Big news!!! I am THRILLED to announce that I am “officially” changing grade levels next year from my present second grade to what they call “Transitional Kindergarten,” or “TK” next year! TK is California’s version of Pre-K, except that it generally includes just the children whose late birthdays caused them to narrowly miss the Kindergarten entrance cut-off.
A Brief History of TK, and How it Came to Be
For those of you that are not familiar, let me begin with the history of California’s Transitional Kindergarten and how it developed. First of all, there is now and never has been universal, public Pre-K in California. Also, it is important to note that previous to 2012, the cut-off date for Kindergarten entrance was December 2. So, any four year old child with a fall birthday was able to begin Kindergarten, even if they were only four years old and would not turn five until December second! Now this may sound fine to many people, but to teachers and other adults that are educated in child development, this often created a host of problems! And the problems increased exponentially with the arrival of the Common Core State Standards, given that many of these children were expected to be reading and writing even before they had reached the age of five. Basically, they had to keep up with peers that could be turning six on December third, even though they might be turning five on December second.
Now if you are reading this blog, you are probably a teacher or an educated parent, and I probably don’t have to tell you that there is a WORLD of difference developmentally between a child that is just turning five and child that is just turning six! Just as a two year old child can do many more things than a one year old child is able to do, a six year old can do many more things than a five year old is able to do. However, this developmental difference doesn’t always make sense to parents or even other educated adults without a background in child development.
Therefore, after much research, lobbying, educating, and hard work done by the wonderful California Kindergarten Association, California passed a new law that changed the starting date for Kindergarten, and created a new grade level for those children that consequently would have had to wait an additional year due to this change. They backed up the starting date for Kindergarten by one month each year for three years until it rested on September first as the permanent cut-off date, and put those children into a two year, Transitional Kindergarten program.
This is supposed to be a “cost neutral” change, since all it does is redirect those students that would have been enrolled in school anyway into a different grade level. So as I understand it, the state is not giving districts any extra funding for TK. However, some districts also are now using their own funds to implement “Expanded TK,” which allows children to enter TK if they turn five by March first rather than December second. And others are allowing the children to begin on the day they turn five- any time at all during the school year. Of course, this makes things difficult for the teacher, who will be getting new students all year long. Some districts are running TK as a full day program, and some are running it as a half day program. My district implements TK as a half day program, with morning and afternoon programs. The morning and and afternoon teachers work together to help each other, so there will (nearly) always be two credentialed teachers in the room. I think this is AWESOME!
What Do Kids in Transitional Kindergarten Learn?
Transitional Kindergarten can be thought of as a true developmentally appropriate Kindergarten, or an “old style Kindergarten” for those of us who have been teaching since before the year 2000. Children will be taught the alphabet, the letter sounds, a little writing, writing their names, some basic high frequency words, concepts of print, English language development, vocabulary, number recognition, number concepts, shapes, position words, basic patterning, sharing, getting along, self-regulation skills, fine motor skills, development, listening skills, following directions, and other basic skills that help set the stage for academic success. Children are supposed to be introduced to concepts but not pressured to reach mastery. We can take children farther if they are ready, but do not need to pressure them if they are not. Teachers are expected to understand how to teach in playful ways that promote a love of learning, using manipulatives such as blocks and play dough to help children learn. And of course, developing all of these skills through music can play a central role and I’m planning to make the most of it! In fact, I’m planning on enjoying every minute of it!
Basically, what I get to do is go “back to my roots” of the developmentally appropriate Kindergarten, and teach without the pressure of constant testing and pushing kids to do more than they are developmentally able to do. I sincerely believe that so many of the discipline problems we see these days in schools are caused by the frustrations of unrealistic academic expectations. Children are often not able to express their feelings in appropriate manners by using their words and saying, “I’m frustrated because I cannot understand what you mean by rhyme.” So instead they often express it by hitting, pushing, shoving, shouting, and otherwise misbehaving.
I’m not sure when the pendulum will swing back to this more developmentally appropriate direction, but I am so excited to be teaching TK next year, and to be sharing some of these ideas here with you in the future! For those of you that teach Kindergarten or higher, I hope you’ll stick with me! I plan to also try to offer adaptations on how to adapt these playful teaching ideas to higher concepts as I go along.
Here are some of my DVDs that are PERFECT for these young learners!
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