Information for Educators

“When preschool and kindergarten teachers come together to examine standards, conduct cross-site visits, and plan lessons and units together, they marvel at how right it feels.”

~David Jacobson

Transition to school, whether it is into preschool or kindergarten, presents a significant change for a young child and their family.  Intentionally planning a quality transition process is important and can have an impact on children's:

  • Adjustment to the new environment,Young school aged girl sitting in a wheelchair in a school gymnasium
  • Understanding of expectations and rules, and
  • Ability to build relationships.

The following recommendations for planning an effective transition process is largely based on the book Successful Kindergarten Transition: Your Guide to Connecting Children, Families and Schools, by Pianta & Kraft-Sayre (2000) as referenced in "Collaboration, Connections, and Six Steps to Success," National Center for Early Childhood Development, Teaching, and Learning (2020).

Quality transitions include:

  • Utilizing a transition team that includes parents, school staff, and community program staff.
  • Collaborating with multiple educators across grades and community partners.
  • Designing and evaluating transition plans that start early in the previous school year, and offer activities for families and children that
    • build reciprocal relationships,
    • increase families’ and children's familiarity with the school, and 
    • align activities/curriculum with other programs.
  • Sharing plans with school staff and families, community programs, and incoming families.

Transition plans should reflect the community and individual family needs, including sensitivity to native languages, cultural differences, transportation, homelessness and work schedules. Transition plans should also take into consideration the processes that the school or district currently has in place and coordinate to enhance the transition experiences for young children.

Create a transition team:

Since transition plans can be created on a district, school or program level, transition team members may vary, but should include Pre-K and K teachers, administrators, and parents/guardians of incoming or current students.  Also consider including community preschool/childcare staff and additional support staff for families (i.e. English for Speakers of Other Languages, McKinney Vento, and around cultural considerations).

Engage in transition activities:

Activities to build reciprocal relationship with families, children, other programs/teaching staff and community organizations are key to a quality transition plan.   Well planned activities allow schools/educators to get to know families and children while also making them feel comfortable with the school/educators.  Collaborating across programs encourages better understanding of the programs students are coming from and going to while also promoting alignment of activities and curriculum that can ease children’s transitions.  Building relationships with community organizations can lead to resource sharing to support families and education for schools/educators.

Tasks for Transition Team:
  • Set initial goals to guide the group and identify data to measure progress.
  • Evaluate current plan/activities for effectiveness:
    • Survey, conduct focus groups and/or interview current families and staff
    • Meet with community childcare, preschool, Public Pre-K and Kindergarten educators to get feedback about current processes and recommendations for new plan
  • Develop a high-quality, program wide transition plan, that includes, but is not limited to:
    • Goals to address relationship building and school-wide familiarity for families and students
    • Strategies and activities to accomplish goals (see below)
    • Acknowledgement of schedules and a calendar of activities and events
    • A planned time frame starting the transition process 6-12 months before the start of the school year
  • Develop a system for collecting individual child and family information such as  
    • Child Portfolios to get to know the child 
    • Surveys or other means for getting to know the family
    • 504 plans for children with physical and mental impairments or qualifying health conditions, if any
    • Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) for children with disabilities
    • Health Records
    • Developmental Screenings
  • Share school transition plans with families, school staff, and community programs
  • Implement and evaluate plans and revise for future years
Building Relationships with Families

Educators can:

  • Reach out directly to incoming families early through other families in the school, community child care and preschool programs, Child Development Services (CDS) and other community partners to:
    • Relay information about the school, policies, registration, and transition process
    • Invite families to attend school events and/or invite them to join the transition team, PTA, and other volunteer opportunities before starting school
    • Consider community needs in terms of scheduling, language, and transportation
  • Offer Playgroups/Play and Learn Groups to:
    • Provide opportunities for children to play, parents to learn about child development topics, and for families to meet school personnel and become familiar with school building
  • Offer individualized visits with families and children to get to know them and to plan for the transition:
    • Consider meeting outside of the school setting
    • Invite other school support staff as needed and with parent permission (i.e. special education teachers, English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) educators)
    • Identify supports the family and child may need
    • Discuss family routines related to preparing for school, arriving at school, and afterschool plans
    • Discuss children's individual needs around the transition and consider:
      • Inviting parents to visit classrooms longer in first few days
      • Creating an alternate transition plan (increase child’s time in classroom over the course of time until full time)
      • Creating back and forth communication plan 
      • Offering other classroom accommodations/modifications and resources
  • Create ongoing systems for getting to know families, including:
    • Home language(s)
    • Preferred communication method (i.e. written, verbal, phone, Facebook, text, email, communication apps) and availability for check-ins and meetings
    • Important information about the family’s traditions, beliefs, routines and values the school should know
    • The family's educational goals for their child
    • What worries the family about their child starting school
    • Who lives in the home and who does a family consider as their support system
  • Attend child’s IEP meeting required for children with disabilities
  • Attend 504 meetings for children with physical and mental impairments or qualifying health conditions.
  • Invite families to reach out to school with questions, suggestions, and offer resources for communication needs to:
    • Provide opportunities for communication in multiple ways
    • Consider needs for translators and connectivity capacity
Building Relationships with Children 

Educators/Schools can:

  • Create a system for gathering information from family and child care/preschool (with family’s permission) about the child that includes:
    • Strengths and needs
    • Learning styles
    • Temperament
    • Interests and what the child focuses on
    • Language/words used to express basic needs
    • Enrollment in other services
  • Offer playgroups or play and learn groups
    • Include opportunities to see school, classroom, peers, school personnel
  • Offer kindergarten screening at the school before school year starts
    • Encourage incoming students to see the school and meet various staff
  • Invite families to school wide events/activities and playground during year before the start of the school year
  • Provide practice bus rides
  • Observe child at home, in the community, or at preschool/childcare
    • During meeting with family at home or in the community
    • At child care or preschool, with parent permission
  • Create storytelling videos and send to future students via families or child care/preschool
  • Offer summer programming for incoming children
    • Consider family needs such as transportation and interpreters
Building Relationships with other Programs/Educators

Educators/Schools can:

  • Reach out to programs children will be coming from, including public Pre-K, community preschool and childcare centers
    • Send letters introducing the school and details about program, registration process and time lines. Consider including photos of classroom, school, and teachers
    • Ask other programs to connect families with public school
    • Invite program staff to shared professional development opportunities
  • Reach out to schools/programs children will enter (i.e. community preschool and child care reaching out to public Pre-K and Kindergarten)
    • Learn about the school/program's transition plan and registration information for families
    • Learn about routines, curriculum and beginning of the year activities
    • Ask to be involved in transition planning
    • Inquire about shared professional development
  •   Align classroom activities and curriculum
    • Identify books, songs, routines both programs can offer
    • Connect end of year activities in one classroom/program to beginning of the year activities in the next classroom/program
    • Fully align curriculum between preschool/public Pre-K and kindergarten
  • Visit/observe each other’s programs
  • Familiarize children with future classroom through social stories and conversation
  • Record storytelling videos/recording and share with other programs

Building Relationships with Community

Educators/Schools can:

  • Reach out and connect with community organizations in their area.  Libraries, recreation departments, social service agencies, medical offices, and community leaders can help
    • Reach families to spread information about kindergarten registration and screening, family events at school, etc.
    • Partner to help provide supplies families may need, including those needed for school
    • Provide professional learning to supplement the curriculum, bring real life experiences to the children, and improve a school’s knowledge of community and cultural responsiveness
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