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Class Gives Kindergartners an Educational Head Start

10.25.2012 | Diamond Bar-Walnut Patch | Gina Tenorio

On a recent Friday, several youngsters, some only a year removed from toddlerhood, sat on a multi-colored rug in class to recite the days of the week. 

Some were 4, others just turned 5. All are on the cusp of entering kindergarten. But instead of sitting out and waiting to get to school, the children are enrolled as part of Pomona Unified School District’s newly launched transitional kindergarten classes at Armstrong Elementary School in Diamond Bar. 

Mandated by the Kindergarten Readiness Act of 2010, the class is a voluntary program and is open to children who will turn 5 between Nov. 2 and Dec. 2.  The class is led by Janice Llanos, a certified kindergarten teacher. It serves as a bridge to traditional kindergarten, district officials said. 

Armstrong has 17 students.

Transitional kindergarten is designed to give those youngsters who either just miss the age cut or who are not yet prepared for kindergarten an opportunity to become comfortable in a school setting, officials said. Children attend class for three hours each day. 

Times have changed, educators said. Kindergarten is not the constant playtime some assume it is. Children are expected to know how to read before they enter first grade, said Armstrong Elementary School Principal Cynthia Sanchez. Yet a lot of these children are accustomed to a daycare structure, she said. 

“Daycare centers tend to emphasize social skills,” Sanchez said. “Whereas kindergarten is much more structured.” 

Llanos uses a slightly modified kindergarten curriculum, she said. Llanos is focusing attention on developing fine motor skills and coordination children will need to master activities such as writing. 

She also works on teaching structure and how to follow direction. 

Most importantly, she can take a slower pace to make sure that these children have all the tools to make it through kindergarten, she said. 

“You need to break it down and start very easy so they may begin to get a more complicated activity done,” Llanos said. 

As an example, she had assisted a fellow kindergarten teacher with a class. That teacher was teaching a new number everyday. 

Llanos cannot do that, she said.  While most of those children know their numbers, most cannot write them. 

“We were working on the number two and just doing the diagonal line and even the curve, I had to stop to work on the curve, “ she said. 

Each student is at a different skill level, she said. Her goal is to get all of them to work at a strong level so that they can hopefully move smoothly through the rest of their school career, she said. 

“This is their foundation,” Llanos said. “I’ve seen children that barely pass kindergarten. I like to follow up on how they’re doing in first grade and they are usually struggling in the first grade.” 

They are pleased with how the class is going but are working to promote it and bring in more students. Sanchez felt strongly the class was a key to student success. 

“We call it the gift of time,” she said. 

Anyone interested in learning more on the transitional kindergarten class may call the school at (909) 397-4563.

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