Universal prekindergarten is one of the recommendations from the Kirwan Commission. There is much research to support the need for early childhood education. After visiting many prekindergarten classes in recent weeks, I offer a less scientific reason to support universal prekindergarten.
When you walk into a prekindergarten classroom, you immediately feel the energy, and you just have to smile. Magic? Maybe. Most likely, it is an incredible teacher opening a world of possibilities for our youngest learners.
Prekindergarten students are little bundles of energy and curiosity. They need to move, to explore, to understand, and to grow in self-monitoring and independence. Routines and structure are critically important, and differentiation for instruction is essential.
The beauty of prekindergarten is that a skilled teacher turns every task into a learning opportunity. Time for snack? We can count. We can compare size, shape, or color. We can learn vocabulary to describe how it tastes or feels—that helps us learn about our senses too! We also learn how to eat in a social setting with courtesy and respect.
Indoor recess? No worries. We can do movement to a song that teaches our body parts and concepts such as low or high and fast or slow. Even routines can become teachable moments. I was recently in a classroom where students clapped the number of syllables in each other’s names and each student got to line up by saying how many syllables were in his or her name.
Building independence is also critically important in PreK classes. Classrooms are filled with learning centers designed to be completed independently. These centers are also differentiated to ensure each child is receiving the practice necessary. When you observe the class in action, it all seems to happen so easily. However, it took hours of review, explanation, and practice to make the routines so “routine!”
Perhaps one of the best parts of a PreK classroom is the acceptance of differences. These young learners welcome friends and are eager to support each other. Even strangers to the classroom, like me, are told to come join us. “We like you” is a common refrain. Learning how to get along with everyone will make them successful throughout life!
Yes, there is nothing like the magical world of a prekindergarten classroom. Universal prekindergarten is a recommendation from the Kirwan Commission for Innovation and Excellence in Education. Let’s hope our legislators find a way to open this magical world for ALL students.
Do you know a child who benefited from PreK? I’d love to hear from you on Twitter @FCPSMDSuper. And if you enjoyed this post, please feel free to share it on Facebook or Twitter.