Which school readiness skills are associated with later academic success?
Studies show us that the four most predictive skills of later academic success are: attention skills, fine motor skills, school-entry math and school-entry language and reading skills (Alice Frazeur Cross, Ed.D. Michael Conn-Powers, Ph.D., 2011). The Fantastic Fingers® fine motor skills and school readiness activities develop four to six year old children's skills in all these four important areas.
To learn the child must be able to pay attention, hold their focus on relevant stimuli & shift their attention with flexibility.
Four year old children's attention skills have been shown to predict both their math and reading achievement at the end of grade 2 (Grimm et al., 2010; Pagani et al., 2010). Those children in kindergarten with attention problems scored lower in reading and math later on when in grade 2.
Attention problems are characterized by distractibility and the inability to stay on task. Attention skills are thought to be part of the executive function of the brain. Executive functions enable us to change our mind, keep ourselves from doing something, to pay attention, and to remember and manipulate information.
By doing the Fantastic Fingers® activities, children have plenty of opportunities to develop their attention skills including following a variety of instructions. As the activities are fun to do, this helps them to stay focussed while learning.
Fine Motor Skills
The child uses their fine motor skills in order to learn how to learn. Frequently Insufficent time is spent developing a child's fine motor skills to the detriment of their later academic achievement.
Fine motor skills are the small coordinated movements of the hands and fingers essential for the performance of daily tasks. A key time for the development of fine motor skills is between the ages of 4 and 6 years.
Dinehart & Manfra (2013) conducted a study with over 3200 children from 613 early learning centres with an average age of 5 years 2 months. Those children with better fine motor manipulative skills e.g. threading beads, cutting with scissors, and those with better fine motor writing skills e.g. copying shapes, letters and numbers scored significantly higher in their math and reading performance when in grade 2.
The link between fine motor ability and academic achievement is a complex brain-based phenomenon. Findings from neuroimaging and neuroantomy research show that certain fine motor and thinking tasks simultaneously activate both areas of the brain (Grissmer et. al., 2010).
Math or Numeracy Skills
Research shows that the single strongest predictor of subsequent academic success is a child's school-entry math skills.
Early math skills begin with counting, the foundation for later math concepts like addition, subtraction, measurement, and place value e.g. units, 10s etc.
Children beginning kindergarten (United States) with an understanding of early math concepts like one-to-one correspondence (the ability to match one object to one corresponding number), and can identify the number of items in a group, are likely to do well in math through to the end of grade 8 (Duncan et al., 2007; Hooper et al., 2010).
Many of the Fantastic Fingers® Fine Motor Program activities (especially the numeracy extension activities in the book) incorporate emergent math skills like counting, matching, patterns, simple addition and subtraction, recording of data using numbers, measurement, and geometry (begins with learning about the basic shapes). Math learning happens in a fun, hands-on, movement-based way which is the most effective for young learners.
School-Entry Language & Reading Skills
Successful reading later on can be predicted by a child's school-entry language and reading skills.
According to research studies, children who begin school with certain language and literacy skills are likely to be more successful academically (Lonigan et. al, 2006; Duncan et al., 2007; Pagani et al., 2008).
Key early language and reading skills are: being able to write their name, knowledge of the alphabet, phonological awareness (ability to identify and manipulate the sounds in words, and linking sounds to symbols), being able to rapidly name letters and read simple words, and being able to remember and recall simple sentences.
Without putting pressure on the child, the Fantastic Fingers® Fine Motor Program literacy extension activities in the book provide practice to develop rhyming, alphabet knowledge, the identification of syllables and single letter sounds at the beginning and end of words, the reading of sight words, and the construction of simple written sentences.