“I thought I’d done everything right and had tried to make sure we all knew what to expect when Maya went into kindergarten, but I’m afraid I feel at a loss right now. It seems like she’s gone from one world to a completely new one, and I just don’t feel prepared to help her, after all.”
– Nicole Warren, hypothetical mom of Maya, a fictional kindergarten
As the quote above shows, the transition to kindergarten can be tough for children. But to make the transition easier, the Harvard Family Research Project (HFRP), part of the Harvard Graduate School of Education, has developed an online, interactive kindergarten case study.
It’s a cross between a professional exercise and a mystery novel. Imagine Nancy Drew or Sherlock Holmes solving the case of the struggling kindergartener.
Specifically, the Bridging Worlds Interactive Case “explores the complex issues surrounding the transition to kindergarten and the importance of family engagement in the process.”
The case includes a collection of first-person accounts from Maya, her mother, her preschool teacher and preschool director, and her kindergarten teacher.
Case study readers learn that Maya’s favorite color is green, and that during the third week of school, she “is standing outside of her apartment door crying. She tells her mother she doesn’t want to go to kindergarten and refuses to put on her backpack.”
As readers go along they are asked to answer reflection questions about the challenges that Maya might be facing, even though “Maya was a good preschool student” and “did not qualify for special needs services after a formal evaluation was conducted at the beginning of her 4-year-old preschool year.” She also “knows many letters of the alphabet, can write her name, and has a lot of friends.”
“Along the way,” the case study provides “supplementary data to consider. When you have completed reading all of the perspectives, you will have a chance to take a step back and think about the bigger issues presented in the case.”
One important strategy? Family engagement.
To bridge Maya’s home, preschool, and kindergarten worlds, the adults in these worlds must “be willing to come together, communicate, and decide on a plan that will meet Maya’s needs.”
“Each person directly involved with Maya has a unique perspective on what she might need, what her challenges and strengths are, and how best to support her. So, how can these perspectives come together and create a dialogue? How can the institutions that they are part of form a cohesive net around Maya? Five key guiding principles make this possible.”
• children learn and develop in many contexts
• family engagement is a shared responsibility
• family engagement matters across settings
• family engagement is continuous across time, and
• family engagement is a key element to achieve educational goals for all children
The case study’s web pages also feature links to related resources, including an HFRP paper called, “Four Important Things Research Tells Us About the Transition to School,” as well as materials from Head Start on the transition to kindergarten.
To download a PDF of the case study, click here.
For real parents and educators, thinking about how “Maya” can make a successful transition to kindergarten is good practice for helping real children become engaged, school-ready learners who thrive in their kindergarten classrooms and throughout their school years.