Transition opens doors to new friendships, higher-level learning, extracurricular opportunities and a much larger school. While sixth graders feel weak-kneed in worrying about the unknown, middle school comes with greater accountability, responsibility and reward. Hundreds of students who graduated from elementary school will soon comprise the graduating class of 2029.
Here is what you can expect:
The Sixth Grade Team
Core classes entail language arts, social studies, mathematics and science. Typically, two or four teachers offer instruction, whether the format is a block schedule or four 45-minute periods. With the responsibility of carrying an encased laptop to and from school to complete daily assignments and homework, loose-leaf paper and notebooks only apply to note keeping. And, be forewarned, 90% of tasks correlate to an online website, such as iReady (math and reading) and IXL (all subjects) among others. Some schools may create a weekly expectation to receive outdoor recess on Fridays if, for instance, students complete personalized expectations.
Tip: Parents should use the school website to sign up for email notifications, which offer daily topics covered in core classes, grades and sports schedules.
Tip: Sixth grade opens the door for parents to provide guidance in writing an email requesting information about specific assignments. It is the first significant step for children to gain confidence and take responsibility for their education.
At the end of fifth grade, students made their first middle school decision by choosing electives. Classes, such as business education, family and consumer science, foreign language, visual arts or music education, offer exposure to a life skill, whether the instruction features keyboarding, developing real-world applications, painting or engaging in the dynamic of performing in a band or orchestra.
Tip: It’s not too late for students to reconsider decisions made in April. Rising sixth-graders should choose the classes that pertain to their interests and future ambitions rather than agreeing to a friend’s plan.
During Open House, sixth graders will finally meet their homeroom teacher, who will most likely teach a core class. Don’t be disappointed if you cannot meet everyone on the sixth-grade team. It’s a busy night full of information, paperwork, receiving schedules and signing up for sports and extra-curricular activities. Will your child add his or her name to a sports roster or join the teams of Battle of the Books or First Lego League-Robotics? Learning about the opportunities your future school offers in advance will help students be prepared for that special and overwhelming night.
Tip: Parents, please save any pressing questions or child insights to an email rather than divulge information during Open House; instead, it’s better to introduce yourself as Laura’s or John’s mom, and say, “I have to share a few items with you. Would it be okay if I send you an email in a few days?”
The giant leap to middle school also opens the door for unexpected conversation. Mature topics such as sexual innuendo, sex, drugs, smoking and drinking may create questions from your 11-year-old child. It’s important they hear facts from an adult rather than conjecture from misinformed children. Additionally, students will need support in handling friends who, too, are prepubescent and learning about themselves and the emotional roller coaster called puberty.
How to Help
Parents will feel in the dark regarding their child’s education. While the laptop has great advantages, such as replacing the heft of books, it will be difficult to assist. Consider finding a free keyboarding website to facilitate the correct finger placement of keys. Additionally, encourage your sixth grader to peruse or explain his or her daily notes. Reviewing transfers information into long-term memory. Perhaps, parents can provide practical notetaking techniques, such as the Cornell-Note or SQ3R methods, offering organizational assistance.
Weeks from now, teachers and staff will be ready to welcome new students to Open House in preparation for the first day of school. Transitions rarely go smoothly, so be prepared for busing delays and schedule changes. On the other hand, there will be excitement as your child shares the names of new friends and how middle school is cool!