Over the last several years, transitional kindergarten classrooms across California have developed a growing body of evidence suggesting that there are common themes in a TK classroom that can make the gift of time successful. Designed specifically for the unique needs of our youngest kindergarten students, successful TK instruction is integrated, differentiated and culturally responsive, and includes strong family engagement.
Creating a quality TK experience for children and building a successful transitional kindergarten program requires a great deal of administrative leadership. With your guidance and support, teachers can build a strong continuum of practice throughout their schools. As schools start new TK programs, consider the following important elements to initiate a professional development plan.
Young children gain new skills and understanding through active, hands-on experiences. They need instructional programs that provide engaging whole group, small group, paired and individual activities, and language-rich learning environments that include spaces such as block areas, cozy reading centers and dramatic play areas. You and other administrators in your district can support teachers in building a rich program with the ideas below:
- Hands-on Activities – Help teachers secure resources for materials to set up an active hands-on learning environment (See suggestions for learning center ideas and strategies on page 60 of CCSESA’s Transitional Kindergarten Planning Guide)
- Setting Up for the Year – Arrange time and support before the beginning of the school year for instructional planning and classroom set-up. See classroom environment for more information.
- Planning Time – Provide ongoing time and support for planning and reflection to ensure that the environment and classroom activities are responsive to children’s changing needs.
- Integrated and Differentiated Instruction – Offer templates for integrated lesson plans. See sample lesson planning for more information, small group activities, and fun and meaningful transition activities.
- Instructional Tools – Share instructional tools for social emotional, mathematics, English language arts, English language development and overarching information on classroom and instructional planning.
TK is a unique program that gives children the gift of a year in a language-rich, high-quality early childhood educational program. It gives teachers the time and opportunity to set a foundation for students of lifelong learning through developmentally appropriate instructional practices. You and fellow administrators can support teachers in the following ways:
- Highlight Social-Emotional Development – Emphasize the important role teachers play in supporting children’s social-emotional development, an integral aspect of student success. Administrators can provide specific resources such as the Center for Social Emotional Foundations of Early Learning (CSEFEL). Free teacher resources can be found on the CSEFEL website.
- Create a Dynamic Classroom – Support teachers in creating classrooms that give children time, space, and multiple opportunities to develop oral language. These opportunities allow children to practice and build English Language as well as Home Language skills. See English language arts for more information.
- Underscore Early Math – Let teachers know that early math is gaining evidence as a predictor of many later skills. Tools for planning meaningful math activities can be found in the mathematics section.
- Create an Assessment Plan – Develop a plan with TK/K staff for ongoing formal and informal formative assessments that informs instruction and provides guidance to meet the needs of children in whole group, small group, paired and individual work. See the assessments section for more information.
- Welcome Families – Develop a system for welcoming children and families, fostering relationships, sharing information and personalizing instruction in partnership with TK/K staff, and maximizing the benefits of the TK year.
Peer coaching and teaming are ways that a district can encourage professional development that continues throughout the year. Ideas to support articulation can be found in the Pre-K-K articulation section. You can support teachers in forming a professional learning community (PLC) by providing opportunities to:
- deepen understanding of child development and learning;
- explore best practices;
- study initial and ongoing assessment tools; and
- review student assessment data and plan differentiated instruction, and monitor and report children’s progress.
Districts have created PLCs that target TK teachers within a school, within a hub of adjacent schools, across their district, as well as across grade levels such as creating a pre-k through kindergarten PLC.