For five minutes every weekday morning, Nancy Close is upstaged in her pre-kindergarten classroom by a tiny owl puppet perched on the end of a ruler.
“Baby Echo is much higher in stature than I am,” the veteran early education teacher confided about the prop that came with her Fundations® Pre-K Activity Set.
But she doesn’t mind. It means her class of energetic four-year-olds at Hunter Elementary School in Greensboro, NC, is eager to learn how to read and write.
“There’s nothing better than seeing a child learn how to spell and write their name like the big kids do.”
The Title I elementary school, along with 74 other pre-kindergarten classes throughout Greensboro’s sprawling Guilford County school district, served as a pilot site for the Fundations Pre-K Activity Set during the 2014-2015 school year. The district has been using it ever since.
After piloting the Fundations pre-k set for a year at schools in North Carolina, Massachusetts, and New York, Wilson Language Training® rolled out the set nationally during the 2015–2016 school year. The activities are designed to help prepare students for kindergarten by providing a multisensory “pre-dose” of letter-sound association and writing skills.
“I love this program,” said Nancy, whose class of 18 students includes nine English language learners. “It’s developmentally appropriate and doesn’t take away from other instruction time. It complements everything that we’re doing. It’s so easy to work with and it’s so much fun.”
In addition to supporting emerging language arts skills, the Fundations pre-k curriculum ties in with the goals of North Carolina’s model kindergarten readiness initiative, known as NC Pre-K, explained Amy Pendergrass, Guilford County Schools’ Pre-K Director.
According to a recent National Public Radio segment on the lasting benefits of quality pre-school education, research shows that high-quality early childhood programs in North Carolina has resulted in higher test scores, a lower chance of being held back in a grade, and fewer children in need of special education placements.
The Guilford County Schools’ pre-k program currently serves more than 1,200 students in 75 classrooms at 51 elementary schools. In addition to the Fundations pre-k set, the district provides Fundations K–3 in all 69 of its elementary schools.
“When we pulled data to look at children who did attend pre-k classrooms with Fundations, we found they are being very successful when they get to kindergarten in terms of phonemic awareness and early phonics skills,” explained Amy Geer, one of the district’s school psychologists and a certified Fundations Facilitator. “Kindergarten teachers are reporting the strengths that those students have with letters and sounds as they come into their classrooms. We really feel it’s having a great impact on our children,” she said.
“We’re not asking too much of these four-year-olds, but they do love the structure of it and the consistency from day to day. They know what to expect when their teacher gets up to teach Fundations and it’s a comfortable learning environment for children. I’ve also seen children love it so much that during play time, they pretend to be the Fundations teacher.”