Vanderbilt University researchers published a study this month on eight key teacher actions that can create an excellent preschool classroom. The researchers partnered with school principals, teacher coaches and teachers in three Nashville, Tenn., early learning centers. The collected data on teacher interactions and student achievement in 26 preschool classrooms. All of the teachers had bachelor’s degrees, were certified in early education and were paid on par with K-12 teachers. Each classroom had an assistant and there was a maximum of 20 students per class. The study ran for two years and involved 840 children.
The study team identified eight teacher actions that had the largest effect on student success.
- Reduce time spent in transition from one activity to another to lessen likelihood of negative behaviors and to keep children engaged.
- Improve level of instruction by asking children open-ended questions and asking them to reflect on what they’ve learned or make predictions.
- Create a positive climate by using positive language to reinforce good behavior and positively impact students’ ability to self-regulate their actions.
- Increase the time teachers listen to students to improve children's grasp of math concepts, letters and sight words.
- Plan sequential activities that follow a logical order, like completing a puzzle, to keep children engaged in higher-level thinking to improve their problem-solving skills.
- Promote cooperative interactions between children to increase their involvement in classroom activities, language skills and self-regulation.
- Foster high levels of student involvement in activities to improve children’s reading comprehension, vocabulary and math skills.
- Provide math opportunities to prepare children for math success in kindergarten, focusing particularly on multi-part math problems and discussions about math concepts.