Our elementary school puts on a two-week, eight-day “Jump Start” program for incoming pre-K students. We feel that the best way to get our students and families excited about starting school is for them to jump in feet first. One struggle we have in our community is getting students registered early for pre-K. We find that having a summer program is very helpful for addressing that problem. Not only are we training our newest littles on campus, but also their parents get to learn about the school. Familiarity is one of the most important factors for our families to feel comfortable and have a successful pre-K year.
A successful experience in pre-K results in better learning outcomes for young children as they progress through elementary school. A study monitored the success of students who attended pre-K and those who didn’t. The researchers found that “on average, economically disadvantaged students who attended high-quality public Pre-K in 2010 scored higher on the 2015 third grade STAAR reading assessment than economically disadvantaged students who didn’t attend public Pre-K or those who attended lower quality public Pre-K.”
Aside from the benefits of attending pre-K, this is the first time for a lot of our youngest students to be away from their immediate caregivers. We use the Jump Start program to show them that the new adults around them can be trusted and will help them.
Program Guidelines Should Be Informative and Encourage Participation
We follow a simple five-step procedure to ensure a successful turnout for the program:
- Students must be registered for the upcoming school year in order to participate.
- Send out advertisements that explain to parents what Jump Start does and how it’s beneficial.
- Get organized! Plan out your time with the students, make name tags, etc.
- Create a variety of experiences for your students who will be attending. We made sure to include sensory activities, water days, and multiple types of hands-on learning.
- Offer campus tours at this time. This is a great way to get families on campus and help them feel welcomed.
The pandemic created distance between school and home that required campuses to remain closed to parent/caregiver visits. Our leadership team feels it’s time to change that and bring families back onto campus to bridge the gap.
It’s vital to have parents and caregivers involved in their child’s education. The Jump Start program was one of the first ways we decided to get our newest families on board with our procedures and processes. Once they’re registered, the program provides the opportunity for families to become familiar with what’s to come for their child’s first year of school. We offer tours in order to answer any questions, clarify procedures, and enable parents to become familiar with the office staff members. We created a flyer that explained all the details and posted it on Facebook to inform parents about the tour and generate excitement.
We asked parents to sign up at a time that was convenient for them, with three spots available per time. This created small, close tour groups that let people feel comfortable asking questions.
Set Up a Schedule Similar to the School Year
We capped our registration at 65. This allowed for the staffing and logistical things our campus could handle over the summer. Once we made rosters and assigned students, we created name tags.
The very first day of Jump Start, we invite parents to come onto campus, get their child’s name tag on, notify us of any allergies or other need-to-know information, and take pictures. Then, we politely tell them that it’s time to start the school day. After the first day, parents use the same drop-off method that they’ll use during the actual school year. Again, familiarity for parents and students is the goal. Parents appreciate the consistency shown and the effort put in to make the start of school an easy transition for students.
We feed students breakfast and lunch. During those meals, we have the chance to help young students begin to learn about and demonstrate independence in the cafeteria. We go through steps of how to get trays, line up, sit together, etc. We offer six different rotations for students during the day, showing them what school is like.
Students participate in math, reading, art, STEM, music, and PE. These offerings are also available during the school year. Making Jump Start as real and as close to school life as possible is very important for our youngest learners so that they feel comfortable when the academic year starts up in the fall.
Administrators and Teachers Gain Insight Into the Upcoming Year
The last benefit of pre-K Jump Start is the ability for our staff to get a feel for our incoming students. One of the hardest parts of teaching pre-K is not knowing what students need or how they’ll react, along with managing different personalities. Four-year-olds have quite unique personalities!
Holding a camp like Jump Start gives us (administrators, counselors, and teachers) a peek into which teacher may be a good fit for the fall class assignments or support services that students may need when they get to school for the first time. After our program is complete, the students who attended Jump Start are the first group of kids added to the roster for pre-K.