Big Day for PreKindergarten Research Base and Authorship Team

Big Day for PreK was developed with the expertise and experience of nationally recognized researchers and practitioners. This preschool curriculum reflects the very best research and teacher practice on how young children learn and grow.

Big Day for PreK shows a positive impact on quality of language and literacy instruction and children’s school readiness.

In the fall of 2011, New Haven Public Schools (NHPS) began implementation of Big Day for PreK in 17 full-day preschool classrooms located in two separate Head Start preschool programs. NHPS serves over 20,000 students in more than 45 schools.

Results indicate that Big Day for PreK classrooms made statistically significant improvements in the quality of language and literacy instruction and children’s progress towards kindergarten readiness after one year in the program. Results from the Early Language and Literacy Classroom Observation showed substantial improvements in the areas of Curriculum, Language Environment, and Books and Book Reading. Results from the Early Childhood Inventory demonstrate children’s growth over the school year in areas of oral language, literacy, and mathematics, and are suggestive of children’s readiness in kindergarten in multiple areas of the curriculum.

Graph 1: ECI Oral Language Growth
New Haven Public Schools Head Start Big Day for PreK Students
(N = 123)

New Haven Public Schools Head Start

Graph 2: ECI Alphabet Knowledge Growth
New Haven Public Schools Head Start Big Day for PreK Students
(N = 123)

New Haven Public Schools Head Start

Graph 3: ECI Phonological Awareness Growth
New Haven Public Schools Head Start Big Day for PreK Students
(N = 123)

New Haven Public Schools Head Start

Graph 4: ECI Mathematics Growth
New Haven Public Schools Head Start Big Day for PreK Students
(N = 123)

New Haven Public Schools Head Start
Big Day for PreKindergarten Research Foundation Paper

Big Day for PreK reflects the very best research on how young children learn and grow. Explore the research-based founding principles below.

Social-Emotional Development

It is essential for programs to attend to the whole child, as social-emotional development is significantly linked with cognitive and academic development (Cohen, 2001; Raver, 2002).

It is important that children develop the behaviors and traits that will enable them to function productively and collaboratively in school and society. Every theme in Big Day for PreK has a social-emotional focus that emphasizes what is essential for helping children be future-ready.

Integrated Learning

The quality of early education is greatly affected by the learning activities in the classroom and the nature of teacher-child interactions (NCEDL Prekindergarten Study, 2005).

Intentional play and teacher-led instruction focus on big ideas and guide children in the development of knowledge, skills, and concepts that will prepare them for school success. Big Day for PreK provides learning experiences that integrate all domains, including social-emotional development, oral language, literacy, mathematics, science, social studies, art, and physical development.

Partnership with Families

It is important to find opportunities to engage children's primary caregivers in their early education and to create joint pathways of communication between families and schools (Strickland & Riley-Ayers, 2006). Quality early childhood programs should provide resources to help families extend learning experiences at home and in the community (Halgunseth et al., 2009).

Young children benefit when the school forges a respectful partnership with families and communicates regularly with them about what children are learning and how they are progressing. Big Day for PreK honors children's families as an integral part of the learning process and helps families extend children's learning at home.

Language Development

To develop their oral language skills, children need a language- and conversation-rich environment, in which teachers encourage them to engage in meaningful language use throughout the day (Albert Shanker Institute, 2009).

Every aspect of a child's day presents an opportunity for language development by modeling and reinforcing conversation, vocabulary, and sentence structures across social and academic settings. Language development is embedded in every component of Big Day for PreK, as are experiences that explicitly target emergent reading, writing, speaking, and listening skills.

Responsive Instruction

By continually monitoring children's progress toward particular outcomes, the early childhood teacher can identify when students are making good progress, when they need additional challenge, or when they may need alternative intervention approaches (National Research Council, 2008).

The goal of prekindergarten is to prepare young children for success in school. Research has identified the key benchmarks that are accurate predictors of future achievement. Continuously monitoring each child's progress against these benchmarks is critical. The instructional model of Big Day for PreK is based on a reciprocal process with daily observation of the key indicators and daily responsive instruction for individuals and small groups.

Dr. Anne Cunningham

Senior Author

Dr. Anne Cunningham
Professor, Cognition and Development
University of California, Berkeley

Dr. Cunningham is nationally recognized for her research on literacy and development in early childhood. Her research examines the cognitive and motivational processes underlying reading ability and the interplay of context, development, and literacy instruction. Dr. Cunningham has served on several early childhood expert panels, including the National Early Literacy Panel. Her expertise informed the entire Big Day for PreK program with specific emphasis on phonological awareness, alphabet knowledge, assessment, and professional development.

Program Authors

Dr. Nicole Andrews

Dr. Nicole Andrews
Assistant Professor, Early Childhood Mathematics
University of Houston

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Dr. María Elena Argüelles

Dr. María Elena Argüelles
Researcher and Educational Consultant
Miami, Florida

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Dr. Julie Washington

Dr. Julie Washington
Professor, Language and Literacy Initiative
Georgia State University

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Curriculum Consultants

Program Advisors

Teacher Reviewers