April: Academic Transitions
Is your child starting kindergarten this fall? Or do you have a middle schooler preparing to enter high school? Maybe your student is preparing to graduate with the class of 2024 and go onto college. Making these academic transitions can feel daunting for students and parents alike. As a caregiver, you might be wondering how to help your child make smart decisions while enjoying new opportunities. What should you do to help your child become ready for this new stage of their academic career?
Fortunately, there are plenty of resources to help support a successful transition to the next major stepping stone. April’s edition of Power Parent Magazine was designed as a resource to provide support to GRPS families as they prepare to make these academic transitions.
Power Parent: April 2023 covers each of the following articles:
- Any move to a new grade is a challenge, but your family can prepare! Learn more in Ensure a Smooth Transition
- Find out what you can do to prep your preschooler in Jump to Pre-K
- Get a feel for the kindergarten transition process in To and From Kinder
- Under 3rd Grade Guide, learn more about this important year in your student’s academic life.
- Learn more about the shift to middle school in Graduating Elementary School
- Under Middle and High School Transitions, learn more about how to support your middle schooler as they make the jump to high school.
- Find advice for parents whose children are graduating high school and moving onto the next phase in their life in 12th Grade and Beyond!
Successful End-of-Year Transitions
Any move to a new grade is a challenge, but there are major transition years that your student will undergo that can be especially important to focus on. The move from kindergarten to first grade, into middle school or high school and even on to college are key times when students often need support and many students develop patterns that stick.
GRPS World Class Preschool
Children grow up fast! Whether they’re coming from daycare, a 3-year-old program, or directly from home, entering a preschool program for the first time is a HUGE deal for families (children and caregivers alike). What will your new school routine look like? How will your child interact with their peers? And how will you say good-bye when you drop off your child on their first day of school?
There’s no doubt that preschool is a very important stage of a child’s life. Preschool is a time for kids to interact with their peers and learn valuable life lessons such as how to share, take turns, and follow rules. It also can prepare them academically for kindergarten and beyond. However, the transition can sometimes present challenges for child and parent/caregiver. For a child, entering the school environment for the first time might cause both anxiety and excitement. Caregivers might have mixed emotions about whether their child is ready for preschool.
GRPS Pre-K programs
GRCC’s Play and Learn program is a long-time supporter and partner of GRPS. Their Play and Learn groups give families the chance to introduce their children, ages 0-5, to other children while learning about how to plan and learn at the same time. These playgroups are made possible because of the generosity of Kent County taxpayers and the voter-approved Ready by Five Early Childhood Millage; keep an eye on the Parent University event calendar and the GRPS Family and Community Engagement Facebook page for distribution sites and times!
If your child is making the transition from preschool to kindergarten, or from kindergarten to first grade, this article is for you! Kids are pretty smart about these transitions and sense the unpredictability of going to a new classroom (virtual or otherwise). They wonder about making new friends and getting used to a new teacher—from fears about whether they will be able to find the bathroom, to where will they eat snack, there is certainly a lot to consider.
GRPS wants to enroll your little one in our kindergarten programs! Enjoy this wonderful informational video to learn more:
From 2nd to 3rd: A Big Leap!
Your child has mastered the fundamentals in 1st grade and 2nd grade, and is now ready to thrive in third grade! But it’s not just another year. This grade is a very important time in your child’s education, because it’s when students transition from what are often known as the “lower grades” to the “upper grades.” It’s also an EXCITING time in your child’s education, both academically and socially! Your third grader is on their way to becoming a more independent and mature learner.
Read on to learn more!
During this phase you begin to really catch glimpses of the young adult they are on their way to becoming. At the same time, your child has not completely left childhood behind. While your child may begin to exhibit more confidence, independence, and express the desire to not be so closely tied to parents, they are still full of silliness. You may begin to notice more pop culture references in their jokes, as they giggle with friends in the back of your car during school pick up. By third grade, children are becoming more aware socially, and become more influenced by external forces. Friends, music, video games, and internet, begin impacting your child’s perception of the world at this stage of development, more so than during previous stages of your child’s life. The impact of outside influences can often be unnerving for many parents of third graders.
Your third grader is facing huge changes academically. Here’s a look at the academic challenges your student will begin to experience (to read about this content in further detail, keep reading below):
At a Glance
- By the beginning of third grade, kids are expected to be able to do basic writing, editing, and revising.
- They’re also expected to have mastered basic reading skills and start focusing on comprehension.
- Third graders need to be familiar with three-digit numbers and know which of the digits is in the “ones” place and which is in the “tens” and the “hundreds” place.
Want to learn more about how where your child should be academically before moving from second to third grades? Head over to the Parent University homepage, scroll to the bottom of the page, and find a ton of great videos under the heading “K-12 Milestones!”
Your third grader is also faced with standardized testing for the first time. These scores often determine whether a school is labeled as successful, and so there is added pressure placed your child to master concepts (to read about standardized testing in further detail, please consult the March 2021 edition of Power Parent Magazine – it’s ALL ABOUT state testing!).
As a result of this stress, third graders often begin to exhibit new emotions about school that they have never felt before. Often children begin to feel anxiety about homework and going to school because the pressure to succeed has increased. Many children struggle with perfectionist tendencies, trying to make their work perfect, because they have a growing sense that everything they do has impact on their success.
As a parent you can help your child have an easier transition from second to third grade. You need to become more aware of who their friends are and what external influences may be impacting your child. Do not be afraid to filter friends who you think may have a negative impact. Encourage your child to be more independent and hang out with friends, but also set aside time to connect one-on-one. Family dinner without distractions, planning activities that encourage family engagement, and even just making time to talk becomes increasingly important at this stage. Your third grader may protest, but in the long run, they will love you for taking the initiative to engage them and get to know the person they are becoming.
Getting more involved in their academics becomes important as well. As a parent, you can help your child mitigate the increased stress of performing well at school by offering lots of encouragement. Praise the effort they put into learning a new concept, memorizing facts, or spending extra time to do an assignment well. Be sure to iterate to your child that tests and grades do not necessarily determine future success. If your child faces struggle, or even failure, help them see that these moments are part of the learning process. Turn homework into a game, especially if rote memorization is involved. Make time to quiz, even in short spurts while driving your car or cooking dinner. Help provide spaces that are conducive for your child to accomplish their homework. Your child may like to crawl away in quiet, or your child may need the social interaction of sitting near you, while you cook, surf the internet, or do your tasks. To balance the intensified work load, be sure to provide your child with unscheduled downtime, where they can just be themselves, doing what they like to do.
Most importantly, let your child know they are loved and encourage laughter. Even if they act embarrassed, tell them you love them and be silly with them. They may roll their eyes at you, but deep down it matters to your child. It is so much easier to face challenges, new experiences, and big transitions, when you know someone cares.
During second grade, kids keep building skills in reading, writing, and conversation. They learn to think about and summarize what they read in many different types of texts. This includes stories, articles, and books with multiple chapters.
Rising third graders are expected to know how to collect information about a single topic from a variety of sources and summarize it. They’re also expected to use editing and revising skills in their writing. Here are some ways kids build skills in these areas and get ready for third grade:
- Read fables and folktales from different cultures and identify the central message, lesson, or moral in the stories
- Read about science, social studies, and history and determine the purpose and main idea of these texts
- Answer who, what, where, when, why, and how questions about stories (both in writing and when speaking), using the rules of standard English
- Describe how an author uses detail to support an idea
- Gather facts about a topic and describe what was learned
- Write about an event with a beginning, middle, and end
- Write about books using details and examples to back up opinions
Skills to get ready for grade 3: Mathematics
By the beginning of third grade, kids start using abstract thinking skills in math. They’re working with three-digit numbers and using their understanding of place value (like knowing that the “3” in “357” is in the hundreds place and means “300,” the “5” is in the tens place and means “50,” and so on).
Place value is an important concept. It not only helps with addition and subtraction but serves as the foundation for the rounding, multiplying, and dividing that will occur in third grade.
Second graders keep working on addition and subtraction and start learning how to measure objects and shapes. By the end of second grade, kids are expected to be able to do activities like these:
- Add and subtract numbers up to 100 to solve one- or two-step word problems
- Add and subtract up to 20 using mental math strategies (instead of having to do the calculations on paper)
- Understand the ones, tens, and hundreds place in a three-digit number
- Start adding and subtracting three-digit numbers
- Read and write numbers up to 1,000
- Measure and also estimate length using inches, feet, centimeters, and meters
- Solve problems using money values, like knowing that a dime equals 10 pennies
- Divide circles, squares, and rectangles into equal portions (halves, thirds, quarters)
- Solve word problems using information from a bar graph
Did you find these videos helpful?
We hope so! If you did, head over to the Parent University homepage, scroll to the bottom of the page, and find a ton of great videos under the heading “K-12 Milestones!”
Easing the Shift From Elementary to Middle School
The logistical, social, and academic changes that your student will face when going from elementary to middle school are some of the most challenging of their young lives – but as one chapter closes and another opens, you’ll also see your child growing and developing in amazing ways! Transitioning to middle school can be made easier with preparation. The first step is understanding what may worry your child. This article from Great Schools does an amazing job of summarizing these challenges with a research-based approach; check it out!
When researchers asked kids what aspect of moving to middle school most concerned them, the top answers related to how things at the new school worked (Akos, 2002). How would they find the right classroom? What happened if they were tardy? Where was the cafeteria? What about the bathrooms?
Middle school is a much more complex environment than grade school. The school may be larger, there are more students, and instead of one teacher and one classroom, your child will have a separate instructor, and classroom, for each subject or block of subjects (e.g., language arts/social studies or math/science). It’s no wonder kids worry about finding their way in this new world.
For your student with learning or attention problems, understanding the rules and procedures of the new school may be even more important. The challenge of navigating multiple transitions between classes and organizing books and materials for every subject may be all she can handle in the first few weeks. Here are some strategies for helping your child make a smoother transition to middle school:
- Explore the school’s website with your child. Search for announcements, schedules, and events.
- Accompany your child on virtual campus tours and orientations offered to parents and incoming students. The better you understand the school layout and rules, the more you can help your child.
- Take advantage of summer programs — academic or recreational — offered at the new school for incoming students. Your child will get the feel for the campus in a much more relaxed atmosphere.
- Check out GRPS’ student handbook, available here on the Parent University website. Review rules and requirements — especially the school’s code of conduct, which describes consequences for violations of the most important rules. Ask the school staff questions about anything that’s unclear.
- Consider getting your child has an easy-to-read watch so they can quickly see if they need to hurry to be on time to class.
Another area of worry for students moving to middle school is the social scene. Will I see anyone I know? Will it be hard to make friends? Will I have to eat lunch alone? Are the older kids bullies?
Your child is moving from the top of the elementary school heap to the bottom rung of the middle school social ladder. She may have heard that the older students tease or bully the younger ones. She knows for sure that she and her best friends are unlikely to be in every single class together, and, even worse, there may be classes where she doesn’t know anyone at all on the first day. And if your child with learning or attention problems struggles to make friends anyway, then this all adds up to a potential social nightmare.
Remember that, in addition to changing schools, your child is entering adolescence, a stage when kids start to rely much more on peers and pull away from parents. This is a time when being part of a group is very important and being perceived as different can be devastating. It’s not surprising that finding friends in the new school is a top priority.
The good news is that the more varied social environment also offers many opportunities to meet people. Being in multiple classes each day means your student is surrounded by more potential friends. The better news is that, once students are settled into middle school, they report that friendships and the social scene are among the best things about school (Akos, 2002: Forgan, 2000).
Some things that you can do to ease the social transition:
- Encourage your child to join sports teams, clubs, or other extracurricular activities. Even though we’re currently in a hybrid/distance learning environment, many of these extracurricular opportunities are still available, just on a virtual platform!
- Ease any loneliness in the early weeks of school by helping your child arrange weekend social activities with neighborhood, church, or grade school friends.
- Encourage your child to join group conversations. Discuss how to join in without interrupting, to add something relevant to conversation in progress, etc.
- Talk about traits that make a good friend (such as being a good listener).
- Talk about social skills. Discuss how words and actions can affect other people.
- Practice skills needed for difficult social situations.
- Remind your child to make eye contact when speaking or listening.
Though most students worry more about the logistical and social aspects of middle school before they get there, once settled in, academic concerns rise to the surface. Will the classes be too difficult? Will there be too much homework? Are the teachers hard graders? These concerns are only exacerbated by the current school climate, amidst COVID.
It’s quite typical for students’ academic performance to drop upon entering middle school. Along with everything else that’s going on – rollercoaster emotions, physical changes, and social upheaval – your child is also coping with harder classes, more homework, and a whole new set of academic expectations. Middle school teachers don’t form the close bonds with students that your child enjoyed in grade school. There is less small group and personalized instruction. Teachers expect students to take charge of assignments and projects with less day-to-day guidance.
For a student with learning or attention difficulties, these changes can come as quite a shock. Teachers may vary in their willingness to understand and accommodate your child’s learning needs. Organization and time management demands rise to a new level. Though it can seem overwhelming, keep reminding your child that they can manage these changes successfully, though it will take time and practice.
Some tips to help ease their academic concerns:
- If your child has an Individualized Education Program (IEP), meet with the middle school IEP team no later than the spring before your child enters the new school. Discuss the qualities of the “ideal” teacher for your child to help ensure the best placements.
- Meet with teachers early in the school year. Give them a profile of your child’s strengths and where she needs help.
- Help your student with time management skills. Work together on a schedule for study time, break time, chores, etc.
- Work out an organizational system with your student. Acknowledge and make allowances for her anxiety; at first, she may need to carry everything for all classes all the time in order to feel prepared.
- Avoid overreacting to grades. Making sure your child gets a handle on how to meet the demands of the new school is the critical factor in the early weeks.
- Stay connected to your child’s school work. Try to teach your student to work more independently while supporting her enough to give her confidence.
- Even though they’ll likely be virtual, go to back-to-school night, open houses, parent-teacher conferences and other events where you can connect with your child’s teachers.
- Help your child be her own advocate. Encourage her to discuss problems and solutions with teachers on her own, but be ready to step in and help as needed.
You can do this!
The best way to help your child through this transition is to keep a positive attitude about middle school. You may remember how clueless, awkward, and self-conscious you felt at that age. Empathize with her if she feels the same way, and tell her it’s normal for middle school students to experience those fears and emotions. Reassure her that she will become more comfortable and confident with time. Remind your child that the school and the teachers want her to be successful and that she has what it takes to make it all work.
Most students make the adjustment to the routines and demands of middle school within a couple months. If your child is still struggling as fall gives way to winter, then a meeting with her counselor may be in order. Together, you, your student and the counselor can pinpoint specific trouble spots and brainstorm ways to get things on track.
Try to give your tween plenty of information about how things will work in middle school, but be careful not to overload her. Be proactive in sharing information with her while also encouraging her to ask questions. To prepare for these conversations, you may want to read through the “Middle School Transition Tips for Parents” — and offer your child the “Middle School Transition Tips for Kids.” The more she knows up front, the more comfortable she’ll be on the first day, and beyond.
Helping your Student Make the Transition from Middle to High School
For your teen, the first day of high school will likely be equal parts exciting and terrifying. New classmates, new courses, new teachers and new expectations can all be points of anxiety for students. A student’s performance in ninth grade has been shown to predict their likelihood of dropping out of high school, as well as their likelihood of attending college.
Some parents and caregivers might become less involved in their child’s education during these years because their child is more independent and has multiple teachers to keep in touch with. However, it’s still just as important to engage in your child’s education when they reach their secondary years!
When parents work together with their child to help them navigate the changes from middle to high school, the result is a confident teen ready to try new experiences, develop new friendships and set high expectations for success. So, how can you, as a parent or caregiver, best support your student as they move from middle to high school?
Read on to learn more!
Surviving and Thriving in High School
Parents and caregivers: The following is a great guide for your student about surviving (and thriving!) the transition to high school from Yael Klein of Evolve. Share it with your incoming high schooler!
Teachers, Classes and Homework, Oh My!
“In my experience, some of the biggest challenges my teen clients face in the transition to high school is adjusting to the heavier workload and the faster pace in daily school activities/classes,” says Tanaz Sadeghi, LMFT, a primary therapist at Evolve Treatment Centers Calabasas.
More classes in high school mean more homework. Whereas middle school might have meant you were spending an hour or two on take-home work each night, high school can mean double the time. Add to that extracurricular activities (like sports, music, clubs or student government), social commitments (you can’t just ignore your friends all day every day), and a few other things that are important – like eating, sleeping and showering, for example – and the day may never seem long enough.
This faster pace of living can get overwhelming, quickly.
Practice time management.
Time Management Skills
There are lots of ways you can work on your time management skills. Get a proper daily planner, one that has lots of room (and we mean lots) for all the things you need to do every calendar day. But it should also come with a monthly-view option, too. Use it to jot down every single important thing.
Try to keep things organized, too. During your first week of high school, keep your course schedule handy so you can avoid getting lost or coming late. Take a picture of it on your phone and put a few copies in your backpack so you aren’t scrambling to figure out where you’re supposed to go after Gym.
Also, says Sadeghi, work on scheduling daily activities prior to the start of school. If you’re planning on joining the school sports team, research everything you can about it before the first day. Talk to alumni, or current freshmen. If you’re concerned that band practice might coincide with another important commitment, try to figure that out before school starts. If you’ve been taking piano for years and years and aren’t sure if you’ll have time for it in high school, think seriously about the matter over the last few weeks of summer. While you may not want to give up something you really enjoy or find value in, you also don’t want your workload to get too out-of-control.
Take Advantage of Summer
The summer between eighth and ninth grade is also perfect to cram in some learning opportunities. Many students who end up having to repeat freshman year of high school simply weren’t prepared for high school’s rigorous academic demands. New schedules, more demanding teachers, and less time to get everything done can mean many students will simply give up—not for lack of trying, but because they didn’t expect the work to be so grueling. Taking a summer course or being otherwise connected to academics to some degree can help make the transition even a little bit easier.
If you know anyone at the high school you’re going to be enrolling in, then summer is the time to talk to them. Ask rising sophomores for their advice on ninth-grade teachers and classes. Usually, students who just finished an entire year with a teacher have tips on how best to succeed in that class (and can maybe give you their old notes, too!)
Getting one’s expectations in order is helpful, too. Expect that high school will be hard. Very hard. You might cry certain nights because you have so much to do and so little time. You might have to pull some all-nighters just to finish an essay or study for a test. Even if high school isn’t that hard for you, you’ll still fare better off if you’re fully prepared, rather than thinking you can just breeze through it easily.
Have a Support System
One of the best things you can do for yourself before high school starts is to find someone you can talk to. “It’s important to identify a support system or person during this transition who you feel comfortable seeking advice or guidance from,” says Sadeghi. This person can be an older friend, a teacher, your parents, a friend’s parent, or a family member. It can also be more than one person; you can have a network of support contacts, including a mental health professional! There are only two rules: you have to feel comfortable confiding in them, and you have to feel that they’re providing sound, reliable advice.
Their advice will come in handy when coping with daily high school struggles, including cliques, too much work, relationship issues, and more. Your support system can help be there for you at times when you feel down and need a shoulder to cry on, or point you towards professional help when it is warranted. For example, if you feel like you’re struggling with depression or anxiety, you’ll need to visit a proper mental health professional who can actually diagnose you and provide proper treatment. With all the changes in your surroundings – both physical, mental and emotional – high school is often the time when symptoms of anxiety, depression, and a host of other mental health and behavioral issues reveal themselves.
Beginnings Are Hard
And now a word of comfort: if and when you feel trapped and completely out of place when you start high school, don’t fret. Beginnings are always rough. It might take a few months to feel connected, to feel like you belong. Or even a year or two. For many, ninth grade is an awkward, painful year, while tenth and eleventh grades come much easier.
But even if your entire high school experience becomes nothing to write home about—or worse, completely terrible, dramatic, lonely, and difficult—remember that high school is just one brief stage of your life. In the grand scheme of things, four years is a drop in the bucket. Eventually—hopefully— you’ll go on to college, start a job, maybe move towns, settle down… and high school will be but a blip on your radar. You’ll be one of those adults who has to scrunch their forehead when they think of high school and say “Oh, back in those days…”
Parent Action Plan: 12th Grade
Yay, Class of 2023! We can’t wait to see all the amazing things you’ll do! Read on to learn more.
- Visit colleges together. If you haven’t already, make plans to check out the campuses of colleges in which your child is interested. Use the Campus Visit Checklist to learn how to get the most out of these experiences.
- Ask how you can help your senior finalize a college list. You can help him or her choose which colleges to apply to by weighing how well each college meets his or her needs, for example. Find out more about how to finalize a college list.
- Find out a college’s actual cost. Once your 12th-grader has a list of a few colleges he or she is interested in, use the College Board’s Net Price Calculator together to find out the potential for financial aid and the true out-of-pocket cost— or net price—of each college.
- Encourage your child to get started on applications. He or she can get the easy stuff out of the way now by filling in as much required information on college applications as possible. Read about how to get started on applications.
- Help your child decide about applying early. If your senior is set on going to a certain college, he or she should think about whether applying early is a good option. Now is the time to decide because early applications are usually due in November. Read about the pros and cons of applying early.
- Gather financial documents: To apply for most financial aid, your child will need to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). You’ll need your most recent tax returns and an FSA ID to complete the FAFSA, which opens Oct. 1.
- Encourage your child to meet with the school counselor. This year, he or she will work with the counselor to complete and submit college applications. Learn more about the counselor’s role in applying to college.
- Create a calendar with your child. This should include application deadlines and other important dates. Your child can find specific colleges’ deadlines in College Search. If your child saves colleges to a list there, he or she can get a custom online calendar that shows those colleges’ deadlines.
- Help your child prepare for college admission tests. Many seniors retake college admission tests, such as the SAT, in the fall. Learn more about helping your 12th-grader prepare for admission tests.
- Help your child find and apply for scholarships. He or she can find out about scholarship opportunities from the school counselor. Your high school student will need to request and complete scholarship applications and submit them on time. Learn more about scholarships.
- Offer to look over your senior’s college applications. But remember that this is your child’s work so remain in the role of adviser and proofreader and respect his or her voice.
- Fill out the FAFSA to apply for aid beginning Oct. 1.. The government and many colleges use the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to award aid. Now it’s easier than ever to fill out this form because you can automatically transfer your tax information online from the IRS to the FAFSA. Read How to Complete the FAFSA to learn more.
- Complete the CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE, if required. If your child needs to submit the PROFILE to a college or scholarship program, be sure to find out the priority deadline and submit it by that date. Read How to Complete the CSS/Financial Aid PROFILE.
- Encourage your child to set up college interviews. An interview is a great way for your child to learn more about a college and for a college to learn more about your child. Get an overview of the interview process.
- Work together to apply for financial aid. Have your child contact the financial aid offices at the colleges in which he or she is interested to find out what forms students must submit to apply for aid. Make sure he or she applies for aid by or before any stated deadlines. Funds are limited, so the earlier you apply, the better.
- Learn about college loan options together. Borrowing money for college can be a smart choice — especially if your high school student gets a low-interest federal loan. Learn more about the parent’s role in borrowing money.
- Encourage your senior to take SAT Subject Tests. These tests can showcase your child’s interests and achievements — and many colleges require or recommend that applicants take one or more Subject Tests. Read more about SAT Subject Tests.
- Encourage your child to take AP Exams. If your 12th-grader takes AP or other advanced classes, have him or her talk with teachers now about taking these tests in May. Read more about the AP Program.
- Help your child process college responses. Once your child starts hearing back from colleges about admission and financial aid, he or she will need your support to decide what to do. Read about how to choose a college.
- Review financial aid offers together. Your 12th-grader will need your help to read through financial aid award letters and figure out which package works best. Be sure your child pays attention to and meets any deadlines for acceptance. Get more information on financial aid awards.
- Help your child complete the paperwork to accept a college’s offer of admittance. Once your child has decided which college to attend, he or she will need to review the offer, accept a college’s offer, mail a tuition deposit and submit other required paperwork. Learn more about your high school senior’s next steps.