FAIRFIELD COUNTY, Conn. – Middle school students moving up from elementary grades face new challenges as they begin the school year.
Middle school means new beginnings, experiences and challenges. And while these changes — new friends, new teachers and new school environment — can be exciting, they also can be a bit unnerving for new middle-schoolers.
“These transition years can be exhilarating and full of promise, but they also can cause some measure of anxiety,” said Gwynne Campbell of Sylvan Learning Center, located in Darien.
The first year in middle school is especially critical for students, Campbell said. Most students make new friends, but they also develop more interests and talents, establish new habits and take harder courses. “Making sure a child handles this transition year well should be an important goal for parents,’’ Campbell said. “In fact, a primary indicator of a successful middle school experience is a positive transition from elementary school. And the key to that positive transition is good preparation.”
Here are some tips from Campbell and Sylvan Learning on how parents can help their children face some of the new challenges:
- Time Management: Work together on a schedule and develop an organizational system with your student. Acknowledge and make allowances for anxiety. At first, your student may need to carry everything for all classes all the time in order to feel prepared.
- General Skills Preparation: Summarizing, paraphrasing, and identifying main or important ideas and details are skills that are essential in all content areas. After reading a book or watching a show/movie, have kids summarize what happened orally. Or have them recount the most important events.
- Build their Problem Solving Skills: The new Common Core State Standards, which are coming in the next year or so, outline the knowledge and skills K-12 students need to acquire for post-high school success. Included in the CCSS are Standards for Mathematical Practice, many of which focus on academic behaviors and attitudes such as perseverance, constructing viable arguments, critiquing others' arguments, and paying attention to precision. Encourage perseverance by having your child work through problems — rather than you stepping in to fix them. Encourage your child to formulate opinions and back them up with sound reasoning. Encourage your child to do things correctly rather than just finish them.
- Social concerns: Kids' worries and concerns about fitting in and making friends may seem trivial to adults, but for kids, these worries often trump worries about academics. Listen to their concerns and advise them on basic social skills. Encourage your child to join group conversations. And brace for an increased use in social media. Make sure your kids understand that what they say and do online may come back to hurt them — or hurt others. Be aware of and set guidelines for use of social media on both computers and hand-held devices.
By taking steps early in the school year, you can help your rising elementary student transition smoothly from elementary to middle school.