Transitional Kindergarten

at PLN


By Para Los Niños Team

February 24, 2024

In recent years, new studies have shown how academically rigorous early education programs often leave students ill-prepared for elementary school. What early advantages these programs may give students tend to fade later in their academic career. Carrie Shoup, an Early Education Coach/Mentor for Para Los Ninos, believes this issue stems from a lack of emphasis on social-emotional development and the holistic well-being of a student.

“We are seeing a lot of kids in elementary schools who are smart, but are struggling in these other areas, and wishing we could go back and set that foundation.” The approach PLN employs is “looking at the family and the kids in a holistic way; not only what is school readiness academically, but what does school readiness mean for an individual.”

Shoup has been a lead organizer for PLN’s Transitional Kindergarten program (TK), which uses a creative curriculum. This means TK instructors adapt different classes to match the needs of the students and make an explicit effort to get to know each child.

As Shoup asserts, it is vital that instructors are “not just looking at them as a name on a sheet, a number on a page, but really building a relationship with that child and being curious with them.” This philosophy applies equally to each child’s family. “We spend the time to not only be curious with the child but to reach out to the families and to be curious with families– not from a place of judgment, but from a place of partnership.”

The purpose of TK is to create a bridge between the two worlds of Early Education and elementary school, as well as involving families in their child’s academic development. Adopting a creative, student-led curriculum was an experiment, and one that has proven successful.

“We were able to pilot a study for Teaching Strategies (a company that develops and distributes curriculums) at the end of last year, and our teachers were just blown away by how well it matched up with the needs of the kids academically and developmentally.”

PLN teachers have gone on to fold in existing pieces from other PLN schools that help incorporate more social-emotional development, relationship-building, and self-regulation skills in order to build the most well-rounded curriculum for each child. Shoup is confident this approach will continue to benefit PLN students for years after their TK experience.

“I want them to make friends, I want them to get along with their brothers and sisters, I want them to be successful adults. This program looks at the whole child. We are not just setting your child up to have a great grade on a piece of paper, they want to have a great grade in life. That means we are looking at everything that goes into being a successful human.”

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