Transition to Teel Part One: Guiding New Sixth Graders Toward Academic and Social Success
Incoming sixth graders face unique challenges during their first year of middle school. They step onto Teel Campus with an influx of new classmates, newfound independence and high academic expectations, all while managing the dramatic physical and emotional changes of adolescence. It’s a big jump from lower to middle school and we’ve created a pathway to help our students make that jump with confidence and support. This is part one of our series featuring this pathway to success, Transition to Teel.
A Purposeful Transition
Transition to Teel is a purposeful, structured series of classes that helps new sixth graders rise to high academic expectations, adjust to a new social structure and get the most out of their middle school experience. The initial portion of Transition to Teel addresses the specific needs of students during their first few months at Severn.
As Middle School Head Dan Keller states,
“We can say we want kids to perform certain aspects of being an effective student, but I believe schools have to put the supports in place. Educators have to give students the right tools, strategies and a path to succeed. The path doesn’t have to be smooth or easy, but our support needs to be there.”
First Semester Schedule: Study Skills, Life Skills, and Study Hall
The first semester of the Transition to Teel program works on a four week rotating schedule. This ongoing schedule includes a week of Study Skills, a week Life Skills and two weeks of Study Hall. Study Skills and Life Skills classes give our students the core tools they need to manage their new academic and social demands while Study Hall gives them built-in extra time to study, work on projects and meet with teachers. This rotating schedule allows them to practice their new skills right away and establish healthy habits at the critical start of the school year.
Learning How to Learn: Study Skills
In Study Skills class we help our sixth graders learn how to learn. The content of the class is two-fold. Middle School Spanish and Study Skills teacher Ms. Shaina Longway first teaches basic principles of cognitive science to give students a high level understanding of their mental processes. They then begin to use that understanding to develop strategies for managing their workload at Severn. Using tested and proven methods for academic success, they learn study techniques for different types of assignments. They learn how to manage their time, how to use their planners, how to find their classes, and how to ask teachers for help. Ms. Longway works to make the class engaging and relevant for middle schoolers, using kid-friendly analogies and real-life scenarios students may face.
Watch this video for a peek at Study Skills class in action!
Learning About Physical and Emotional Changes: Life Skills
Taught in single gender groups by Middle School Guidance Counselor Ms. Mary Foard, Life Skills gives our sixth graders an opportunity to learn factual information about the physical, emotional and cognitive changes that are associated with adolescence. Students at this age have varying levels of knowledge and comfort regarding these topics and Life Skills gives them a forum to express their ideas and support one another though this time of change in their lives.
In this discussion-based class, Ms. Foard uses thinking strategies to encourage everyone to participate and works to create a supportive environment with a student generated code of conduct. During Life Skills class emotional safety and respect are paramount.
Ms. Foard explains,
“My goal is for them to leave the class with an understanding of what’s going to happen to their bodies and in their relationships through middle school. It’s fun though! They smile, they laugh and they talk with one another to explore the ideas on their own. I make sure to impart accurate information, keep the environment respectful, and normalize the experience. It is hands down my favorite class to teach.”
Time to Work: Study Hall
One of the biggest challenges for new sixth graders is simply having the time to do their work. Between after school activities and social obligations, time is a precious commodity. Study Hall gives them dedicated time to complete their homework on campus and to reach out to teachers if needed. While this may seem like a simple idea, it is integral to the success of new students. Building this supervised study time into their schedule helps them establish good routines now and for the future.
Why Create This Program?
We are here in the service of our students and their families. Our Middle School administration and faculty took the time to ask the important questions. “What are the things that kids need?” “What are some of the demands they are going to face in high school, college and the working world?” They spent months discussing these issues and developing a plan to intentionally serve our students and set them up for success in the best way possible. The result of that strategic planning is Transition to Teel.
While the first semester of Transition to Teel is all about managing workload, managing relationships and navigating a new space, the second semester is all about digging in, innovation and hands-on experiences. Read about Transition to Teel Part Two.
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