How to Help Smart and Confused Kindergartners: With Comics!

In this article, I offer comics illustrating what some smart kids feel during kindergarten and later school years. You’re welcome to use the comics to start dialogues with your children. Perhaps ask if the situations depicted in the comics have ever happened to them. Perhaps ask how the characters in the comics could have handled the situations differently.

I hope you learn as much from discussing these comics with your children as I learned recently while discussing the comics with my favorite kindergartner.

The Squishing

Kindergartners everywhere begin school with high expectations for learning. Unfortunately, some who burst at the seams with curiosity and knowledge soon feel that good behavior counts more than good learning in kindergarten.

The Squishing

When I showed this comic to my favorite kindergartner, the sarcasm and irony of the comic escaped her. Instead, we discussed how the teacher and the student could have handled the situation differently. We also discussed how teachers try to give all students equal time, and how if a child ever feels left out, the child should share those feelings with the teacher and with the child’s parents.

I believe my favorite kindergartner benefitted from our discussion. It’s good for children to know it’s ok to talk to teachers and parents about feelings. It’s also good for children to understand classroom dynamics not just from their own points of view, but also from the teacher’s point of view.

The Homework Conscience

I was surprised to learn that my favorite kindergartner occasionally has homework. Yes, paper and pencil homework, complete with due dates.

That’s not the kindergarten of my youth, nor the kindergarten of my children’s youth, but what can I do? Nothing much, except create this comic for sparking discussion:

The Homework Conscience

When I showed this comic to my favorite kindergartner, we first had to discuss the concept of conscience. Thanks to Jiminy Cricket of Pinocchio, we mastered that concept sufficiently to move on.

Next, we discussed the purpose of education–learning! When and if any homework feels like an unnecessary burden to my favorite kindergartner, she now knows to politely and respectfully discuss the matter with her teacher and parents.

I’ll leave it to those adults to figure how to respond to a polite and reasonable young voice trying to buck an entrenched feature of educational institutions worldwide. Yes, that’s a tall order.

Hopefully the adults in question will encourage the child’s advocacy efforts, will release her from doing truly unnecessary homework, and, at the same time, will teach her that in life it is sometimes easier to “just do it” rather than argue the merits of orders handed down from above.

The Jumping Donkey 

A long time ago, a teacher told me that my then six-year-old child hurt said teacher’s feelings by enthusiastically finding a flaw in a math problem that the teacher created for enrichment purposes.

I explained to the teacher that my child meant no harm, but was overjoyed that she knew enough to find the flaw in the problem. I complimented the teacher for giving my child the challenge. At the same time, I agreed to talk to my child about the teacher’s feelings. Crisis averted.

I created the following comic to give parents and children a chance to discuss what can happen when a child’s display of learning disappoints a teacher.

The Jumping Donkey

As an added bonus, the comic gave me a chance to discuss the word “jackass” and its double meaning with my favorite kindergartner. She not only enjoyed the vocabulary lesson, but also enjoyed knowing that she’s not the only kindergartner who is sitting through a year of learning letters and letter sounds that she learned years ago.

Notice that the teacher in the comic interrupted the child’s wandering mind? If you share this comic with your own child, be sure to read Ode to Positive Constructive Daydreaming  published in Frontiers of Psychology. The lead author, Rebecca McMillan, is a wise friend of mine who realizes the value of mind wandering. Bottom line: mind wandering time is not wasted time.


Please let me know if the comics spark discussions in your household. I love to hear from readers about how my work might have helped others.

If you and your children want to explore options for accelerating their learning, you might enjoy reading a major report released last spring. The report, A Nation Empowered: Evidence Trumps the Excuses Holding Back America’s Brightest Students, “informs educators, parents, and policy makers of current research on acceleration, how that information has been applied to educational policy throughout the nation, and how educators can use the findings to make decisions for their brightest students.” I highly recommend the report and its predecessor, A Nation Deceived.

Deleted “Scenes”:  Bedsheet Math

I deleted this comic from the main part of article for two reasons. First, the comic is about older children, not kindergartners. Second, a friend of mine who previewed the comic suggested that not many people would understand it.

But here’s the thing—it really happened!

Bedsheet Math Thoughts

The cartoon recounts a conversation that occurred while I sat with one of my children in the headmaster’s office of a private high school. Although my child was cool as a cucumber during the headmaster’s absurdity, I vowed to make sure my child would have the opportunity to learn calculus, with or without a hands-on calculus curriculum. (Mission accomplished.)

I created the comic because I want to warn parents that sometimes educators who tout hands-on-learning fail to understand that once kids grasp concepts, the hands-on-learning of those same concepts becomes unnecessary. Please, please, do not let educators convince you that educational methods can substitute for academic content. Both method and content are important, but substituting bedsheets and sledding hills for calculus? No way.

Acknowledgements and Credits

I created the comics via the Comic-O-Matic website of Nina Paley and Margo Burns. (Thanks!)

This blog article is part of the Hoagies’ Gifted Education Page November 2015 Blog Hop on Ages and Stages of Giftedness. I thank my friends at Hoagies’ Gifted Education Page and elsewhere for their inspiration, support, and suggestions.

Please click on the graphic below (created by Pamela S Ryan–thanks!) to see to the titles, blog names, and links of other Hoagies’ Blog Hop participants.



13 Comments on “How to Help Smart and Confused Kindergartners: With Comics!”

  1. These are fabulous comics – not only a great way to help kids understand their situation, but also helpful for adults who don’t get it about giftedness. Great idea!

  2. Oh boy- perfect timing as I have a smart and confused kindergartener at the moment!

  3. sheardcat says:

    Fwiw, I’m not *that* much younger than your kids, and I totally had homework in kindergarten.

  4. Paula Prober says:

    Wenda. These are great for starting conversations. I think the focus on this age group is helpful. I don’t see as much written about the youngest gifted kids. And I’m heading over the link on constructive daydreaming right now! Sounds intriguing.

  5. Lisa says:

    Such delightful and useful cartoons, Wenda! Looking forward to having these kinds of conversations with a favorite kindergartener of my own at some point.

  6. Emily VR says:

    Hi Wenda, I enjoyed your post and comics. I love the idea of helping students and teachers to better see one another’s perspectives (parents, too!). I wonder if these could be used with teachers, as well? Thank you!

    • Wenda Sheard says:

      Thanks for your comment, Emily. Yes, the comics could be used with teachers, too. Two schools so far have let me know that they’re distributing the article to their teachers and parents.

  7. skpicard says:

    Great comics and conversation starters.

  8. Stephanie J says:

    Hands-on calculus can be done with paper and scissors and, ideally, a really sensitive scale!

  9. Love the blog. I have a 2nd grader in a new school and these comics really hit home. The calculus comic even applies to him, though he is not learning calculus. He wants to move faster and farther in math, but he can’t because “this is how we do it” and he “has to show his work” even though he has proven he can do it in his head. I’m secretly moving him ahead at home so he will still be interested in being challenged. 🙂

  10. Fantastic spot-on post and comics. Thanks for writing this Wenda!

  11. Aurora says:

    Thanks so much for sharing! Makes me think how important it is to have a good teacher fit. Last year’s teacher just didn’t “get” him, and her answer to his advanced skills was to give him extra challenging busywork. Of course, not having made an emotional connection, he was not in the slightest motivated to do the work and his behaviors were seen as defiant in some ways. This year, he’s got a great teacher fit and though he still struggles with self-control a bit, he recognizes it in himself and is motivated to work on it because they make the attempt to “get him.”

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