How to improve preschool programs?

Researchers found that, although the children who attended the preschool scored higher on school readiness, they showed lower reading, math, and science scores in both third grade and sixth grade then those children that were not attending preschool. They were also more likely to be held back, more likely to need special education services, more likely to get in trouble at school, and had lower school attendance rates in sixth grade.

So how could a preschool have a negative impact on children? What does this suggest about preschool in general? While these findings may be disappointing and even alarming, they provide six evidence-based ideas for how to improve preschool programs.

1.Developing abstract skills

Preschool should focus more on developing abstract skills (listening, attention, and problem-solving) rather than academic skills (learning the alphabet or counting to 10).

2. Acknowledgement for appropriate behavior

Preschool should give children more positive attention for appropriate behavior rather than negative attention for inappropriate behavior. Focusing on positive attention for appropriate behavior is linked with better self-regulation abilities in children.

3. Child-led activities

Preschools should involve primarily child-led activities. Research has found that play-based preschools are usually associated with better long-term outcomes. Rather than preschools focusing only on direct instruction of academic skills. Research also finds that encouraging cooperative play among children is linked to better language skills and better self-regulation.

4. Movement and outdoor play

Preschool should involve frequent opportunities for movement and gross motor activity. Research show that preschool children are more attentive to classroom tasks after recess, particularly outdoor recess.

5. Alternating interaction

Preschool teachers should focus on listening to the children in their class rather than simply teaching them. Previous research found that, when teachers listen to children, the children show improved learning of math, letters, and sight words. In addition, when children speak more frequently in class, they show stronger self-regulation and vocabulary.

6. Minimize transition time

Preschool should strive to minimize transition time such as lining up for bathroom visits or lunch and switching between activities. Research finds that “transition time” reduces learning time and is associated with increased negative behaviors. (psychologytoday.com, 2022)

In conclusion, preschools should overall focus more on the positive sides and give children the freedom to talk, influence and move that will prepare them for life as Kevin Williams describes in his TED talk.

Kevin Williams emphasizes that the most fundamental goal of kindergarten teachers work should be building good character of a children or in his words creating diamonds.

Robert Fulghum wrote something similar:

Most of what I really need to know, about how to live, and what to do, and how to be, I learned in kindergarten. Wisdom was not at the top of the graduate school mountain, but there in the sand box at nursery school. These are the things I learned:

  • share everything,
  • play fair,
  • don’t hit people,
  • put things back where you found them,
  • clean up your own mess,
  • don’t take things that aren’t yours,
  • say you are sorry, when you hurt somebody.
  • live a balanced life: learn some and think some and draw some and paint and sing and dance and play and work everyday.

We as Kindergarten teachers are sometimes so focused on particular trees that we don’t see the forest. So, let us focus more on a big picture, so that we will create as many diamonds as possible and with that we will lay foundations for a brighter future.

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