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Research report

Literacy in full-time kindergarten classrooms for four-year-olds in disadvantaged areas

In 2013, with the creation of Bill 23, the Ministère de l’Éducation du Québec introduced a pilot program to create full-time kindergarten classrooms for four-year-olds in disadvantaged areas.

As the new classrooms were established, there was reason to look into whether Québec schools were prepared to offer four-year-olds in disadvantaged areas a quality educational environment (i.e., the physical classroom environment and interactive one, which encompasses the teaching practices and interactions between students and their teacher and their peers).

Seeing as the classrooms aimed to provide the children with a fair chance to achieve their full potential in a quality learning environment, it seemed essential to assess the quality of the literacy environment and classroom interactions. It was also critical to determine whether the environment had an impact on the four-year-old students’ spoken and written language skills.

A total of 338 four-year-olds in disadvantaged areas and thirty kindergarten teachers in classrooms in nine school service centres and school boards across Québec took part in the pilot program in the 2018–2019 academic year. To lead the study, we observed 30 teachers on two occasions using an observation checklist and conducting semi-structured interviews at the end of the school year. We also administered individual tests to assess students’ oral language development and emergent writing skills at the start and end of the school year.

The results reveal that participating classrooms provide an environment with little enrichment in terms of literature and writing material and that the support for emergent writing skills is only of low to basic quality. It was also shown that the quality of the classroom libraries was low. With regard to classroom interactions, the quality of the emotional support provided to students and level of classroom organization were fairly high, while the quality of the support for learning was low. Overall, the students progressed with regard to their emergent writing skills, and their advancements may be explained by the quality of the physical and interactive environment.

Main researcher
Annie Charron, Université du Québec à Montréal

Original title: Qualité de l’environnement oral et écrit et qualité des interactions dans des classes de maternelle quatre ans à temps plein en milieu défavorisé : les effets sur le développement du langage oral et écrit des enfants de quatre ans

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