For Teachers

Transitioning young children into their classrooms is the first challenge early childhood teachers face each fall. For some preschool and kindergarten children, leaving home and family and becoming part of a school community is scary. At first, they may have difficulty adjusting and present challenges to the teacher. While each situation is unique, there are important steps the teacher can take to ease the transition to school for all children. The following checklist offers suggestions for assuring a smoother transition into school.

  • Visit each child before the start of school. Whenever possible, teachers should visit preschool children in their homes prior to the first day of school. This allows young children to get acquainted with their new teacher while on their home turf, where they are more likely to feel comfortable.
  • Arrange for a short visit to the preschool or kindergarten classroom for each child before the first day of school. This allows children to explore the classroom and get a sense of where they will be before they must cope with a regular schedule and share space with many other children.
  • If possible, plan for a shortened day during the first few days of school. This allows children to gradually adjust to being away from their parents and gives them time to learn classroom routines.
  • Set guidelines with parents regarding separation. For example, some parents may try to quietly leave the room while their child is occupied. While this may make it easier for the parent to get out of the room, it may increase anxiety for the child whose parent has suddenly disappeared.
  • Start simply in terms of room arrangement. Too many choices can overwhelm preschool or kindergarten children at the beginning of the year and lead to management problems.
  • Display duplicates of popular items. This encourages parallel play as preschool children become acquainted with one another and reduces competition for particular materials.
  • Expect some tears. Reassure parents that this is typical. By staying calm and conveying a matter-of-fact, upbeat manner, early childhood teachers convey to both children and parents that it's OK to cry, but everything will be fine.
  • Be sure to share information with parents about their child. Even if they don't ask, most parents are concerned about how their child is adjusting to school and appreciate any anecdotes or tidbits of the day that the teacher shares.
  • Establish a routine. Preschool and kindergarten children feel much more secure when they can anticipate what is coming next in their day. When teachers establish a daily routine, children quickly remember the schedule and handle transitions more easily.
  • Plan for smooth transitions. Transitions between activities are the hardest part of the day for both children and teachers. By moving preschool children in small groups, perhaps by singing a familiar song with each child's name in it, teachers can avoid the stress of attempting to move an entire class of young children.