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									Transition to Middle School

                  Dr. John Harrison
             NC Middle School Association

              Model Schools Conference
                  Orlando, Florida
                     June 2010



Session 61
Students WILL Transition, but will
they Transition Successfully?
     A Quick Reality Check…

              Adolescent
 The Latin root of this word means
         “to blossom or grow”
 & first appears in English in 1440
So regardless of what we call them,
     middle schoolers have been
           around for a while
Why Worry?
The self-esteem of children who have just
transitioned to middle school or junior high
tends to be significantly lowered.

So are their test scores.

A major reason is the disruption of
established social networks at a time
when social activities are importance to
young adolescents. Wigfield & Eccles
      What Students Say About the
      Transition to Middle School

“When I first started the 6th grade I didn't know what
to do or what to think.”

“Teachers don't know about how hard it is for a sixth
grader to feel good and how a lot of kids are scared
of life.”

“Sixth grade is like kindergarten, like starting all over
again.”

From NMSA’s "Transition to A Middle Level School:
What Kids Say,"
Kids Going to Middle School Fear…

• Lockers
• Getting through crowded halls
  without getting lost or hassled by
  bigger kids
• The lunchroom
• Bullying
• Fitting in/not fitting in
• Looking Stupid, and once again…
• Lockers
When students are worrying, they are
not learning…
Parents of New Middle Schoolers
Have Fears, Too. And They DO
Impact Schools and Classrooms…

•   Puberty/Adolescence
•   “Losing their babies”
•   Losing control
•   Being disconnected & irrelevant
•   Not having the power/impact they
    had on elementary classrooms
    (cupcakes)
     Strategies for Successful
   Transitions to Middle School
1. Begin transition activities in the springtime.

• Make sure you visit the elementary school

• Be careful about bringing students into a busy middle school

• Think about structure. Often open, unstructured visits right
  before school starts, and formal “back to school” a week or
  two later works well

• Bring students into the school in the afternoon or evening

• Ensure that counselors, social workers, special education,
  ESL, and other programs are part of the transition

• Be overt in planning activities that visibly include BOTH
  elementary and middle school staff
     Strategies for Successful
   Transitions to Middle School
2. Use multiple communication streams

• Utilize email, phone-master, letters

• Involve community organizations: civic, faith-based, sports

• If your school has a PTA, PTO, or other parent organization,
  a call over the summer welcoming a family to the middle
  school is a powerful ice-breaker

• Sending school students can be paired with a “buddy” for
  both orientation and relationship-building purposes

• Don’t forget the “teachable moment” of pen-pals. Incoming
  students can write letters to middle school students with
  questions, concerns, etc.
     Strategies for Successful
   Transitions to Middle School
3. Establish a plan to ensure all students have an advocate.

• Advisory

   “Many young adolescents suffer from feelings of isolation
   and loneliness, and advisory activities allow them to connect
   with caring adults and other students to help through the
   rough spots” –NASSP’s Breaking Ranks in the Middle

• Classroom activities also provide opportunities for being an
  advocate

• If there are mentoring programs in place for elementary
  students, make sure to discuss whether they can/should
  continue in the middle school. Don’t let students fall
  between the cracks because of transition to middle school.
     Strategies for Successful
   Transitions to Middle School
4. Know who’s coming, and what it is they need.

• Discuss with elementary school who might be better off
  separated, together, with a particular teacher

• Talk about IEPs to reduce the likelihood of surprises

• Ensure that parents of special needs, gifted, English
  Language Learners, and others are in the loop

• If you can hand out school handbooks/guidelines/rules to
  parents, it helps them understand policies and procedures.
  Kids are notoriously bad at relaying this information in a
  sensible way to parents.
     Strategies for Successful
   Transitions to Middle School
5. Meet with parents.

• Have parent meetings on nature of the young adolescent

• Educate parents on how middle school is different

• Tell parents what to expect

• Again… spend time on the front-end with the parents of
  special populations

• Remind parents that middle school is not what it was when
  they were in 6th grade
     Strategies for Successful
   Transitions to Middle School
6. Utilize strategies that maximize student interaction.

• Encourage the use of interdisciplinary teaming whenever
  possible

• Teach students how to participate in cooperative groups,
  and model frequently at first how to get into, and behave as
  part of a group.

• Try jigsaw activities where students can be the “expert.”

• Provide both structured, and unstructured time for students
  to talk with each other

• Get students involved in service learning early on. Don’t wait
  for the holidays.
     Strategies for Successful
   Transitions to Middle School
7. In the midst of all the conversations, don’t forget to talk
   about curriculum.

• Elementary and middle school administrators, curriculum
  specialists, and support staff should have ongoing
  conversations about curriculum alignment. Are students
  “where they’re supposed to be?” Ahead? Behind?

• Give students “voice” in curriculum decisions at the
  beginning of the year. What do you want to read? What
  should we study first? What do we want to know about…?
School & Classroom Activities
After the Students Arrive
• Take time to teach use of planners/
  agendas, then hold “Jeopardy” quizzes
  to see who know what

• Hold a fashion show with dress code
  “dos and don’ts”

• Teach note-taking skills. VERY few
  entering students have these skills
School & Classroom Activities
After the Students Arrive
• Practice locker combinations. Repeatedly.

• Model time management

• Help students get to know each other.
  “Two truths and a lie,” name games,
  scavenger hunts… and don’t forget to
  include the biographical in the “my
  summer vacation” essays.
A Word About Time…

Yes… all this stuff does take time.
Sometimes a lot of it; however, time
you invest in transition activities on
the front-end of the year will be saved
many times over by the end of the
year.
How Elementary Teachers Can
Help
• Take the mystery & fear out

• Accentuate the positive

• Raise the bar gradually—increasing
  academic rigor levels & introducing
  common middle school instructional
  strategies

• Model strategies for good organization
  (they’ll need it)
Tips and Tricks for Teachers
• Discuss with students what to do if/when
  they get behind

• Contact families during the summer

• Don’t assume students are OK. They are
  great at hiding What they really feel

• Problem-solving/investigation is a great
  tool for engaging shy learners
Tips and Tricks for Teachers
• Rules determined democratically by
  students, and written in positive terms in
  their own handwriting, are FAR more
  likely to be observed than laminated
  “Thou shalt not's.”

• Write down what works to save it for next
  year. You’d be surprised how quickly you
  forget!
 How Parents Can Help

• Don’t buy a backpack that holds 50 lbs.

• Practice lock combinations

• Walk kids to class pointing out bathrooms
  and shortest routes

• Increase their own understanding of
  adolescent development

• Share with first-time parents
Questions?
Contact Information
Dr. John Harrison
NC Middle School Association
PO Box 5216
Pinehurst, NC 28374

910-235-3761

jha@nc.rr.com

								
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