While new kindergartners are worrying about whether or not anyone will be their friend and if they’ll be able to find the bathroom, their preschool teachers are wondering if they’ve succeeded at preparing their small students for this big transition. In recent years the role of kindergarten has changed from an extension of preschool to a much more academic environment because of new standards in the public schools that “push back” academic skills to earlier grades.
How can we ensure that our students make a smooth transition? Are our students mature enough? What can we do to make them “more” ready? This article will explore the skills that constitute kindergarten “readiness,” how preschool teachers can collaborate with parents and kindergarten teachers to make the process more rewarding for all, and activities to help prepare children for what will be expected of them in kindergarten.
The Transition Process
Children go through many transitions throughout their lives, but one of the most important transitions is the one from a preschool program to kindergarten. “During this period behavior is shaped and attitudes are formed that will influence children throughout their education” (PTA and Head Start, 1999). Children’s transitions are most strongly influenced by their home environment, the preschool program they attend, and the continuity between preschool and kindergarten (Riedinger, 1997).
In 1995, Head Start and the Parent Teacher Association (PTA) began a plan to create a partnership between the two organizations in order to create effective transition practices and to promote continuity in parent and family involvement in the schools. Three pilot programs were studied to determine “best practice” in kindergarten transition, and to foster the continued strong involvement of families in their children’s education. They worked with elementary schools to create parent-friendly environments and to develop strategies that lessen the barriers to involvement (Head Start & PTA, 1999). Even Start, a federal program for low-income families implemented to improve educational opportunities for children and adults, also helps parents to work with the school system to help their children succeed. Their research found that parents felt that the way in which Even Start focuses on the family strengths rather than weaknesses and allows the families to identify their own needs, empowered them more than anything else to help them to support their children in school (Riedinger, 1997).