Researchers reveal the magic 8 preschool practices

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  Published on Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Researchers reveal the magic 8 preschool practices

Library Home  >  Approaches to Early Childhood Education
  Published on Tuesday, 28 November 2017

A team of researchers from Vanderbilt University in the United States have revealed the eight key teacher practices they claim can elevate an average preschool classroom to excellent.

The findings, which were recently published in Child Development, are based on two years of research in three early learning centres in Nashville. The study team collected data on teacher actions and child behaviour and learning outcomes in 26 preschool classrooms and 840 children across two years.

Importantly, all of the educators involved in the study held qualifications in early childhood education, as well as undergraduate degrees, and were paid the same as primary school teachers.

Speaking to the Hechinger Report lead researcher Professor Dale Farran said the project was a product of the disappointing results of previous research which showed that the preschool program in Tennessee had either no impact or a negative impact on children by the time they reached year three.

"Do you just say 'we found these outcomes', or do you roll up your sleeves and try to do something about it?" she told the Hechinger Report.

Professor Farran decided the only ethical course of action was to try and address the problem and ‘The Magic 8’ is the distillation of her team’s work:

1. Reduce time spent in transition

Time moving from one activity to another is time when children aren't learning or engaged, which also increases the likelihood of negative behaviours.

2. Improve level of instruction

Asking children open-ended, inferential questions and asking them to reflect on what they've learned or make predictions based on what they know improves student retention of new material and better prepares them for school.

3. Create a positive climate

Using positive language to reinforce desired behaviour rather than disapproving of specific student actions has a positive effect on children's ability to self-regulate.

4. Increase time teachers listen to children

Children whose teachers spent significant time listening to them showed a stronger grasp of math concepts, letters and sight words. Children who spoke more frequently also had stronger self-regulation and vocabulary skills.

5. Plan sequential activities

When children participated in activities that followed a logical order, like completing a puzzle or writing a message, they engaged in higher level thinking, which improved their problem-solving skills.

6. Promote cooperative interactions between children

Children who worked often with peers were more involved in classroom activities, had better language skills, and were better at self-regulation.

7. Foster high levels of child involvement

Children are better at reading comprehension, vocabulary and math when they are actively involved in an activity, like when a teacher asks them to answer questions or make predictions about the book she's reading.

8. Provide math opportunities

Children who take part in multi-part math problems and discuss math concepts are better prepared for primary school and early math success, which is a strong predictor of late primary school achievement.

Read more in The Hechinger Report.

This child care article was last reviewed or updated on Thursday, 21 January 2021