Transitional Kindergarten The Bridge Between Preschool and Kindergarten

By Emily Blaney

If you have a child who was born between September 2 and December 2, you are in luck! Children who turn five years old during this special window are eligible for Transitional Kindergarten in California. Transitional Kindergarten, better known as TK, was established as a result of the Kindergarten Readiness Act of 2010 (SB1381). This law changed the age requirements for Kindergarten entry and created a two-year Kindergarten program. TK is the first year of this two year program. Research has shown that entering Kindergarten at an older age is one of the earlier predictors for student success (Cannon and Lipscomb 2008).

La Cañada Unified’s TK program is housed at La Cañada Elementary and is taught by an amazing teacher, Pam Daniger, who is becoming an expert in Early Childhood Development. Mrs. Daniger works closely with the other Kindergarten teachers in the district as well as the Preschool “Foundations” teacher from Paradise Canyon Elementary. She is always looking for new ways to engage her young learners, and if you ever get the chance to walk into her classroom, you will see right away that her students are engaged!

TK is not a preschool; rather, it is more of a modified Kindergarten curriculum and must be taught by a credentialed teacher. The Transitional Kindergarten instructional program is based on the Alignment Document of California Preschool Learning Foundations with Key Early Education Resources, or PLF Alignment. This resource is divided into the domains of Social-Emotional Development, Language and Literacy, English Language Development, Mathematics, Visual and Performing Arts, Physical Development, Health, History-Social Science, and Science. The domains are further delineated by the skills that are likely to be present at or around 48 months of age, 60 months of age, and by the end of Kindergarten. For example, in the domain of Writing, specifically Writing Strategies (1.2), by 48 months, students should be able to write using scribbles that are different from pictures.. By 60 months, students should be able to write using letter or letter-like shapes to represent words or ideas. And by the end of Kindergarten, students should be writing consonant-vowel-consonant words. TK students are introduced to many of the Kindergarten standards, but they are not expected to master them by the end of the year because they will be continuing with those standards in Kindergarten.

So much growth and development occurs during the months of TK! Social-emotional development is one of the main areas of focus in this program because strength in this area is one of the most important predictors of a student’s success in Kindergarten and beyond. For example, according to the PLF Alignment, when students enter TK, they may be able to “seek to cooperate with adult instructions but their capacities for self-control are limited, especially when they are frustrated and upset.” By December, most TK students have growing capacities for self-control and are motivated to cooperate in order to receive adult approval and think approvingly of themselves.” This skill is developed with the help of adults and fostered throughout the rest of the year so that by Kindergarten, students are well-equipped to “cooperate and share with others”. I’ve seen first hand the development of these skills in the TK classroom and playground. One example is when children are at play and have a conflict. At the beginning of the year, a student will typically run to the teacher to report what the other student did and how they felt wronged. The teacher, in turn, teaches the student how to use his/her words and approach the other student to share his/her feelings. Another example is when students start their day by setting and reaching goals through the creation of individual learning plans. This practice can lead to increased self-regulation, an important skill for any grade level.

The TK Program centers around a “Can Do” model of learning. Mrs. Daniger translated the  Preschool Learning Foundations into “I Can” statements for daily practice and self-evaluation. Everything is practiced through exploration and play. In her words:

“In my classroom, the amount of time dedicated to this type of learning is due to the recent spread of research findings on “play” and how it affects learning in the young child’s brain. All information is entered through sensory data where it is acknowledged, connected and stored into long-term memory. All brains focus more intently/efficiently on things of interest. In order to stay true to this philosophy, TK must be a program reflecting this premise… EVERY opportunity… EVERY day. I am personally responsible for approximately 190 minutes of classroom time per child. 4 of 5 school days, the children are involved in approximately nine 20-30 minute increments per day. They are all play/project-based. At (the first part of the) year, I schedule only 3 increments per week where the children are seated at the table involved in a more “formal” lesson. We call it practicing to be “students”. As the year progresses into the month of May, I will schedule 5 increments per week (once a day). The foundations are simplified and organized into basic steps and inserted into the Play Centers where exposure, practice and freedom of choice bring positive emotion- another brain pathway to provide growth in skills needed for higher level challenges. This is a consistent part of my program.”

You can learn more about California’s Transitional Kindergarten Program in this video as well the others in the series. La Cañada Elementary’s TK program is a half-day program. The AM program goes from 8:10 a.m. – 11:50 a.m. The PM program goes from 11:20 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. When the AM and PM students overlap, from 11:20 a.m. to 11:50 a.m., Physical Education is taught in a large group. If you wish to learn more about LCUSD’s TK Program, please contact Emily Blaney at


“Bill Text – SB-1381 Kindergarten: age of admission..” Accessed 5 Feb. 2018.

“ERIC – Changing the Kindergarten Cutoff Date: Effects on California ….” Accessed 5 Feb. 2018.

“The Alignment of the California Preschool Learning Foundations.” Accessed 5 Feb. 2018.

“Curriculum in a Transitional Kindergarten Program – TKIG – YouTube.” 22 Oct. 2013, Accessed 5 Feb. 2018.