What Is Transitional Kindergarten?

Amy Weisberg, M.Ed., NBCTBy Amy Weisberg, M.Ed., NBCT      October 15, 2021

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What Is Transitional Kindergarten?
Jude B., Fiona, Darla, and Ruby conduct a scientific investigation.
We are in the second month of school and my class is settling into a comfortable routine and friendships are forming. I am learning the personalities and preferences of my students. Transitional Kindergarten (with a few kindergarten students) is my happy place. I am happy to come to work each day and so lucky to get to have fun with my students! Transitional Kindergarten (TK) is a mystery to many people. What is it? Junior kindergarten? Advanced Preschool? No Transitional Kindergarten is a new grade level, the first year of a two-year kindergarten program. While the skills are monitored and based on the kindergarten Common Core Standards; mastery is not expected until the end of the second year, the Kindergarten year, and the curriculum is modified. Special curriculum materials and assessments have been developed specifically for TK students. The California Preschool Learning Foundations serves as a guide to developmentally appropriate knowledge and skills Transitional Kindergarten is a program that originated in The California Kindergarten Readiness Act of 2010 due to the change in the eligibility date for kindergarten from December 2 to September 1. There was a three-year phase-in program and now, the program is fully implemented based on this California law. The research has shown that the creation of Transitional Kindergarten (SB 1381) has had a positive effect on preparing California’s children for kindergarten readiness and future school success. Starting kindergarten at an older age has a positive impact on children’s social-emotional skills, preparing them for academic success due to the increased demands placed on young students. Transitional Kindergarten is reminiscent of the kindergarten of the past, with an emphasis on hands-on learning and a focus on social-emotional learning. One of the most exciting elements of this expansion is the recognition of the importance of adult/child interaction by increasing the ratio of adults to children from the current 24:1 to an eventual 10:1. That is a huge difference! In TK, there is an emphasis on building relationships with teachers, aides, and classmates. Parents are often involved in the classroom through volunteering. We are building a classroom community. The focus is on welcoming our young students to school. For some, it is their first school experience. For others, who have attended preschool, they are meeting new friends in a bigger location. We have a gradual introduction to school routines and phase in academic learning. The Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) requires TK teachers to have specific training in early childhood development and language acquisition that develops children’s oral language skills and the ability to self-advocate. We use social-emotional programs provided by the district as well as Second Step, a program developed by the Committee for Children. Additionally, I use a program called Conscious Discipline, which teaches children to use their words to express their feelings, and to use self-control to regulate emotions. This year, we are fortunate to have The Kindergarten Readiness Program, a LAUSD program that provides resources including daily social-emotional lessons, circle activities and more. The program also provides a counselor and psychologist to work with struggling students, those perceived to be at risk for success in first grade. It is a team effort to support our youngest learners. While social-emotional learning is a huge part of TK, preparing the students with academic readiness skills is the foundation for school success. The children participate in a structured reading program that includes letters, sounds, sight words, and learning to write to communicate. The math program encourages exploration and problem solving with the children often working together, collaborating to build with pattern blocks, linking cubes, work puzzles and build structures with Magna Tiles. The science program revolves around investigations and learning about the world around us, and the social studies program helps children learn about the importance of community. California is now ready to expand TK to all four-year-old children as detailed in SB 130. The roll-out began in the 2021-2022 school year and continues until it is fully implemented in 2025-2026. The funding for expanded Pre-K and TK is included in Governor Newsom’s 2021-2022 state budget. Topanga Elementary Charter School is an enriched environment funded by LAUSD and Topanga Enrichment Programs (TEP) that provide part-time classroom aides (paid for by TEP), a full-time librarian, an art teacher, computer education program, and YMCA physical education coaches. The LAUSD Arts Prototype Program provides eight weeks of dance and drama. Our children have a wide variety of experiences during their school day and a lovely campus to explore. We look forward to the expanding emphasis on early childhood education and anticipate the success of Universal TK as state funding grows to support our youngest learners.
Kalou building with tree blocks.

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