Building a Foundation for Children Starts in Pre-K

codyclassAs 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.

7 Comments

  1. What children need most are positive and nurturing environment at home and well-trained, caring, and compassionate teachers (plus volunteers) at school. Governmental support and funding will always be vital to the success of our children as long as it recognizes and responds to the ever-changing educational needs of urban and rural communities.
    I commend our nation’s teachers as well, most of whom are underappreciated, for their commitment and tireless efforts to make a difference in our children’s lives. To all the dedicated teachers out there, thank you very much for your service!

  2. Research shows time and time again there are no long lasting benefits to PRE-K. So there must be some other motive driving this. Control of our children at an earlier age perhaps? Money for your cronies perhaps? I say YES to both.

  3. A child’s place is at HOME not in some federal indoctrination center. Parenting is the key to success not PRE-K, money or the federal government. Public schools are no longer safe places for our children. I tell everyone I can to pull their kids out and keep them home. You people are evil and your intentions for our children are not honorable.

  4. Children should be allowed to learn at their pace. Identifying this variations of individuals learners should be emphasized. This will allow a more focused approach

  5. Let’s not forget that just because public schools are increasing their expectations for children in kindergarten, does not make that practice developmentally appropriate. Disciplining children to be robot-like younger and younger may make a teaching job easier, but it will not make our world a better place. Children allowed to be children exploring at their own pace through their own interests in a loving environment is what will make this world a better place.
    Signed, a ‘preschool teacher’

  6. Thank you for this focus on the importance of high quality early education. As a research assistant I have visited a range of pre-k child care sites in the last six months, and am now an advocate for high quality. Some centers I have observed are doing nothing more than preparing children for prison: teaching only call and response, the power of surveillance (behave well when you are watched), and respond with the expected answer. Some of these centers have little to no inquiry, creativity, or relationship development. If we wonder why young adults have little impulse control, look no further than profit-centered child care centers. These centers have policy, programs, and a slick design, but the capacity of the teacher to work with young children in a relational and educative manner is limited. When a ‘teacher’ is hired for $8 -$10 an hour, she has little motivation or education for developing the hearts and minds of children. We can do better.

    Head Start is a great model. And there are many private preschools that middle class and upper middle class can find and afford. But the working poor have little choice for child care than the woefully undereducated ‘puppy pounds’ called child care. We can do better AMERICA!

    • Early Learning Coalition monitor FL Schools to make sure specific guidelines are followed so our children will not be little robots. It’s unfair to judge us . We love what we do or we wouldn’t do it.

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