Some time during second semester, many eighth graders lose interest in their school work and either coast or crash through the remainder of the school year. This is such a bummer to us because we know these students are setting themselves up for a bumpy transition to high school. Students who instead use second semester to solidify academic and executive functioning skills will find themselves ahead of the curve for ninth grade (read our “case study” here).
So many reasons! In ninth grade, curriculum becomes more challenging, teacher support decreases, the school environment is new, students take finals for the first time, and options for extra credit become few and far between. Building a strong foundation ahead of time enables students to make progress rather than fall behind in the face of these new demands.
In eighth grade, the difficulty and volume of material is less, and the stakes are lower. 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.
Even more reason to buckle down now! Students who do well in middle school with little effort 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!
1. Get Organized
Determine what physical organization system 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. Our tip: use binders to keep everything in one place!
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’s none), crossing them off once completed, and utilizing the notebook to plan prep for tests and quizzes.
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 to take with them? How to make them productive? You might need to do some hand-holding to start, such as helping them write an email to the teacher or role playing, but 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.
It will take some effort on both your part and your child’s to make the most of second semester, but you’ll be so grateful when high school isn’t a struggle! Give us a call to learn more about how we can make the transition to high school easier for your child.