Whitefield Academy Blog

Transitional Kindergarten: What’s the Difference?

by | May 16, 2018 | Classical Christian, Elementary School, Kindergarten | 0 comments

Pre-Kindergarten and Transitional Kindergarten serve as the bridge from earliest learning to Kindergarten. Through play-centered activities, children develop the fundamental skills for success in school in an age appropriate and developmentally appropriate setting.

Developmental Differences

The early developmental time frame is different for every child. Developmental growth occurs at varying rates even in children from the same family. A school should tailor early education to meet children where they are, and that is why schools have seen the addition of Transitional Kindergarten, creating more opportunities to cater to young students’ varying levels of development. While both classes cover the same concepts, Pre-K will typically cater to children on the younger end of the spectrum and at the early end of development, while TK will typically cater to the older children who are at the later end of development, though development and age do not always directly correlate.

Developmental Categories

When we think about development at this age, there are four categories that we consider.


Social development has to do with language development, expression, and peer interaction. Teachers will begin to look for how well the child shares her space with others. They will also look for how aware the child is of being part of a larger group through that child’s interactions with individuals and groups of other children.


Gross motor skills use the large muscle groups for movement and rely on balance, coordination, and motor planning. Hopping, galloping, and the ability to stand on one foot are skills dependent on gross motor skill development.

Fine Motor skills use muscles and brain coordination to perform discrete or specific activities. In general, these skills develop after gross motor skills because they require the stability, coordination, and motor planning. Grasping a pencil with fingers rather than a fist, using scissors, picking up small objects from a pile are example of fine motor learning activities. Eyesight and hearing are also components of physical development.


Emotional development is multi-faceted. Part of it has to do with the ability to relate to other people and share feelings. It also has to do with respect for authority, willingly following directions, as well as respect for peers, treating other children with kindness and empathy.

Intellectual or Cognitive

Language is used as a measurement here in a different way than in assessing social development. Can the child follow two step directions? Can he sit reasonably still for a period of time attending to a story or lesson? Can she understand that actions have negative and positive consequences?

A Practical Example

Once a child has been assessed and the parents and teachers agree where they should be placed, what is the day to day difference between Pre-K and TK? Whitefield Academy’s Transitional Kindergarten teacher explains it like this:

A Pre-K student or class will learn a phonogram by first listening, repeating aloud back to the teacher, sky-writing the letter as it is said aloud. They will write it on a whiteboard while saying it then write it and then trace over on paper by using different colors, called rainbow writing, A TK student or class will continue by playing a guessing game using deep mental cognition with clues to narrow down the phonogram sound, they will memorize a Bible verse or rhyme that repeats the phonogram sound and do a Make and Taste, incorporating multiple sensory and math activities to reinforce the phonogram and other skills.

Having the ability to dive deeply into a concept with the students who are ready and to move methodically and gradually with the students who are not is a truly exceptional way to provide a tailored early education.

The Pre-K and TK years are important for social, physical, emotional, and intellectual development. Children learn to play cooperatively, to listen to and respond to instructions, practice Christ-like kindness toward one another, and establish a lifelong basis for solid learning. Pre-K and Transitional Kindergarten offer our youngest students the opportunity to begin their school years in a loving, supportive, nurturing, and faith-filled atmosphere.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.