The Not-so-Obvious Things to Look and Listen For in Potential Preschools

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Are you a first-time pre-k parent? Before you choose one of the preschools on your top-pick list, you should consider touring the facility first. You already know to watch for engaging activities and low child-to-teacher ratios. But what else should the early childhood education environment include? Take a look at the less obvious, but equally as important, things you should expect to see from a high-quality program.

How Do the Adults Talk to the Preschoolers?

You shouldn't see adults speak down to the children. Preschoolers need encouragement to learn effectively. Along with encouragement, young children also need to feel a sense of engagement in any activity or lesson. This requires the teacher to interact with their students in a respectful, nurturing, positive way.

Adults should get down on the child's level, look them in the eye, and use language the preschooler easily understands. You shouldn't see or hear long lectures, sarcasm, cold tones, loud voices, and negative words in the pre-k classroom.

Do the Educators Ask Questions?

Along with how the teacher talks to their students, you should also hear questions. Open-ended questions can help young children to build crucial cognitive and communication skills. These types of questions promote critical thinking and encourage the child to problem-solve. You should hear the teacher ask plenty of open-ended questions as the young students go through their day or participate in activities. These could include questions about an art-making process the children engage in, such as painting or making a collage, a book they read during story-time, or a dramatic play scene.

Are There Literacy Activities?

Even though preschoolers aren't ready for chapter books, they should have access to reading materials and participate in early literacy activities. In a high-quality pre-k, you should expect to find a small library or story-time area that's filled with easily accessible illustrated children's books. Look for a low bookshelf and comfortable chairs or carpeting. This type of area or book nook is a prime place for preschoolers to explore new reading material and develop early literacy skills.

The pre-k class should also include guided, interactive literacy activities, such as teacher-student story-times, art explorations based on books, or dramatic play scenarios. If you're lucky enough to catch a story-time in progress, watch how the teacher reads with the students. High-quality programs put an emphasis on active learning and interaction. This means the teacher may stop and ask questions as they read, point to pictures, or take breaks for mini discussions.

For more information about finding a preschool that works for you and your child, contact local schools near you.