The transition from elementary to middle school is the most significant change in K–12 schoolings. Students are moving from a room with 1 teacher and maybe 20ish classmates to multiple teachers with different teaching styles, new peers in various classes, and higher expectations of individual responsibility.
In order to understand why this transition is so pivotal, we must understand the way the brain processes information for learning as it develops. In the elementary years, the learning tasks are centered around memorization for academics and social skills. Because the brain is so occupied with creating these patterns and routines there is relatively little room for the more rigorous concepts in middle school. Essentially the elementary years are in preparation for the rigors of middle school.
The transition from elementary to the middle along with the continual maturing of the brain allows for a higher emphasis to be placed on inferential thinking and a lessened focus on the routine memory work. Chemical changes and new neuron pathways support the short and long-term memory needed for success in middle school.
In short, by middle school, your child’s brain will be ready to tackle material on a deeper level. On average these students are ready for middle, but it can not be assumed that all are ready for new challenges, and as such teachers must be vigilant to ensure the deeper content is communicated in an effective and engaging manner for the students.
There are 3 main areas of concern for parents and students with the middle school transition: academic success, logical concerns, and social acceptance. Here we dive in on the academic concerns, but be sure to check out our piece on how to navigate the social hurdles of middle school in our May article.
For your student, thinking of middle school can have a series of concerns running on repeat in their head. Will the classes be too challenging? Will there be an excessive amount of homework? Are the teachers tough on grading? What happens if they turn in work late?
Rest assured it is quite normal for your student to have some growing pains as they transition from elementary to middle school and their grades may drop with the move to middle school. They are learning to navigate a whole new world complete with emerging hormones, physical changes, social standing, and add to that an entirely new set of academic expectations and it should not be surprising that their grades may dip. However, most students with support, flip the dip and find their groove.
Some tips to help ease academic concerns:
Many students new to middle school are fearful of talking to their teachers. They worry that their teachers may view them as “dumb” or that with a bad grade they will see them as a bad student. Studies show that having a strong support system in place at the home will help students to overcome these hurdles. As a parent, supporting your student and modeling positive attitudes toward the school and teachers will lead to confident students that trust their teachers and become invested in their own success. The most successful students have their parents alongside offering support although it is a delicate balancing act as a parent to support, but not step in to fight their battles.
Becoming a successful middle school student both neurologically and socially does not happen on the first day. Instead, this is a gradual process with a learning curve.
Here we offer some perspectives and advice from those in the field to help ease this pivotal shift: a teacher, a seasoned parent or two, and a few current middle school students to help ease the transition.
Challenges noted and experienced:
Suggestions and advice from the teacher, parents, and students:
At CFCA, we have well-seasoned teachers that recognize that the first of middle school is a hard switch. They use strategies that the students may have been accustomed to in the past (writing assignments on the board) and as time progresses those practices will be weened until the students are able to manage writing their assignments with verbal cues. The move from 5th to the middle doesn’t have to be fueled with fear and apprehension. At CFCA, you can rest easy knowing that 6th grade comes with a lot of grace, and growth expectations, and is a safe place for your child to mature and even excel academically. Reach out to schedule a tour of our campus. Your prospective student will be invited to sit in on a day of classes and have the opportunity to meet the teachers and make friends for the upcoming year.