As a kindergarten teacher, I have seen that attending a high-quality pre-K program makes a significant difference in children’s kindergarten success—and later success as well. This is why I am passionate that access to high-quality pre-K should not be a luxury afforded to some, but an invaluable resource offered to all.
From my experience, there are three major advantages students gain from high quality pre-K program:
They have key social skills.
In kindergarten, children constantly work in groups, whether in small teacher-led instructional groups, at activity learning “centers” or at math and phonics stations. In reading and writing workshop and most other activities, they work with partners or in small groups. This requires kids to negotiate disagreements, understand the social conventions of conversations, and balance their needs with others’. In pre-K, children have had lots of experiences like this.
They have pre math and literacy skills.
Most schools are working towards kindergarten students being able to read and solve simple addition and subtraction problems by the end of the year. If a child enters kindergarten with minimal knowledge about the alphabet or numbers, then they actually have to make more than one year’s growth during their kindergarten year. While some children come with this knowledge base, high-quality pre-K helps ensure that no child starts kindergarten already behind.
They are ready for the school setting.
Constructive learning environments require children to do things like raise their hand, locate materials independently, listen to others at group time, and line up and walk quietly in hallways. Children who have attended pre-K have already learned these practices, so I spend less time teaching these behaviors and more time helping children dive into deep learning from the start.
My student Santiago (name changed) provides a great example. Santiago attended the state funded pre-K program on our campus where he learned all of the school expectations and he quickly became a leader when he entered my kindergarten classroom. His social skills and ability to operate in a school environment, coupled with his great foundation of basic early literacy and math skills, allowed him to be an advanced reader by the end of the kindergarten year. With students like Santiago, I can start teaching more advanced reading skills, such as comprehension, earlier in the year and know they are leaving kindergarten well prepared for first grade because they have had a lot of practice reading for meaning.
On the other hand, my student Davis (name changed) did not attend any pre-K program. I spent the first several months teaching him how to work with others, follow multi-step instructions, and pay attention during whole-group lessons. He also had to learn some key basics like letter names, how to write his name, and counting to 10, for example…things other children had learned in pre-K. Children like Davis often require intervention from outside the classroom in addition to targeted support within the classroom to get ready for first grade, and they often continue to need extra help into the next year.
Having children come to kindergarten ready requires that far more children have access to high-quality pre-Kindergarten, and this requires that there be effective pre-K teachers in every classroom. Attracting and retaining these teachers may require an investment of resources, but from where I sit, it is money well-spent to ensure our children are ready to get everything our schools are ready to give them.
Cody Summerville is a kindergarten teacher at Windermere Primary School in Pflugerville, TX.