For many of you the transfer days organised in July will be the day you meet your new class. This is a fantastic opportunity to support children in their transition from one environment to another. It is the golden chance to familiarise children with the unfamiliar, demystify the unknown and provide reassurance to them and their parents or carers.
Unfortunately, this session is often around the same time as sports day, the school trip and report writing to name but a few time consuming events! The ‘meet your new class’ session can become a casualty of time pressures and, if left too late, can become little more than a hurried story, an unstructured ‘play in your new room’ or a stressful ‘paint a self-portrait for a display.’ Careful thought and planning for this session can play a key role in ensuring a smooth transition for children and you.
Remember, managing transition is a process rather than just a one off event. It should support children’s personal, social and emotional well-being, so ‘move up day’ should be just one of a series of planned events. On the day, consider using some of the following suggestions to make the session as useful as possible.
The question box
With some forward planning, children could have the opportunity to discuss their feelings and thoughts about moving up. Current staff could scribe any thoughts or questions to go in a question box. A ‘question and answer’ session could allay some fears and address any misconceptions. You might want to extend the question box to parents - they are moving up too!
A class manual
The current class could produce a ‘What happens in this class!’ book. This would provide a focus for a piece of shared writing and would allow children to share with their younger peers all the exciting resources and events that await them! This book could be read and introduced on ‘moving up’ day, taken and kept in the children’s current environment and then read to the group in the weeks running up to the move into their new setting.
Meet the experts
A lovely follow up event would be for small groups of children to meet with members of the current setting. The ‘year-group experts’ could share their experiences of the routine and learning environment, and could answer further questions. This would be even more nurturing if the younger peers could prepare a healthy snack to share!
Consider the things that are important to you when you start a new job; you want to know where the toilets are and where and when you will eat. Children will want to know the same things! Give children some photos of key areas of their new learning environment (such as the toilets, cloakroom, specific resources, pets, staff) and ask them to go on a hunt ticking off places and people as they find them! If children will be eating lunch in a different space, do take time to visit this place. Perhaps take a light snack to eat there (remember to check allergies and food intolerances and medical needs prior to the session.)
Design your new room
The learning environment that the children visit will be the space designed for the current group of children. It would be unrealistic to expect you to ensure that it meets the interest and needs of your new children at this point. Be explicit with the group; explain that you want the environment to be an exciting place that has areas that interest them and resources they want to use. Ask the children to share what resources they like in their current setting but can’t see in this new space. Make a list of items they want in their room and create a map of areas the children suggest. Use these to inform how you organise the space for September.
If you really want to know what the children think of the current space give each child some blu-tac and two pictures; one with thumbs up and one with thumbs down. Ask them to identify a space in the room/a resource that they like and use the thumbs-up emoji and use the thumbs-down emoji for a space/resource that they do not like. This will immediately provide you with feedback on their thoughts about the current environment- prepare yourself for their brutal honesty!
‘Moving up’ can be a big step for some children and their families. Without careful thought and organisation, transition can have an impact on a child’s confidence and self-esteem. These activities will allow children to share their thoughts and ideas and inform your set up for September. Do keep any recording from these sessions; lists, classroom designs, child’s voice and photos for a personalised display. Give children a photo book of staff members and key places/features of their new space and include an overview of activities that took place during the session. This will provide a talking point with parents and carers and can be looked at over the summer. For further support with planning and managing the transition between Reception and Year 1, why not book onto Smooth transitions from Early Years to Year 1?