We’ve been thinking a lot about soon-to-be ninth graders. We’re so bummed they had to miss out on all of the rites of passage attached to the end of eighth grade. In addition, we wonder how bumpy the entry to freshman year will be after a spring of remote learning.
We’re guessing the beginning of the new school year will be challenging at all grade levels as teachers try to gauge students’ performance levels and adjust accordingly. Freshmen, though, will have the added layer of attending a whole different school, where teachers won’t know what specific skills and concepts were or were not mastered (or even introduced) in eighth grade.
Thankfully, your child has time to prepare! Over the next couple of months, they can strengthen their academic foundation and make a self-advocacy plan for freshman year.
If your child has a good handle on the building blocks for each class before school starts, they’ll be able to keep up as teachers adapt the curriculum (or don’t!). How do you know what those building blocks are? Preview the class syllabus and/or textbook to determine which skills your child will need to have down pat. Nurturing Wisdom can also provide you with a free diagnostic assessment.
To us, the most important classes to prepare for are higher level math and world languages. These subject skills build upon one another, so gaps in prior knowledge will hold your child back from mastering new concepts. For example, if you child will take Spanish 2 as a freshman, they’ll have a tough time keeping up if their Spanish 1 skills aren’t solid. Depending on your child’s remote learning experience, there could be some pretty significant holes. Even if their remote learning left them in a good spot, they’ll need to keep those skills fresh over the summer!
The goal is for your child to be as automatic as possible with the underlying skills. That way, they’ll spend their brain power and time learning new skills and concepts once school resumes. That’s what will keep them from falling behind and ultimately losing confidence in their abilities.
IXL is a great resource for regular practice with math and reading skills. Also for reading, high-interest books are perfect for the summer. They won’t feel like homework, so your child will actually read every day! Librarians and independent bookstore employees will help your child find books they’ll love. For world language learning, we like Conjuguemos and Duolingo.
To be successful freshman year, students must level up their executive functioning skills. Unfortunately, these are not skills students just pick up along the way, and self-advocacy in particular is rarely taught in school. When students advocate for themselves, they take ownership of their learning, are more invested in the outcome, and learn at a deeper level.
What might self-advocacy look like for your child? They’ll schedule a meeting with their history teacher to get help planning mini-deadlines after a long-term project is assigned. Before a math test, they’ll email their teacher asking for additional practice problems in the area they’re having difficulty with. After struggling on a test, they’ll reflect on how they prepared and make adjustments before the next test – and ask a teacher, peer, or you for guidance if they’re not sure about next steps.
There are a couple of ways your child can start building confidence around self-advocating over the summer. First, help them find ways to get comfortable initiating conversations with adults. Can they schedule their next doctor appointment? How about ordering dinner in for the family? Sure, you’ll need to help them prep information for these interactions, but some extra time up front now will save all of you time and energy later.
Second, talk through potential rough spots they may run into during the upcoming school year. Have your child identify ways they can work through them. Don’t assume they’ll know how to compose an email to their teacher! Instead give them some pointers, have them write a draft, and then fine-tune it together. They can save this template so it’s at the ready once school starts.
Your child can do something similar to prepare for in-person or online meetings with teachers. A checklist will help them get the most out of the meeting. It can include items like the following:
You and your child won’t be able to avoid all of the growing pains this unusual freshman year will bring. But you can assemble a toolbox of strategies that will make challenges feel more like opportunities to develop independence and confidence. If your child could use some extra support, we’d love to help!