Steps to Success: Elementary to Middle School Transition Strategies
Steps to Success: Elementary to Middle School Transition Strategies for Parents and Students
Recently, I wrote a post on navigating the transition from middle school to high school. For students in online schools, this transition can come as a shock, as the K12 high school program is quite different from the K-8 experience. For students transitioning from 5th to 6th grade, the shift is more minimal, but still noticeable.
Just as in the early grades, middle school courses are still flexibly-paced. There is more work involved however, with a more in-depth examination of topics than students may be used to. Students are also expected to work more independently. Learning Coaches continue to work closely with students, but they may spend less time doing so, typically 2-4 hours a day, rather than 3-5 in elementary. In many schools, students begin to have a few content-specific teachers, rather than just one teacher for all subjects, a good preparation for the high school system.
But far more drastic than any changes in school, are the changes adolescent students are undergoing. As every parent knows, the middle school years can be tumultuous, to say the least. Puberty typically occurs during the middle school years and kids are experiencing dramatic changes. From 9 to 14, kids experience rapid development in several areas, including cognitive, physical, sensory and motor, and social and emotional. These changes can mean moodiness, changing social relationships, changes to kids’ appearance and coordination, and a push for independence.
What can parents do to make this transition and life in general, easier?
- Encourage your child to take ownership of his learning. Learning coaches should continue to provide guidance, but encourage more independence. Students can take a more active role in communication with teachers, in gathering supplies and preparing for lessons, and in managing their time. These skills will be extremely important in high school and middle school is the ideal time to begin to develop them.
- In adolescence, peer relationships become much more important. Encourage social activities both in and outside of school. Social outlets, including K12 clubs, volunteering, sports teams, scouts, are all good options for encouraging social development and exploring interests.
- Encourage more mature thinking and problem solving. During the early tween years, students’ brains are developing quickly and they begin to reason and reflect in more logical ways. Cause and effect and more long-term and abstract thinking skills begin to develop. Encourage this development by talking with your child, brainstorming, and involving him or her in family decision-making.
- Encourage healthy habits. Model a healthy lifestyle and make sure your child is eating healthfully, exercising every day, and getting plenty of sleep.
- Be there. It’s tough on parents when a formerly snuggly child is transformed into a moody tween, seemingly overnight. Remember that this time is tough on kids too! Keep in mind the changes your child is going through and what they are experiencing. Students’ bodies and brains are growing at a rapid pace, social dynamics are shifting, and increased workloads in school can make the middle school years a very confusing and stressful time. Remind your child that you are there for her/him, and give him/her opportunities to open up to you. Help your child to problem solve, or just lend a sympathetic ear.
Veteran parents: what tips would you offer Learning Coaches just beginning to navigate the transition to middle school?