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Transitional Kindergarten is a class at Washington Elementary School offering the opportunity for younger students to learn how school works and catch up socially, emotionally and academically.

The class is designed for students who have turned 5 by Sept. 10 with April through September birthdays.

Karen Daniels is the teacher of the class set up for “the young ones” at Washington Elementary School.

“Parents could keep them home or keep them in preschool but when we offered Transitional Kindergarten they said ‘that’s what we want,’” Daniels said. “Kids get into the school structure and school culture, understand how to line-up, what it means to go to recess and lunch and all those extras. They get the routines down so when they do get to kindergarten they aren’t lost.”

Daniels said the students in Transitional Kindergarten become the leaders in kindergarten the next year.

“They know what school is all about and they have good foundational academic skills as well,” Daniels said.

Transitional Kindergarten fills a need for students who have gone through preschool, Head Start or come straight from home and are 5 but not quite ready for kindergarten. The extra year is a choice, which provides a child with an extra year of schooling. Parents can choose this option for their child or teachers can recommend it, based on space available.

Young students who would benefit most are identified at the kindergarten registration, happening Wednesday, April 13 at Washington.

“We’ll make a list and look at birth dates, how they do in the screening, what parents tell us and we’ll figure out the kids with the greatest need,” Daniels said.

Students can be identified in the fall and throughout the year as kindergarten teachers also make recommendations for who could benefit from Transitional Kindergarten.

Daniels said that skills can be missing for students in younger grades and they may be held back to repeat a grade.

“This way they start in the beginning of school and have no retentional stigma,” Daniels said.

Unique to the class is the student interactions due to age.

“Their birthdays are so close together that you do not have a wide age range and it makes a difference in the dynamics,” Daniels said. “They are learning social skills, growing and maturing all year long. The kids are well prepared for kindergarten.”

Daniels said the students, though close in age, start the year at different academic levels. Paraprofessional support allows the opportunity for different levels of reading groups.

“Some students are reading and others just have the letter sounds down and are starting to do beginning reading,” Daniels said. “We build foundational literature skills like reading, learning what a story is about, and the parts of a story such as character and setting. In math, we build on basic math concepts – counting, counting objects, patterning, graphing.”

The class also does beginning addition for those who are ready, science, art, handwriting and field trips.

“We do service learning and visit Homestead Organics Farm,” Daniels said. “We go to the public library and get public library cards and learn to use the public library.”

Parent Sarah Fryer said she sees the benefit for her son in Transitional Kindergarten.

“I only know what my child is doing and he is counting to 100 already and that is a goal for the end of kindergarten,” Fryer said. “His teacher next year is really going to have to challenge him.”

Fryer said her son is learning and enjoys the hands-on opportunities, especially the manipulative objects like cylinders, a post master game where students deliver mail by matching envelopes to house numbers and beginning math using eggs and bacon made from felt fabric.

“We were graphing the first week,” Fryer said. “The kids were just having fun and using motor skills and they didn’t realize they were learning graphing. She is teaching them before they even know they are learning and they think they’re just having fun.”

Fryer said she sees the growth in her son.

“When you watch the transition, it is a beautiful thing,” Fryer said.

Parents can bring their children to register for kindergarten during the Hamilton School District No. 3 Kindergarten Round-up from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on April 13 at Washington Elementary School, 225 N. Fifth St., Hamilton. There is a short screening process, and tours of a classroom and a school bus. Parents need to bring birth certificates, current immunizations records and proof of address. For further information call (406)363-2144.

Reach reporter Michelle McConnaha at 363-3300 or michelle.mcconnaha@ravallirepublic.com.

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