How to Ensure Smooth Transitions within the Pre-school Classroom

Transitions are powerful teaching tools and learning opportunities. They guide children gently through the day, provide special attention to individuals, and help children move from one area of the classroom[or the home] to another smoothly. The following transition ideas should help you reduce the number of interruptions and encourage activities to flow from one to another with ease.


Cues for Moving From Free Selection to Organized Activities

  • Flash the lights.
  • Strum an instrument.
  • Play pre-recorded tunes.
  • Sing a song that tells children what they are to do or where they are to go.
  • Move to the area where you would like the children to gather and talk quietly, they will notice and come to
    see what you are doing.

Preparing the Environment

  • Place carpet pieces on the floor to designate a personal space for each child.
  • Write each child’s name on a piece of tagboard and position it on the floor to create a personal space for
    each child. (Children are more connected to their name plate if they decorate it themselves!)
  • By personalizing the tagboard, you can manage the environment more closely because you are not only
    designing the space where children sit, but also by whom they sit.
  • Put a blanket on the floor and invite children to sit around it. The blanket makes a great rectangle for
    large group time. If you want the children to be closer together, ask the children to sit on the blanket
    instead of around it.

Grabbing Children’s Attention

  • Decorate a bag or box and place various props inside. As you use the box on a regular basis, the
    children will look forward to seeing what you have brought along for the day’s activities.
  • Gather boxes of various sizes. Place an object that is a clue to the activity inside the smallest box. Place
    that box inside of the next smallest box. Continue to nest the boxes, so that only the largest box is visible.
    As a child or pair of children open each of the boxes, the excitement about the planned activity will build.
  • Introduce the planned activity with an interesting puppet. Be sure to allow time for the children to “meet”
    the puppet.
  • Pose a problem or challenge to the children by using interesting questions and riddles. They will try to
    figure out the answer by the clues you give them with your voice and the smile on your face. The answer
    will smoothly “lead-in” to the planned activity.
  • Sing new or familiar songs and fingerplays to capture the children’s attention. By placing the words on a
    poster in the classroom, you can reinforce the words of the songs and the children’s concept of print.
  • Change the words to a familiar song to fit the theme. Some children may begin to create songs on their

Dismissing the Children

  • According to physical or clothing characteristics.
  • According to their likes and dislikes
  • By asking them to answer a question or create a rhyme individually.
  • By the initial letter of their name or telephone number.
  • By inviting them to say “good-bye” to a puppet.
  • By giving them each a turn with an interesting gadget.

There are endless ways to guide children through the day, yet both beginning and seasoned teachers constantly
think about ways to make the day go more smoothly. The ideas in this article make transitions easy. Simply
provide clear directions for the children to follow and present your ideas in a manner that is interesting and
meaningful to the children and you will make every day terrific!


On Eliminating The ‘Word Gap’


It is a known fact that children from disadvantaged families and homes have access to larger, stronger and more complex vocabularies upon entry into kindergarten. As opposed to more economically secure families and backgrounds, lower income infants hear much fewer words per day by the age of three. This is called, “the word gap”.

Spoken words count as predictors of vocabulary and language comprehension and understanding despite previous vocabulary levels and maternal educational attainment. Some studies have shown that by the age of two, toddlers can be as much as six months behind their peers in vocabulary acquisition. This is a real problem, and it is finally being acknowledged and addressed in a number of cities.

The city of Providence, R.I., won a grant in the 2013 Mayor’s Challenge, Bloomberg Philanthropies, and was awarded $5 million for an innovative plan to eliminate or reduce this word gap in their city.

Preliminary results of this program, Providence Talks, was just released. Though the state and city have fewer residents, it faces challenges indicative of larger populated areas. The stats looked like this:

  • 85% of Providence Public School District students were eligible for free or reduced lunch
  • 66% of its students graduated high school in only four years, and
  • barely 30% of children entering kindergarten demonstrated benchmark early literacy skills.

The city’s innovative program relied on a recording device called a “word pedometer” to monitor and improve spoken word counts in low-income homes. Originally paired families with in-home coaches to analyze the data, they peaked with large numbers of toddlers participating in the program and adopted other structures as well.

tree huggers

The family playgroup model facilitated conversations between parents about child development and strategies to increase engagement with children, while the facilitator analyzed each family’s recordings with the adults, before and after. Each visit, in the home or at the playgroup, a free book was provided for families to keep. Very smart!

 The device tracked both spoken words and conversational turns-the number of times conversations changed from adult to child and back again. This also served as a measure of the give and take in a conversation. The device could record words in both Spanish and English, and could distinguish words spoken by adult, child, TV or other extraneous noises.

Reported this May, 60% of children in Providence Talks heard more words at the end of the program, than at the beginning. On average, the number of words toddlers heard in a day increased by 50 percent, and families beginning at the lower end of the spectrum, whose children heard fewer than 8,000 words a day when they began, less than half of the 15,000 words needed for healthy brain development, recorded strong gains of 45% in words recorded. Nearly 100% of the families reported being satisfied or highly satisfied with the program.

The takeaway from this innovative initiative is that engaging parents in conversation, not necessarily increasing their reading level, but conversation with learning and teaching their children in mind, equips them with stronger vocabulary usage and comprehension. Therefore, they will tend to use these newly acquired words in their everyday language, around their child, with their child or to their child. Much of language and vocabulary development is acquired vicariously-more so than learning or studying new words from a book.

kids read

Books also present opportunities to hear, learn and speak new words, invites quality time between parents and their young children, and encourages a general contextual definition to be found within the texts themselves. All of these benefit both parents and children and will enhance their spoken language and vocabulary development. Reading together encourages meaningful conversation, asking, answering, discovering, and sharing the beauty of language-based conversation. Besides, the cost of giving a few books to families now, outweighs the cost of remediation and other intervention strategies later, when children enter the public schools.

More cities should endeavor to accomplish that which a small state, and smaller city like Providence, Rhode Island, accomplished and help to bring all children and families into focus, as the center of all foundational early intervention program initiatives. Starting early is proactive, cost-effective and the most effective means to reducing all learning disparities, word and achievement gaps among children in school.

Follow the link below to read more from Brookings Brown Center:

via The ‘word gap’ and 1 city’s plan




via The ‘word gap’ and 1 city’s plan


Why You Must Have a “Cultural Broker”



teachers classA Cultural Broker often wears many hats, and can work in many different settings. Some work in education settings, at schools, and others work in child welfare, juvenile justice, mental health settings, and other family serving agencies, and that is the short list. There is one common thread that is inextricably woven into the abovementioned environments, and that is that Cultural Brokers build bridges and work with families.

So, who are they? The bulk of public, charter and private school systems identify these professionals as: Parent Coordinators, Family Liaisons, Family Advocates, Parent Leadership Coordinators, Parent Support Managers. In the social services fields, they may hold the title of: Family Support Services Program Coordinators, Family Workers, Case Management Specialists, Care Coordinators, and a few others, as well. Despite the array of job titles, the central functions are very similar….at least insofar as their work with families and children is concerned.

 In a school-based setting, what do they do?:Specifically, they build bridges between families and schools within the framework of 3 PRIMARY STRATEGIES:

  1. Parent capacity building,
  2. Culturally-specific relationship building, and
  3. Systemic capacity building.

These three strategies, when developed and utilized effectively, constitute a successfully reciprocal, collective and relational family-school collaboration out of which meaningful alliances are established and maintained.

These school-based staff, community-based personnel, consultants or volunteers typically, at one time, sought only to:

  1. educate parents to support the school’s agenda to improve student achievement
  2. connect parents to resources and information, and
  3. advocate with parents and school staff to promote change or decrease conflict.

That has been proven unsuccessful in encouraging family engagement nor did it raise student academic performance with any significance. Today’s new Cultural Brokers, however, promote more equitable collaboration between families and schools. This new and improved cultural brokering seeks to:

  • develop parent knowledge and capacity to support student learning,
  • build relationships between families AND between families and schools, and
  • catalyze systemic change to enable parents to influence schools.

 Cultural brokering effectively employs reciprocal, collective, and relational strategies that move beyond the traditional ‘best practices’ to become emergent ‘next practices’ in family engagement.

The Cultural Broker: 

  1. builds two-way reciprocal communication between families and schools,
  2. uses collective strategies to engage families together to support their child and all children in the community, and
  3. enables parents to build relational power with each other to change school systems to better serve their children.

Cultural brokers help parents build capacity to navigate schools to meet their children’s needs and support their learning. In lots of schools, communication still flows in one direction-school to home. More reciprocal strategies identify or build on families expertise and knowledge of their own child and community to support student success. Brokers use native language and culturally-responsive practices to provide support, facilitate and design programming to build knowledge and enhance capacity to access schools. They encourage parents to learn from one another, not just individually, separately, but collectively. There is power to change systems in numbers that present as one unified voice.

broker group

Reciprocal brokering involves building programs that are driven by parents’ needs, concerns, issues and priorities, rather than by educator assumptions about what parents should know and do. Having other parents from the community facilitate lessons and assume leadership  roles is a key to successful brokering, as it builds collective power, develops advocacy skills, leverages resources within a community,, and utilizes culturally responsive practices. Brokering is more family-centered, than family-focused, as the focus is on leadership and empowerment. No power struggles, but power sharing!

Workshops and psychoeducational, skills  building activities are co-designed by educators and parents as equitable collaborations.

To increase efficacy of both educators and parenting, cultural brokering must involve the creation or designation of a parent/family-dedicated space within the school-physical room or area. This area is not just accessible to the parents in the school, but the community at large. Events centered around issues such as transportation, housing, drug use, immigration and a wide range of others can be planned and held in this space. The room can be used as a family room for parents to gather and hang out. Yes, hang out, during school hours. These spaces help cultivate new relationships, and helps parents establish networks between parents while connecting them to their children’s learning progress at school.

space school

Giving parents a safe space where they feel welcome to sit, chat, learn, share stories and build each other’s capacity, helps strengthen communities, alters previously negative perceptions of the school, and creates community among and between parents and families. All of these aspects benefit school communities and educators who work in the school. It benefits students, as they see parents being cordial, pro-social, they are more likely to engage with their peers in more pro-social ways, problem solve more effectively positive, and then again….. When children know and see that their parents are at or near the school, or can be there at any time, they are less likely to misbehave. Everybody’s child is on theiur best behavior when their parent or a neighbor, friendly with their parent, shows up in school. So, everyone wins!

Cultural brokering involves providing opportunities
for parent voice and influence in school or district
decision-making. In contrast to typical scenarios in which
principals or district leaders make decisions unilaterally, these strategies create avenues for parents to work
together to influence change through their relationships. Cultural Brokers in schools act more proactively, as professional bridge builders between schools and families AND the community at large. With goals and objectives, as a collaborative partnership, are aligned amongst all collectively,  all eyes can focus on the ultimate goal: maximized student achievement, family empowerment and strengthened communities.

muslim parents

The beauty of  an approach to engagement that places focus on families’ voices is that we are better informed, more responsive in program designs, and can provide supportive services that are guided by family-friendly practice protocols. Broadened perspectives and cultural-linguistically responsive practices cultural brokering moves us away from what ‘they'[families/educators] can do for ‘us’ and towards what ‘we’ can do for one another.  “How do we form alliance with schools to enhance the role of educator and parent?” ……in a place where parents. educators and other neighborhood stakeholders can call the school facilities a community hub for multi-cultural, multi-generational  21st Century learning and productive global living for all.  

Why Are Schools Linking Families and Teachers Together?

Linking the Interests of Families and Teachers[LIFT] is a program developed to prevent the development of aggressive and anti-social behaviors in elementary school children. Rated effective, the preventive intervention addresses two risk factors that place children at risk for delinquency and anti-social behaviors:

1) aggressive and other at risk social behaviors with teachers and peers at school and

2) certain parenting practices, such as inconsistent discipline and minimal supervision.

The target population is children within the elementary school setting, particularly 1st and 5th graders. The program is designed for children and their families who live in high at-risk communities.

LIFT has three main components:

  1. Classroom-based child social skills training,
  2. Good Behavior Game[GBG] for the playground, and
  3. Parent management training.

It also focuses on systematic communication between parents and teachers. To facilitate communication, a “LIFT line” is implemented in each classroom. This line is a phone and answering machine in each classroom that parents are encouraged to use if they have questions for teachers or any concerns to share. Teachers also use this LIFT line to record the class activities, daily messages and updates to be accessed by the parents.

As a middle school teacher, I used my personal cell phone to effect the same basic outcome, and similar purposes-keeping parents ‘in the loop’ and maintain communication with the home. It worked wonderfully for classroom management, as did my website, which was accessed more often by students. Parents seemed to prefer the telephone communication above all other means of communicating and connecting them with their child’s education at school.

LIFT, conducts social skills training during the regular school day are sessions are broken into distinct segments. The training is delivered over a 10 week period in 20 one hour sessions. Each session includes:

  • classroom instruction and discussions about specific social and problem-solving skills,
  • skills practice in small and large groups,
  • free play in the context of the GBG group cooperation game, and
  • review and presentation of daily rewards.

The GBG is conducted on the playground, with a similar curriculum for all elementary students; however delivery format, group exercises and content emphasis are modified depending on grade level.


The playground GBG takes place during the free-play portion of the social skills training and is used to actively encourage positive peer relations on the playground. During the game, rewards are earned by individual children for demonstrating positive problem-solving and other pro-social behaviors with peers. The rewards accumulate over time so the entire group can earn a reward. To discourage negative behaviors, a point system is used.


The parent training component is conducted in groups of 10-15 parents, and consists of 6 weekly 2 1/2 hour sessions. Sessions concentrate on positive reinforcement techniques, discipline, monitoring, problem-solving and parent involvement in the school. Communication is fostered throughout the school year.

An important assumption underlying the program is that social agents respond coercively to children who are at risk for conduct problems. The intervention components were developed to decrease oppositional/antisocial child behaviors and the coercive response to such behaviors, as well as to increase pro-social behaviors and their support.

Related program practices include:

School-Based Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) Programs
Designed to foster the development of five interrelated sets of cognitive, affective, and behavioral competencies, in order to provide a foundation for better adjustment and academic performance in students, which can result in more positive social behaviors, fewer conduct problems, and less emotional distress. The practices are generally as effective in reducing students’ school-based conduct problems and emotional stress.

Starting preventive interventions and reinforcing positive social behaviors and cultivating emotional literacy with children from the early elementary years is a significant step towards reducing future maladaptive, problematic and at-risk behaviors as children develop. In alignment with academic performance improvements, parents and families are engaged and involved at the classroom level in collaboration with teachers who share similar interests: maximized achievement, parent partnerships within supportive and empowering school communities.

Start smart, start early and children deemed especially ‘at-risk’ can grow into adolescence and beyond with the natural resilience and SEL skills to meet developmental challenges as productive, well-adjusted life-long learners!