Heidi is Moving to Transitional Kindergarten Next Year!


Big news!!! I am THRILLED to announce that I am “officially” changing grade levels next year from my present second grade to what they call “Transitional Kindergarten,” or “TK” next year! TK is California’s version of Pre-K, except that it generally includes just the children whose late birthdays caused them to narrowly miss the Kindergarten entrance cut-off.


A Brief History of TK, and How it Came to Be

For those of you that are not familiar, let me begin with the history of California’s Transitional Kindergarten and how it developed. First of all, there is now and never has been universal, public Pre-K in California. Also, it is important to note that previous to 2012, the cut-off date for Kindergarten entrance was December 2. So, any four year old child with a fall birthday was able to begin Kindergarten, even if they were only four years old and would not turn five until December second! Now this may sound fine to many people, but to teachers and other adults that are educated in child development, this often created a host of problems! And the problems increased exponentially with the arrival of the Common Core State Standards, given that many of these children were expected to be reading and writing even before they had reached the age of five. Basically, they had to keep up with peers that could be turning six on December third, even though they might be turning five on December second.


Now if you are reading this blog, you are probably a teacher or an educated parent, and I probably don’t have to tell you that there is a WORLD of difference developmentally between a child that is just turning five and child that is just turning six! Just as a two year old child can do many more things than a one year old child is able to do, a six year old can do many more things than a five year old is able to do. However, this developmental difference doesn’t always make sense to parents or even other educated adults without a background in child development.


Therefore, after much research, lobbying, educating, and hard work done by the wonderful California Kindergarten Association, California passed a new law that changed the starting date for Kindergarten, and created a new grade level for those children that consequently would have had to wait an additional year due to this change. They backed up the starting date for Kindergarten by one month each year for three years until it rested on September first as the permanent cut-off date, and put those children into a two year, Transitional Kindergarten program.


This is supposed to be a “cost neutral” change, since all it does is redirect those students that would have been enrolled in school anyway into a different grade level. So as I understand it, the state is not giving districts any extra funding for TK. However, some districts also are now using their own funds to implement “Expanded TK,” which allows children to enter TK if they turn five by March first rather than December second. And others are allowing the children to begin on the day they turn five- any time at all during the school year. Of course, this makes things difficult for the teacher, who will be getting new students all year long. Some districts are running TK as a full day program, and some are running it as a half day program. My district implements TK as a half day program, with morning and afternoon programs. The morning and and afternoon teachers work together to help each other, so there will (nearly) always be two credentialed teachers in the room. I think this is AWESOME!


What Do Kids in Transitional Kindergarten Learn?

Transitional Kindergarten can be thought of as a true developmentally appropriate Kindergarten, or an “old style Kindergarten” for those of us who have been teaching since before the year 2000. Children will be taught the alphabet, the letter sounds, a little writing, writing their names, some basic high frequency words, concepts of print, English language development, vocabulary, number recognition, number concepts, shapes, position words, basic patterning, sharing, getting along, self-regulation skills, fine motor skills, development, listening skills, following directions, and other basic skills that help set the stage for academic success. Children are supposed to be introduced to concepts but not pressured to reach mastery. We can take children farther if they are ready, but do not need to pressure them if they are not. Teachers are expected to understand how to teach in playful ways that promote a love of learning, using manipulatives such as blocks and play dough to help children learn. And of course, developing all of these skills through music can play a central role and I’m planning to make the most of it! In fact, I’m planning on enjoying every minute of it!


Basically, what I get to do is go “back to my roots” of the developmentally appropriate Kindergarten, and teach without the pressure of constant testing and pushing kids to do more than they are developmentally able to do. I sincerely believe that so many of the discipline problems we see these days in schools are caused by the frustrations of unrealistic academic expectations. Children are often not able to express their feelings in appropriate manners by using their words and saying, “I’m frustrated because I cannot understand what you mean by rhyme.” So instead they often express it by hitting, pushing, shoving, shouting, and otherwise misbehaving.


I’m not sure when the pendulum will swing back to this more developmentally appropriate direction, but I am so excited to be teaching TK next year, and to be sharing some of these ideas here with you in the future! For those of you that teach Kindergarten or higher, I hope you’ll stick with me! I plan to also try to offer adaptations on how to adapt these playful teaching ideas to higher concepts as I go along. 🙂

– Heidi


Here are some of my DVDs that are PERFECT for these young learners!

Nursery Rhymes with Mother Goose!


Letters & Sounds!



Colors & Shapes!



Number Jumble!




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Heidi Butkus

About Heidi Butkus

Heidi Butkus has been teaching in California public schools since 1985. She has somehow managed to stay in Kindergarten all of those years, with the exception of five years in first grade, and also taught a parent participation preschool for a short while! Combining a strong knowledge of brain research with practical experience, Heidi has created a wealth of fun and engaging teaching techniques that work well with diverse populations. She has presented at conferences nationwide, and is the owner and founder of HeidiSongs.com. Heidi has also created fourteen original CD's and DVD's for teaching beginning reading and math skills, three musical plays designed especially for young performers, and has written some picture books and many other teaching resources. Heidi's multimedia workshops are filled with fun and motivational educational activities that have been classroom tested and revised for effectiveness with all types of learners.
  1. Heidi,
    Welcome to my world for the past 17 years! I am very fortunate that my district ran a “Preppy” program for children with late summer and Fall birthdays, essentially a pre-retention before kindergarten, long before TK became the norm. We would do developmental screening for the children who presented as developmentally “young” during our K round-up in the Spring and if our screening and the parents desire to wait a year were a match, we could offer a Preppy placement.
    I love TK for all of the reasons you have cited in your announcement. I just feel sad for the summer birthdays that no longer get the opportunity to spend this extra year with me. Our district does not open up spaces to children who turn five after the Dec. cutoff, and I am grateful for that! Our day is from 9-2, so not half-day and not full-day. My ratio is 27:1, not ideal, but somehow it works!
    I think you’ll find that the biggest advantage to TK is that you don’t have to rush anything. You get the luxury of spending the first (many) weeks establishing routines and truly getting to know the children and their individual personalities and skills. Getting everything running smoothly in terms of social and emotional skills makes the introduction of academic skills easy-peasy!
    Your songs, videos, and books lend themselves to engaging, active learning for my little ones. They adore Wiggles and Sittles! They really relate to their behavior and struggles! The colors and shapes videos are favorites with my classes.
    I’m very excited that you are joining TK and I look forward to any new lessons you have to share, and I really hope you present at a workshop or conference specifically for TK. I’ll do my best to get my district to send all nine of us your way!
    Enjoy, and welcome to TK!

  2. Wonderful happy interactive approach to letters, numbers, activities and literature. Love the enthusiastic video players who demonstrate the songs of curriculum to the group. Very engaging and motivates the children to learn and at the same time get their wiggles out. Well DONE! I will take them all for our classes this Fall! KG

  3. Yeah you are going home to your heart! I teach K but work closely with the TK teacher at my site. We are both half day.This past year has been one of my best ever. Many kids came to me better prepared due to TK and the rest were developmentally ready for the rigors of RCD. Consequently there were very few behavior issues and I could teach more. As a class they went farther than ever before academically. We still used your DVD’s daily to teach and get the wiggles out almost everyday. K still needs to be fun. I still like the older format better because the background wall paper reinforces the concept. I have the shapes and colors new format though and my class loves it. My one little speech delayed guy loved it best. I think your TK class will adore it and the other new format DVD’s. Thank you for helping make my teaching a success and enjoyable..

  4. That is so Awesome!!! Welcome to the Club! I have worked with TK for the past 5 years and loooove it! The fun we have in our room while starting off our learning journey is just…. so exciting. Plus from August to June is mind blowing (as I’m sure for any grade, I’m just bias to TK) WOW! We use You literally everyday in our class whether it’s Classroom Management, Numbers March/Centers, Alphabet Action and so on and on and on. Cant wait to see all the awesome new post for TK!!!! Congratulations!!! Yeah you! Yeah us! ?

  5. Pingback: Kahoot Games with Free Matching Worksheets! Whoop! | Heidi Songs

  6. I am so jealous. I have been campaigning in my district for 2 years now. I have a boy this year with a December 1st birthday and another with a December 10th. The difference between these 2 boys is just what we as educators would expect. Gross motor, fine motor, attention span etc is so so different. Mom won’t retain. He is the lowest in my class. Good for you and good for the children whose lives you will touch. ❤️

    • Keep campaigning! The decision makers really need to see for themselves how difficult life is for those little ones that are developmentally a year behind the others but are expected to reach the same goals. I always feel bad for them.

  7. Yeah… I am so excited to see some new things for TK… I jumped on the TK bandwagon the first year it came about and have been happy ever since… I just have to keep remembering that they have 2 years for Kindergarten. AND I don’t need to do everything Kindergarten does…

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