I just recently heard about this new (to me) preschool and kindergarten curriculum, Tools of the Mind. If you, like myself have not yet heard of this I highly recommend checking it out. The differences from a typical classroom are subtle, but fundamental.
“Tools of the Mind is a research-based early childhood program that builds strong foundations for school success by promoting intentional and self-regulated learning in preschool- and kindergarten-aged children.”-(Tools of the Mind site)
The differences are in the classroom set-up, schedule and activities. The alphabet board is not alphabetical, as we know it, instead letters are grouped together based on their likeness to others, i.e., vowels and consonant. What we consider play-time can be the center of the days activity in a Tools classroom. The curriculum recognizes and utilizes play to stimulate self-awarness. Before a set-up play activity children are asked to draw/write (in their own way) what their intention is for the activity. While this “intention setting” might seem small and insignificant, what it does is offer children a chance to be reflective and self-aware, which give s them agency, and a chance to be autonomous. These subtle, yet as I said above, fundamental differences have been recognized as having great upward impact.
“The effectiveness of the Tools program has been the subject of numerous research studies in the field of early education and neuroscience. Tools has been shown to improve self-regulation skills in young children and predict later achievement in reading and math. Tools is currently expanding in many states and local school districts across the country. As a result, the Tools program is now a part of several, rigorous longitudinal studies examining the effects for special populations such as dual language learners, as well as, the program’s effects on teacher practice as measured by teacher and child interactions.” –DC Public Schools: Tools of the Mind Early Childhood Curriculum, Empirical Research Review.