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With planning and effort now and during the coming months, your eighth grader can set themselves up for a smooth transition to high school!
So many reasons! In eighth grade, the difficulty and volume of material is less, and the stakes are lower than in high school. This makes it easier to master academic content and to learn and practice executive functioning skills. Each student is a unique learner, and it’s important to find best-fit strategies, which takes some trial and error. Better to go through that now than at the start of freshman year.
We anticipate that some eighth graders will have a few knowledge gaps simply because of the nature of the past few school years. If they take the time over the next several months to gradually fill in that foundation, they’ll be in a much better position to hit the ground running come fall. That’s important because the ninth grade curriculum will be more challenging, there will be less teacher support, and the school environment will be new.
Has School Been a Breeze for Your Child?
Even more reason to buckle down now! Students who do well in middle school with little effort often have not learned how to manage their time or study effectively, and they flail when up against new challenges. You want that executive functioning “infrastructure” in place before it’s needed. That alone will ease the transition to high school.
Where to Start?
1. Get Organized
Determine what physical and digital organization systems will work best for your child. To do that, talk with your child about teacher expectations and their own preferences so that you can tailor a set-up that they’ll stick with. Color coding can be really effective for both physical and digital folders!
Teaching your child how to effectively use an assignment notebook or tracker will take their organization to the next level. The goal should be that by the end of the school year, they’ll be recording all assignments (and writing/symbolizing when there are none), crossing them off once completed, and utilizing the notebook to plan prep for tests and quizzes. Even if your child’s assignments are posted online, this is still a good skill to learn. Not all high school teachers will post online. Getting in the routine of this in eighth grade (with the online component as a checkpoint) will help your child be more independent as a freshman.
Eighth grade is the perfect time to practice self-advocacy skills because school is a familiar place. Think about how you’ll want your child to advocate for themselves in high school, and have them get comfortable doing it now. Meeting with teachers outside of class is a big one. Do they know how to schedule those appointments? What materials they’ll need? How to make the meeting productive?
You might need to do some hand-holding to start, such as helping them write an email to the teacher or role playing. Be clear about your expectations for independence and how you’ll help them get there.
In our experience, students who meet regularly with their teachers understand material better, study smarter not harder, and feel more invested in the class and their grades. They often also get the benefit of the doubt when it comes to mistakes; for example, teachers may be more willing to cut them some slack on a (rare) late assignment, or round up on a grade.
3. Build Skills
Focus on the big three: reading, writing, and arithmetic. Students need to work toward fluency in all areas, meaning they have solid comprehension and can read, write, and problem-solve accurately and efficiently.
You know what makes a better reader? Reading. Encourage your child to read for pleasure by tapping into their interests. Librarians love to find books and authors that hook students, so enlist their help! Don’t forget about magazines, graphic novels, and non-fiction texts.
When it comes to writing, make sure that your child treats longer assignments as real learning opportunities. They should schedule work time with their teacher to get specific feedback and write multiple drafts. With shorter responses, they should get in the habit of writing in complete sentences—and not just for English class! Often students will attempt to write well for English assignments, and then throw grammar, spelling, and structure out the window in other classes. Being consistent will not only help them solidify skills but also help them become better communicators. If they’re not doing much writing in school, they could keep a journal (what a time capsule that will be!), write letters to friends and family, or write a story based on a photograph.
Working with your child to find direction and structure this semester will lead to a calm and confident transition to high school. And that will impact them well beyond schoolwork. Give us a call if you’d like some extra support!