At this point in the year, as a fifth grade teacher, I am constantly being asked by parents, “But do you think my child is prepared for middle school?” Not only that, middle school teachers in my school are asking me if I’ve “taught the things 5th graders need to know to be prepared for next year.”
In order to make sure I can confidently send my students off, I sat down to ask myself–well, what DO 5th graders need to be prepared for middle school?
After talking to lots of my colleagues, here is what came out on top.
Being organized can come naturally to some children. But for many, like with any skill, it has to be taught, modeled, and practiced. In middle school, children are usually met for the first time with multiple teachers, multiple classrooms, and lots and lots of supplies and books unique to each class and teacher. Here are some ways we can teach organization:
Is my space clean and ready for work?
Before starting a task, model for children how to ask yourself, “What do I need right now? What do I NOT need right now? Let me make sure that the items I DON’T need are safely in my bag or locker. If I don’t need them right now, I don’t want them to get lost. Plus, I want to make sure what I DO need is accessible, making it easier to follow along with the teacher.”
Do I have all my supplies?
In younger grades, children step into the classroom to find that their materials and supplies have been organized, thought out, and labeled by their teacher. Now it’s time to let kids try it on their own. Ask questions like, “Where will you keep your homework folder when you are not using it? How will you know that this notebook and this folder are for the same subject? Do you have a place to keep your pencils so when you need them, you will have them? What will your system be to make sure your pencils are sharpened and ready for class?”
How do I make sure not to forget anything?
Children need to learn how to use a planner or organizer. Point out to them the different features and how they can be helpful to students. Talk about the differences between the “At a Glance Monthly Calendar” and “day to day notes” sections of the planner. When would I use each section? Model for children HOW that would look.
Time Management Skills
Planners are a great tool for teaching students how to manage their time and pace themselves effectively. But, sometimes, it’s hard to start using one effectively. Here are questions to guide you as you teach kids how to use a planner to prioritize and manage their time each day:
- What tasks need to be done for this week? Let’s chunk these tasks by day, so we know they get done by the end of the week.
- What tasks need to be done for next week? Is there anything we can do THIS week to make it less stressful NEXT week?
- What is coming up in the coming month? No need to work on them this week, but a good reminder as to what to expect to work on.
Note Taking Skills
Ready to study for the test? Grab those notes to review. Wait … what notes?!
Important points to remember when teaching kids how to take notes:
- Don’t worry about complete sentences. This is not the time to gain grammar points.
- Paraphrase (a great literacy skill as well). Students need to learn and practice this skill! Show children how paraphrasing can be used to separate the main idea from the details. Bullets can be used to outline the notes taken from paraphrasing.
- Draw! Yes–doodling can be note taking! Check out doodle notes to learn more about how kids can learn visual note-taking methods.
Digital Age Communication Skills
Now more than ever, teachers are communicating with students through virtual means. Do your students know email etiquette?
- Teach children how to format an email. What kind of information goes in the subject? Is there some kind of greeting and closing? Did I sign my email?
- Will the teacher be able to read and answer this? Is my question, request, or purpose of the email CLEAR?
- Is my tone respectful?
- Did I proofread the email to make sure autocorrect was used appropriately?
This one is tricky. It’s the one I hear most about from parents and teachers, “Why don’t students feel any kind of remorse when their work isn’t done or handed in late?” “Was there a consequence?” “How can I help my students understand that their outcome is dependent on their effort?”
Do you know why it’s so tricky?
Because it requires teamwork from both school and home. It requires consistency and follow through. Both tough things.
Here’s what teachers and parents can do:
- Make sure they are truly independent with the tasks and assignments at home and school that we KNOW they can do.
- Let them make decisions – the big ones and the little ones. They will see first hand the outcomes of their decisions.
- MODEL MODEL MODEL (the answer to everything!) Model for your children how YOU are accountable for the things in YOUR life. What are things teachers and parents are accountable for? What would happen if they slacked off?
- Leave time for reflection – Do students have time to evaluate their own work? Reflect on their processes?
- Communication – Listen. Hear them out. What might be the reason they “don’t care” and don’t “want to be accountable.” The world is a noisy place – make room for some quiet time to hear your child.