By Pam Gelman, M.A.
How do you know which academic skills your child should learn in preschool to be ready for kindergarten? How academic should preschool be? Visiting programs and asking teachers the right questions will help you decide if a particular preschool will adequately prepare your child and is a good match for your child's learning style.
"This is a challenging question, even for researchers," says Leanne Barrett, a policy analyst for Rhode Island Kids Count."Get teachers to articulate how the curriculum helps children in the domain areas listed in the standards."
You'll hear language from teachers, such as "developmentally appropriate," "child-centered," and "whole child" — ask how these words relate specifically to the program. Another reliable indicator is teacher education.
"Look for programs with teachers who have some college-level training in early childhood education," advises Barrett.
As you visit preschools, you'll learn about different approaches for preschool curriculum design, including "school readiness" and "developmental." In practice, these philosophies typically blend to meet the needs of all the children.
An approach focused on school readiness will be structured with learning through direct instruction. Children may be expected to work on specific assignments. While some kids can focus for a period of time on an activity, many are not ready and this frustration could affect a child's enthusiasm for learning.
A developmental perspective favors learning through play. Early childhood educators believe learning occurs by building on the child's interests, and the social development through play is invaluable for later success in school. Kids who prefer to learn through hands-on interactions are better suited for the developmental approach. Parents may walk into these classrooms and note that the kids are happy and having fun, but are they truly learning their ABCs that kindergarten teachers will expect them to know?
The best approach to prepare preschoolers for kindergarten has been an ongoing topic of discussion among educators and policymakers, both wanting to meet the academic needs of all children. Research has shown that children in academically geared programs must also have time for social engagement with peers through play, and developmentally based programs must provide time for all kids to nurture literacy skills in preparation for kindergarten.
Most preschools blend the philosophies. "There should be a good balance," Laura Drake, a preschool teacher in Danville, Calif., says. "Pre-K can provide a unique opportunity to embrace a preschool learning environment that contains a kindergarten-readiness structure while remaining play-based and developmentally appropriate."
Sign up for our free newsletter and we'll send you
more just like it every week.
Thank you! You will begin to receive newsletters from us shortly.
Thanks for verifying your updated email address.
Oops! You haven't verified your email address yet. To do so, please click on the link in the email we sent you. Can't find the email? Click the button below to receive a new one.
Oops! That email verification link has expired. Please click the button below to receive a new one.
Create an account to submit your answers.
Sign in with an existing GreatSchools account or using Facebook:
Your review has been posted to GreatSchools.
Share with friends! Post your opinion of on Facebook.
Welcome to GreatSchools!
Thank you for registering as a school leader. We just need to verify your email address. We've sent you an email - please click on the link in that message to get started editing your school's information!
Thanks! We just sent you an email – please click on the link in the email to post your answers.
Get timely updates for , including performance data and recently posted user reviews.