Researchers at Oregon State have been working on programs for children entering kindergarten that are designed to build and strengthen “self-regulation” skills that are essential for children to have in school and life:
- The ability to pay attention
- The ability to retain complex instructions
- The ability to follow complex instructions and stay on task
The programs are based on games they’ve developed that children like to play. Examples:
- “Sleeping” — children pretend to sleep and they wake up in a certain character and then continue to act as that character
- “Freeze” — children have to do the opposite of what they are told to do.
The teacher adds rules as the game progresses, increasing the complexity fo the task for the child.
Some of these ideas have precedent in games kids played decades ago, like “Simon Says”. However, its not clear that those games were recognized as something that should have a place in a formal learning curriculum.
In this case, over a three year period in a major school system, the researchers have been able to demonstrate improvement in student performace from the use of these activities.
Logically, this is something parents can do outside of the classroom to help their kids. However, the preschool classroom setting provides peer influence that can reinforce the lessons the games teach.
This is interesting to me because my father had been a principal researcher in work that demonstrated the value of programs like Head Start to student performance in school. The work at Oregon State seems to explain why the Head Start programs worked.
- Robert J. Duncan, Sara A. Schmitt, Maura Burke, Megan M. McClelland. Combining a kindergarten readiness summer program with a self-regulation intervention improves school readiness. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 2018; 42: 291 DOI: 10.1016/j.ecresq.2017.10.012
- Oregon State University. “Intervention offered in school readiness program boosts children’s self-regulation skills.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 14 December 2017. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/12/171214153324.htm>.