Get Ready, Get Set for the First Days of School — In Early Ed

Build the Foundation For Kindergarten Success in Early Childhood Programs
Building the Skills for Success — in School and Life

It’s August, and back-to-school excitement fills the air. It’s everywhere we look and everywhere we go. Just the word “school” gets us thinking about reading, writing and math. But that’s not all that matters. For 5-year-olds to succeed in kindergarten, they need strong social-emotional skills. And you can support those skills, which make it possible to learn in classrooms. (Curious about the link between social-emotional skills and school success? Check out this article from New America!)

Social-emotional skills include self-awareness, self-management, relationship skills, social awareness and responsible decision-making. All of these skills relate to each other. In order for a child to follow a kindergarten  rule, they need to do many things. They must process and remember the rule. They have to follow the rule in a timely manner. Plus, they have to manage any negative emotions they might have about the rule. When we stop and think about it, those are huge expectations for 5-year-olds!

The Pyramid Model

Teachers can help prepare children for kindergarten classrooms by using the tiers of the Pyramid Model. The Pyramid Model is an evidence-based framework of Positive Behavioral Interventions and Support (PBIS) adapted for early childhood classrooms. This model promotes social-emotional skills through teaching, modeling, practicing and acknowledging children for being able to display behaviors. Each of these practices helps them grow in these skills.


Getting Started with the Pyramid Model: The Universal Tier begins with classroom environments and teaching strategies we can use for all children.

  • Create a welcoming, and predictable environment where children feel accepted and safe.
    • Am I warm and responsive with all children and families?
    • Is my classroom predictable with schedules and routines?
    • Example: “Hi Joey, I’m so glad to see you this morning! We’re still in center time. Then, we’ll have breakfast.”
  • Define and teach positive expectations.
    • Do I have 3-5 positive expectations for children?
    • Am I offering opportunities to practice so children understand what the expectations look like and sound like?
    • Am I using reminders and prompts just before a transition or during an activity?
    • Example: “Remember we use walking feet when we move to the carpet for circle time.”
  • Acknowledge appropriate behavior.
    • Am I behavior specific when I let a child know I noticed an appropriate behavior?
    • Examples: “Thank you Ayla for using listening ears.” “I see Manuel using walking feet.”


When Challenges Arise – Use Next Pyramid Layer: The Secondary Tier helps teachers with strategies for intervention. Those strategies help children solve problems and continue to work toward developing strong social-emotional skills. In this recent video from the Racine, Wisconsin Unified School District, teachers and children implement the Pyramid Model.

  • Watch this useful video to identify some strategies you can implement.

Additional Strategies
Where to Learn More: Resources for Teachers and Families


You have a unique opportunity to help children to develop social-emotional skills. And when you do, you can be confident that you will send children to kindergarten with strong foundations for success. You also empower families to be confident in their children’s readiness to learn. Most importantly, in the Augusts to come, the 5-year-olds you care for will be ready and set to go to kindergarten. What’s more, they’ll be excited for their first days of “big kid” school.

Want to partner with families as they support their children’s social-emotional skills? Share these family-friendly guides to social-emotional growth from Brighter Futures Indiana!