill set?

Children at a young age explore the world initially through play and social interaction. It’s been proven that without the exposure to peers and to play circles in preschool, the Kindergarten experience is more difficult and isolating which tends to set the tone for the rest of the elementary years.

Then again, more and more schools are veering away from traditional Kindergarten experiences and pushing for more teacher driven instruction laying the foundation for the expectations of the higher grades. The school days are longer, the expectations of sitting in a chair beyond 30 minutes at time to pay attention to a lesson, and for some extreme programs, no recess times for these 5-6 year olds.

CDC at 5 years

The CDC handout divides the developmental expectations of a typical 5 year old into 4 sections: Social/Emotional, Language/Communication, Cognitive, and Movement/Physical Development. This handout is part of the ‘act early’ initiative for parents to recognize what parents should be paying attention to when children are at the cusp of entering school-age.

It is also interesting to note that the CDC does NOT include in one of the bullet points to ask the pediatrician if a 5 year old can’t compose a 4 sentence paragraph during a writing session. Could that mean that the developmental gains and expectations are not hifalutin in comparison to the educational parameters?

According to an article from greatschools.org on March 16, 2016 addressing Developmental Milestones ages 3-5, they closely align with what the CDC checklist lists as expected milestones for a 5 year old, however they align  the language closer to educational expectations. Their list goes:

Milestones: 5-year-olds

Motor development: gross motor skills : runs in an adult manner, walks on tiptoe, broad jumps, walks on a balance beam, skates and jumps rope

Motor development: fine motor skills: hand preference is established, laces (but cannot tie) shoes, grasps pencil like an adult, colors within lines, cuts and pastes simple shapes

Language and thinking development: speaks fluently; correctly uses plurals, pronouns, tenses, very interested in words and language; seeks knowledge, understands and names opposites, uses complex language, still confuses fantasy and reality at times, thinking is still naïve; doesn’t use adult logic

Social and emotional development: distinguishes right from wrong, honest from dishonest, but does not recognize intent, plays make-believe and dresses up, mimics adults and seeks praise, seeks to play rather than be alone; friends are important, plays with both boys and girls but prefers the same sex, wants to conform; may criticize those who do not

And similarly to the observation from the CDC’s list, there is nothing mentioned about the ability to write an essay. That doesn’t mean however that this is not a reality for Kindergarteners in classrooms however, especially as Common Core Standards (CCLS) are expected  to guide and drive schools’ teaching across the country. The CCLS for Speaking and Listening in Kindergarten are:

Comprehension and Collaboration:

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.K.1: Participate in collaborative conversations with diverse partners about kindergarten topics and texts with peers and adults in small and larger groups.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.K.1.a: Follow agreed-upon rules for discussions (e.g., listening to others and taking turns speaking about the topics and texts under discussion).

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.K.1.b: Continue a conversation through multiple exchanges.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.K.2: Confirm understanding of a text read aloud or information presented orally or through other media by asking and answering questions about key details and requesting clarification if something is not understood.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.K.3: Ask and answer questions in order to seek help, get information, or clarify something that is not understood.

Presentation of Knowledge and Ideas:

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.K.4: Describe familiar people, places, things, and events and, with prompting and support, provide additional detail.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.K.5: Add drawings or other visual displays to descriptions as desired to provide additional detail.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.K.6: Speak audibly and express thoughts, feelings, and ideas clearly.

Then based off these, Education-focused organizations and schools create their own rubrics which fit to their communities or ideologies. One of the resources commonly used online for teachers created by teachers is the site time4writing.com, and they lay out what Kindergarten classrooms should be creating for the writing process (keeping in mind again that these are 5 year olds):

Kindergarten: The Writing Process

In kindergarten, students are introduced to the writing process through shared writing activities, in which the teacher writes a story and students contribute to it orally. The writing process is also taught through interactive writing activities, in which students and the teacher compose text together. In kindergarten, students are taught to use each phase of the writing process as follows:

Prewriting: Students generate ideas for writing through class discussion and by drawing pictures about their ideas for self-selected and assigned topics.

Drafting: Students participate in drafting writing by drawing, telling, or writing about a familiar experience, topic or story, and by creating a group draft, scripted by the teacher.

Revising: Students participate in revising the draft for clarity and effectiveness, by adding additional details to the draft and checking for logical thinking with prompting from the teacher.

Editing: Students participate in correcting the draft for standard language conventions according to their level of development.

Publishing: Students participate in producing, illustrating, and sharing a finished piece of writing.

Kindergarten: Written English Language Conventions

Students in kindergarten are taught Standard English conventions appropriate to this grade level. In particular, kindergarten writing standards specify these key markers of proficiency:

Words and Sentences

—Recognize and use complete, coherent sentences when speaking.

—Understand relationship between sounds and letters.

—Recognize sight words such as “the” and read simple sentences.

—Use letters and phonetically spelled words to write about experiences, stories, people, objects, or events.

—Write words and brief sentences that are legible.

—Write his/her own first and last name and other important words.


—Use end punctuation, including periods, question marks, and exclamation points.


—Capitalize letters to begin “important words.”


—Spell simple words independently by using pre-phonetic knowledge, sounds of the alphabet, and knowledge of letter names.

—Write consonant-vowel-consonant words (“cat”).


—Print uppercase and lowercase letters of the alphabet and recognize the difference between the two.

—Write from left to right and top to bottom of page.

—Recognize spacing between letters and words.

—Understand the concept of writing and identifying numerals.

Are we then, based on the survey of information, pushing 5 year old to perform educational expectations beyond their developmental capacities? Or are we erring more on the side of environmental nurture to create synaptic responses in their young brains, supporting the practice makes perfect adage?

What ever happened to meeting the student where they are at developmentally without sacrificing their education? Rigor should never be mistaken for appropriate education, nor should minimum standards be a comfortable catch phrase for those who safeguard our children’s future.



Kindergarten Debate: Hand-Writing or Assistive Technology for Students Growing Up in Common Core

Limbic System Development
Limbic System Development

The typical picture of grade to developmental level progression when it comes to fine motor skills suggest that one starts with a four finger grasp before differentiating into pincer, tripod, and lateral pinch finger grasps. Just as gross hand motor skills are expected to be mastered prior to any initiation of fine motor finesse, fine motor skill hierarchy also has a period of latency and skill building.

Upon entry into socialized and organized peer grouping (pre-school), handedness is not yet determined however the traditional methods of encouragement are put in place to prepare the population for Kindergarten. Multi-sensory methods of cream and paint brushes fill the day of positive experiences to encourage the use of both hands in a structured form of expression.

Then Kindergarten begins: less play, more tabletop activities, more periods, and certainly lot more structured writing. A student in this day and age in Kindergarten is expected to be able to write their first and last names neatly, able to write 2-3 sentence essay on pictures that they drew, and be able to color within the lines by the end of the school year by about 80% accurately.

According to the CDC, 5 year old children should be able to perform the following Cognitive Skills below as appropriate to their developmental level:

Cognitive (learning, thinking, problem-solving)
  • Counts 10 or more things
  • Can draw a person with at least 6 body parts
  • Can print some letters or numbers
  • Copies a triangle and other geometric shapes
  • Knows about things used every day, like money and food

According however to Common Core Standards, Kindergarteners should be able to do the following writing tasks:

Kindergarten Writing  Standards

Text Types and Purposes

  • W.K.1. Use a combination of drawing, dictating, and writing to compose opinion pieces in which they tell a reader the topic or the name of the book they are writing about and state an opinion or preference about the topic or book (e.g., My favorite book is…).
  • W.K.2. Use a combination of drawing, dictating, and writing to compose informative/explanatory texts in which they name what they are writing about and supply some information about the topic.
  • W.K.3. Use a combination of drawing, dictating, and writing to narrate a single event or several loosely linked events, tell about the events in the order in which they occurred, and provide a reaction to what happened.

Production and Distribution of Writing

  • W.K.4. (Begins in grade 3)
  • W.K.5. With guidance and support from adults, respond to questions and suggestions from peers and add details to strengthen writing as needed.
  • W.K.6. With guidance and support from adults, explore a variety of digital tools to produce and publish writing, including in collaboration with peers.

Research to Build and Present Knowledge

  • W.K.7. Participate in shared research and writing projects (e.g., explore a number of books by a favorite author and express opinions about them).
  • W.K.8. With guidance and support from adults, recall information from experiences or gather information from provided sources to answer a question.
  • W.K.9. (Begins in grade 4)

Looking at the comparisons from both sectors, it is clear that the demands expected from a Kindergarten child in the classroom are above the cognitive writing capacity developmentally that a 5 year old can handle.

Or is it? Are these realistic expectation from a 5 year old’s sensorimotor system who’s limbic system is connected mainly to the frontotemporal sections of the prefrontal cortex and the Broca’s speech areas with minimal connection to the interior of the corpus callosum?

The color of connected brain clusters encodes t values. 3D visualization on the most right panels reveals clearly that cingulate gyrus part of cingulum (cgc) connects MPFC and PCC and cingulum hippocampal part (cgh) connects PCC and MTL for both neonate and adult brain
The color of connected brain clusters encodes t values. 3D visualization on the most right panels reveals clearly that cingulate gyrus part of cingulum (cgc) connects MPFC and PCC and cingulum hippocampal part (cgh) connects PCC and MTL for both neonate and adult brain

Based on the study, “Microstructure, length and connection of Limbic tracts in human normal brain development,” published in Frontiers Journal (http://journal.frontiersin.org/Journal/10.3389/fnagi.2014.00228/full), the study follows the deveopment and attached structures of the limbic system developmentally in the brain from birth to 25 years old.  All included children, adolescents and young adults were healthy subjects free of current and past neurological or psychiatric disorders. Right-handed were reported for all children who showed clear handedness. For young children, besides earplugs and earphones, extra foam padding was applied to reduce the sound of the scanner while they were asleep. They found that Memory, emotion, and motivation functions are related to limbic tracts and important for survival. It is vital for limbic tracts to become well myelined earlier than other tracts, especially those projected from frontal and temporal lobes (Baumann and Pham-Dinh, 2001).

They also discovered that although the overall shape of cgc is relatively stable throughout development, extra cgc growth can be observed in its anterior part close to prefrontal cortex (Figure 2). Relative increase of cgc length is probably related to its growth in the prefrontal region. Functions of prefrontal areas are involved in planning, decision making, and moderating social behavior that develop during late childhood and adolescence (e.g., Gogtay et al., 2004). Significant lateralization has been found for all DTI metrics of cgc-L/R and cgh-L/R with age and gender as covariates. his lateralization was associated with higher microstructural integrity on the left side of limbic tracts. Lateralization of DTI metrics of cgc and cgh may be related to unique functions of the left side of human brain such as language (van Veen et al., 2001). Exclusive right-handedness of the recruited subjects may also play a role. These findings are consistent to previous DTI metric measurements of cingulum (Gong et al., 2005;Verhoeven et al., 2010)

In plain English, what the study is saying is that the younger the brain, the lesser the pre-frontal cortex connection there is by the limbic system. It is the limbic system that allows any memory that is attached to a regulatory system (including motor memory) that enhances automaticity of movement such as that of fine motor skills. It also suggests that the system connects more effectively in the parieto-occipital areas, which house the majority of the sensorimotor processing and visual processing.

It then supports the CDC developmental data of what cognitively is expected of a 5 year old: with a still present instinctual need for regulation of pain, temperature, emotions innervated significantly more than that of the prefrontal cortex or the parieto-occipital complex, the coordination potential of a 5 year old’s hands are simply not the best gauge on whether they will be unable to utilize a writing tool or not in the long run. What that also means is that even if the academic demands indicated as a standard for the grade level are used aa a measure for their success, the developmental and imaging data will not agree with the current standards of achievement.

Perhaps then, we need to sit down with neuroscientists when we decide as a nation to adopt and revamp an entire educational curriculum. Educators educate; however, they need to know the brain they are educating. The marriage between education and neuroscience is long overdue.