10 Tips for Transitioning to Middle School: Making The Jump To Junior Higher Easier
Tip 1: Combination Locks
One big change when children get to middle school is lockers. Having taught 5th grade for the last 4 years, there is both a lot of excitement and anxiety surrounding lockers and understanding how to open combination locks. Students are typically excited to have their own locker to decorate and store their items, but most have never had any experience opening combination locks. Of course, middle school orientation and their teachers will help them if they get stuck and teach them in the first weeks of school, but I’ve found it to be really helpful in easing my students’ anxiety by letting them practice beforehand.
Tip 2: Planners
Middle school is typically the first time that students are asked to navigate multiple teachers and classes. This means homework in different classes that all have differing due dates. One of the best things to help prepare students for this change is teaching them how to use a planner. Planners and calendars are often given to students at the beginning of the year in middle school to help them keep track of their different classes. Color coding classes can also be a great strategy for keeping things organized and making sure things don’t get missed.
Tip 3: Scheduling
Creating a schedule of classes and keeping it in the front of a planner or binder is a great idea, especially in the first few weeks of school. This will help your child build a routine and will always be accessible to them. Further, scheduling out times for homework after school can also be helpful in building a routine. Middle school often brings about more homework than students are used to, so building in pre-scheduled work times when they get home will help keep them up to date on homework, but also give a clear ending to their day so they can relax.
Tip 4: Walking/Mapping Classes
When students do get their schedules, taking a moment to walk or map their classes is never a bad idea. Starting at their locker, have your child walk their classes in order starting with first period so they can get an idea of where they’ll be going. This can often be done during the first open house or orientation depending on the middle school.
Tip 5: Organize Materials by Class
Take the time to organize materials by class so that your child can have a smooth transition throughout the school day. Have them think ahead as to what they’ll need for each class and what can be stored in their locker when not in use. Understanding when they’ll need to go back to their locker in between classes is so important so they aren’t carrying 6 classes’ worth of materials around all day long.
Tip 6: Navigating Online Platforms
With Middle School comes new online platforms. This will be different depending on your district, but many middle schools use some sort of online platform to share grades with students and families. Understanding how to navigate that platform from both a student’s perspective and a parent’s perspective will be important. Unlike elementary school, parents have access to their child’s gradebook when the teacher adds new scores, so everyone can stay in communication on grades, missing work, etc. Helping your child navigate this platform will be critical so that they can keep tabs on their own work and take initiative if an assignment is missing, etc.
Tip 7: Bedtime/Morning Routines
It is common for middle schools to start much earlier than elementary schools, so it may take your child some time to adjust to a new school routine. One tip that I’ve found works for many kids is setting up a clear bedtime and morning routine. If your child is not a morning person, getting as much done as possible the night before is a great strategy. This could include setting out an outfit the night before, getting backpacks packed up, making lunch for the next day, etc. Getting to bed at a reasonable time is also really important and helps ensure that the morning will go more smoothly.
Tip 8: Note-taking
Basic note-taking skills are something that will help your child succeed in middle school and beyond. It can be hard for kids to understand what is important information and what can be left out. Practicing how to jot down or highlight important information in a few short notes without having to write out full sentences will be a time-saver for students.
Tip 9: School Activities
One way to make new friends and meet new people is to join a club or an after-school activity. Middle schools typically offer lots of extracurricular activities and it’s a new social opportunity for them to get involved in the school community.
Tip 10: Communication
As your middle schooler is going through all of these changes, keep in communication with them about how they’re feeling and what support they might need. It’s also important to teach your child how to be their own advocate and communicate with their teachers effectively.