Facilitating the Transition From Elementary to Middle School

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It’s that time of the year again and with almost all of schools reopened or scheduling their reopenings, fifth-grade students are selecting their schedules and getting ready for the transition from elementary school to middle school.

It’s an exciting time for many and we want that excitement to continue all throughout middle school and certainly highschool. Unfortunately though, the excitement can easily be overtaken with uncertainty, fear, and frustration if students and parents aren’t given the tools needed for this process.

Middle school is very different from elementary. The class sizes are different, the amount of class time per subject, the number of teachers a student has, the size of the school building itself, student expectations, parent expectations, how accessible teachers are, and how the school interacts with parents. 

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So much, right?

Well, that’s why as an upper elementary school teacher facilitating the transition from elementary school to middle school is so important.

School Selection:

Most parents just opt for their child to move on to the next neighborhood school within their current district. Many do not take the time to identify their child’s unique interests and talents or the programs offered by the schools within the district or outside of their district that will  build upon these skills,interests and talents.

This is important for a number of reasons, but mostly because middle school aged students are looking for their people; a sense of community, to be accepted and they are in the beginning stages of  identifying what they want to do with their lives professionally.

 It’s in middle school that they are approached with the options of pre-ap, ap courses, early college, and pondering their entrepreneurial aspirations.

Research tells us that children learn best in environments where they have responsive and caring adults, have opportunities to build peer relationships, and are  given the appropriate amount of rigor academically. 

So for step one- sit down with your student and have the career conversation. Let them lead the conversation and share their ideas, goals, and what they see for themselves in the future. Then research the best school for them.

Now that we have discussed the importance of choosing the right middle school

Here is some advice for the actual transition of becoming a middle schooler:

Advice to Students

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  • Keep an Agenda. Inside of your agenda, you should have your class schedule, teacher names, room numbers, and email addresses.In your agenda is where you will write down all assignments and due dates and keep track of extracurricular practices, games, or events. 
  • Pay Attention and Take Notes in Class. For this, you should get a binder or a seven-subject notebook. Your classes are going to be significantly shorter than your core subject class in elementary. Teachers teach from bell to bell and it is likely that things will move quickly. Be prepared. Take good notes and keep up with handouts. 
  • Make Time to Study. Yes, it is important to review materials and to prepare for assessments, but here you should be studying to ensure you are grasping what is being taught. Try to read/ study at least 30 minutes per subject daily.
  • Ask for Help When You Need It. If you don’t get something, say something as many times as you need to. Don’t wait until the assignment is done or final exams come around to show that you don’t know. Everyone needs help with something.
  • Choose Peer Groups Wisely. Friends are important, but the wrong friends, doing the wrong things, can get you into trouble. Choose good friends early on.
  • Balance School Work and Extracurriculars. All work and no play is hard for even adults, so at school, there should be opportunities for just fun. This is where sports and clubs come in. Just remember what comes first- school.
  • Talk To Your Counselor Regularly. Your counselor is your person, they help with class selections, the pressures of school and home life, they give information on college and career readiness and they are there to guide you. Talk with them, they will be able to help. 

Advice to Parents

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  • Teach organizational skills. Sit down with your child and show them how to label their journals, organize their binder and model for them how to take good notes. They do not automatically know. 
  • Require Responsibility. In middle school students will not be allowed into the building without a student badge.Teachers won’t call to tell you that they forgot their lunch or glasses. The notes from teacher and reminder emails will be fewer. Teach your student what it means to be responsible, model for them. Then require it.
  • Communicate with Teachers. Check your emails, respond to emails. Email if you have a question or concern.
  •  Check  Grades Often Online. Progress reports and report cards should not be the only time you are checking grades. Set an alarm one day out of every week and take 20 minutes to check grades and missing assignments. First speak with your scholars about grades and missing work, check their attendance, then communicate with the teacher. 
  • Tour the School Building. To get an idea of how your child has to navigate the new building and how they will be responsible for getting from one class to another in a timely fashion, tour the building. And maybe invest in a rolling backpack..
  • Know Your Scholars Schedule and Workload. Knowing your child’s schedule is important. They may have A days and B days and knowing what class they attend on which days may  be confusing at first. The only way that you will be able to help is if you are aware of the schedule.  Some teachers will create a syllabus detailing units and projects for the year, some may not ( as it’s not required), but having this information will help with being prepared on due dates and planning life events.

Advice to Middle School Teachers

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  • Extend Grace.
  • Build Community. Host class celebrations,attend school events and games to support students, sponsor a club, be a role model.
  • Clearly State Expectations. This is key right out of the gate. Share you classroom expectations and protocols verbally and in writing. Set expectations for how to turn in work and what exemplary work looks like.SHare how to give and take criticism.
  • Explain Communication Systems for Parents. Start by giving parents the first homework assignment of the year via email with details about  how you will  communicate throughout the year. Have them create an All About: Student Name Here Poster. This will show you what parents know about their child,  which parents check and read their emails and will give you insight on who you have sitting in your classroom. 
  • Pass Teaching Strategies on to Parents. It takes a village. As teachers we are a part of the village for a short period of time. If a strategy for teaching a child works for you and the, share it with the parent so that they may learn and use it and pass it on to future teachers. 
  • Be Patient. 

The transition from elementary school to middle school requires intentionality. If current teachers, parents and future teachers work together, facilitating the transition will be a piece of cake.

Mrs. J.

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