Preschool needs new lesson plan

MICHIGAN STATE (US) — Preschool teachers need to place more focus on vocabulary and exercises that build self-control for children to attain the best possible results.

A new study published in the journal Early Childhood Research Quarterly, also finds that teachers generally do a good job of teaching literacy and two years of pre-K are better than one.

“In terms of kindergarten preparation, I believe preschool does a very good job in certain areas in promoting children’s skill sets,” says Lori Skibbe, assistant professor of child development at Michigan State University.

“But it might do a better job if there was also explicit attention directed at building children’s self-regulation and vocabulary skills.”

A cohort of Michigan children attending the first and second years of preschool (generally, 3- and 4-year-olds) were assessed for the study, one of the first to directly assess self-regulation in this age group.

The findings come amidst a brewing controversy over preschool. Many states are debating whether to offer preschool to all families and how many years children should attend—with some research arguing that  pre-K programs such as Head Start, a federally funded program for low-income families, offer no long-term benefits for children.

The new study finds that attending preschool is associated with gains in literacy skills—specifically, learning the letters of the alphabet and comprehending how they go together to form words.

The best curriculum, Skibbe says, is one that combines a focused, “holistic approach” to all three elements—literacy, vocabulary, and self-control.

“Children should be spending more time in preschool, not less, because the results appear to be cumulative,” she says. “Children who spent two years in preschool, for example, did better in literacy.”

Researchers from University of Michigan, Florida State University, and Hunter College of the City University of New York contributed to the study.

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