Archive for Thursday, August 29, 2002

Programs ease seventh-grade transition

August 29, 2002

Going from one grade to the next may seem like a small step, but for the students themselves advancing from the sixth to seventh grades can seem like a giant leap. That's why Eudora USD 491 had several programs this year to get upcoming seventh-graders and their parents prepared for life at Eudora Middle School.

Terry Johnston, district coordinator of the Working to Reach Alternative Possibilities program, said she and Principal Don Grosdidier decided the seventh-grade parents needed a better way to find out what would be expected of their children.

"I'm there to talk about how to contact the teacher; what might be some clues those students need to go to the teachers and talk," Johnston said of Monday's parents' meeting.

Another goal was to make them aware of what types of clubs and activities they could get involved in.

Students also have access to the student improvement team. If teachers notice a student struggling, a team of teachers, administrators and other professionals meet with the student and parents to find a way to address the problem.

Even though Eudora seventh-graders enter a "middle school" environment, rather than a "junior high," which functions more like a miniature high school than as a transitional environment, all seventh-graders face the same struggles, Johnston said.

"They still all of a sudden have more than one teacher," she said.

Even though sixth-graders get some practice in having different teachers in different subjects, the classes functioned more independently of one another at the middle school, Johnston said.

"Here, every single teacher gives homework, and they don't check with the other teachers to see who else assigned homework," she said.

Homework and lockers, Johnston said, seemed to be seventh-graders two main worries.

That's where a transition group for upcoming seventh-graders came in this summer.

"That group was a lot of fun," Johnston said. "We did a tour and helped talk to them about different options in school, and we practiced opening lockers. And we practiced going room to room."

Although Johnston said she didn't know what the seventh-grade parents' biggest fears were, she hoped it had to do with helping their children get their homework done.

To help seventh-graders transition into a schedule that includes homework, Johnston had several suggestions for parents. Students can benefit from having some kind of physical activity before settling down for an afternoon or evening of homework.

"Everybody needs some kind of distraction," she said. "I don't want them to go home and just do their homework. They need to get into a mode where (they know) 'This is the time to do homework,'" Johnston said.

She said she also wanted to find out whether parents had problems offering their children a space to do homework.

"It needs to be secluded yet close enough to the family so they don't feel ostracized," she said. "When the kids come to (parents) for help, they might be just looking for recognition that they're not alone rather than just having help."

If students can't get a piece of homework done in about 15 minutes, that's probably the time for the student to ask the teacher for help before school or during the teacher's planning period. It's also important, Johnston said, for parents to know the teachers' names.

"Part of it will help the parents know there is someone in the school looking out for their child," she said.

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