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March 20, 2008

Transition to Kindergarten

As a School Readiness teacher and an Early Childhood Screener, I am often invited to the Kindergarten registration nights. In Minnesota, kindergarteners are required to be screened within 30 days of starting Kindergarten. The placement center coordinators invite us to registration to help families make appointments. It is usually a relief for these families to see me there – a familiar face in a sea of new experiences. I help them find where to go and who to ask. I really enjoy working at the events because I am able to see many of my current students exploring what will soon be their new school, classroom and teacher! It’s helpful for my students to have a safe and familiar teacher as they think about what it will be like to be a kindergartner. I usually get sentimental – like a proud parent – seeing the children grow up so quickly!

A few days after a registration night, Malik came to me during class. He seemed very troubled by something, so I asked him if I could help.

Malik: “You remember that other school you were at?”

Me: “Yes.”

Malik: “I really don’t know about that.”

Me: “Well, what are your thoughts?”

Malik: “Do you remember my new teacher’s name?”

Me: “I am not sure, but I know they will help you and remind you when you go there.”

Malik: “Will you be there?”

Me: “No, I will stay at this school and teach another group of students.”

Malik: “Oh. Why can’t you come?”

I was so moved and intrigued by his thought process. He will do fine with this transition, but, it is a little scary to think about. There are new teachers, a bigger building and new friends to make. Parents are often concerned about the length of time their child will be in school and also the start and end time (having to get up earlier or give up a normal afternoon rest time, etc.)

In addition, the communication styles of teachers and schools are different. I have a very open and consistent relationship with my parents – I check in at least once or twice a day during drop off and pickup. My style may not be the same as another teacher’s style. As a school readiness teacher, I have tried to work with parents and students about this transition. However, because we have about four months off in the summer, I often wonder how the first weeks of Kindergarten go for some of my students.

Does anyone have any ideas or feedback about how they approach discussing the transition to kindergarten?

Comments

This was an idea I heard at a training on autism that I intend to do this year with my class. It is called a "social story". They are often used with autistic children. You take pictures of the school the children will be attending. All my children will go to the same elementary school so this would be obviously be more difficult if you feed several schools. Anyway, you take pictures of the entrance to the building, the kindergarten classroom, the teacher and aide, the cafeteria, the gymnasium, etc., and make it into a book with words like, "This is my school. I will go to kindergarten. This is my classroom, this is my teacher, her name is...", etc. You read this story to the children many times before the end of school and then give each one a copy to take home with instructions to the parents to read it to them over the summer. I thought this sounded like a great way to make the transition easier!

Thanks for visiting the Pre-K Now website Sarah! Your idea for social stories to help with the transition to Kindergarten is great! My students are divided among many differnet elementary schools. However, I could see this as a great way to involve parents. I might try to create a book that families can take with them and fill out as they tour their new school (leaving space to add pictures if they like!) Thanks for your ideas!

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