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July 5, 2013

Transitional Kindergarten: Our first year

Being experienced teachers, we were excited about the newest grade to education, Transitional Kindergarten, also known as TK. We set out with specific skills in mind that we, teachers, see year after year as areas of struggle in Kindergarten. These include fine motor skills, gross motor skills, maturity, independency, handwriting, problem-conflict resolution and many others. With this in mind we did not know how far we were going to go with our youngest learners. Our focus has shown huge developmental growth in the struggling areas. We are so pleased to see the growth and readiness in our students for next year.

The Kindergarten world is not an easy place for our little ones sometimes. We have much to learn about the new school world that does not revolve around only one person anymore. At 4 and 5 years, children are very egocentric. It is all about me! This is very normal and Transitional kindergarten is the perfect place to learn to cope with this newfound dilemma.

We are ending the school year with highly motivated, positive learners who are excited about school! TK has had a strong focus on letters, sounds, penmanship, science, social studies, number sense, independency, and developmentally appropriate learning tasks.

We are very confident in our TK program and are ecstatic about the results our students are having.

Parents of our TK students are most excited about their child’s ability to come home and teach them about what they learn in class, which shows that they are excited, engaged and focused, and retain what they are learning, because they are interested in it. Learning about the planets in the universe, the animals of the rainforest, plant and animal life of the desert, the difference between the arctic and the Antarctic, are all areas of science these students are fully involved in learning.

Our students not only learned these exciting themes, but they also learned how to be respectful citizens in their school, what it really means to get a compliment from other adults (self-respect and a positive reputation in their community) for their excellent behavior, and how to show pride in their school, their flag, and their country. They learned how to use big words and how to think things through. They learned how to be a successful student by being aware of their environment and applying the appropriate voice level, social rule, safe and smart behavior, and stick up for themselves when needed, by talking things through and thinking of smarter options when faced with a dilemma.

They are learning how to be independent learners, how to be involved in their learning, how to be a positive contribution to their class and their school, and how to nicely correct their friends and be a good example.

Preschool is a fun place to play, sing songs, and dress up like mommy and daddy. Imagine how stressful it is to go from that to a classroom that looks kind of the same, but where you are not allowed to talk unless it is your turn, where you have to learn the rules immediately or you get in trouble and you fall behind your peers. Not to mention having to write full sentences and sit for 30 minutes at a time without wiggling or touching your neighbor, or making any noises unless it is applicable to the topic being taught.

It is very difficult even for the most mature students. Your child may be mature, but put them in a room with 30 other students and they will have a harder time following a teacher’s directions all day without getting distracted.

Students who qualify for Transitional Kindergarten are very lucky to have this opportunity of extra time to gain these skills before they go in with their peers in the Kindergarten setting. Prior to 2012, students who were born between September and December would typically go into a classroom with students up to 6 months older than them. This is like a 6-month-old crawler being expected to compete in a walking race with a 1-year-old. These students are not at the same developmental level. The 6-month-old needs more time to learn to walk.

Some of the parents who were insisting that their children were “ready for Kindergarten” in August, are now thanking us for keeping their children in TK, because now they can see that their child is happy, challenged, comfortable, safe and excited about learning – and that if they had gone to Kindergarten, they would have struggled too much for it to be a positive, productive and effective learning year for their child.

These same children are now ready for next year, prepared to succeed, and excited about what is ahead. We are excited and ready for a new group of students to engage, support and meet their developmental needs in our TK classrooms next year.

Editor’s note: Transitional Kindergarten is available at Lewis Elementary School and is the first year of a two-year Kindergarten program that uses a modified Kindergarten curriculum that is age and developmentally appropriate. A child who completes one year in a Transitional Kindergarten Program will attend the Kindergarten class the next school year.




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