Author: Bridget A. Schleifer M.Ed., Laurel Springs School Academic Department Chair K-8
As we move toward the end of another school year, it is at this point that parents and students reflect on the successes and areas of opportunity they experienced from the past year and begin to look ahead to the new challenges set before them. If your child is making the leap from elementary to middle school, you may feel a twinge of anxiety as you think about your child juggling several different teachers, the demands of more in-depth content, and the increasing performance expectations in middle school. As the K-8 Department Chair at Laurel Springs, I often stress the importance of preparing students for the rigors of middle school and giving them all of the tools necessary to find success. Here are five things you should consider to move your child closer to becoming an effective, efficient, and lifelong learner.
1. Current Struggles or Areas of Opportunity
Knowing your child’s strengths and weaknesses with regards to learning can be one of the greatest tools in a parent’s arsenal. At Laurel Springs, we use a learning styles profile to determine how a child learns best. This information, coupled with information about content-specific deficiencies and strengths can help set your child on an individualized path toward success.
Speak with your child’s teacher to understand what learning gaps or deficits your child is currently displaying. Teachers use an entire host of resources to determine where a student is with regards to grade-level requirements and they have a clear picture of what is needed to succeed in middle school. Take the time to really understand the areas your child needs extra practice and attention and use the summer break to minimize some of those learning gaps. Moreover, use this information when selecting middle school courses for your child. Laurel Springs offers many curriculum options to ensure the individual needs of each student are being met.
2. General Academic Habits
“Success is the sum of small efforts repeated day in and day out.” —Robert Collier
Do your child’s current academic habits set him or her up for success or failure? Just as good nutrition, sleep, and exercise builds a healthy body; good academic habits build a student capable of meeting any academic challenge put in their way.
Here are a few academic habits that your child should strive to implement:
- Create an environment that is conducive to learning. Make sure your learning space is organized and free from distractions.
- Plan specific times for social media and gaming as these can be significant time drains. Do not allow these things to encroach on your time spent learning.
- Find a balance for giving your best; work thoughtfully and stop short of perfectionism.
- Create a system for notebooks, assignments, and materials and put things away immediately when done.
- Don’t wait to get help when you are struggling with a concept. Reach out to your teacher or drop into the Live Academic Help room.
- Keep a schedule that includes all academic and personal due dates and events.
Metacognition is simply the process of thinking about thinking. It may seem a bit obscure, but delving into this concept of metacognition with your child can have a very positive effect on learning. In this article, http://www.edutopia.org/blog/metacognition-gift-that-keeps-giving-donna-wilson-marcus-conyers the author explains the use of metacognition as a “thinking tool” that improves learning and creates independent thinkers. Once you begin to understand metacognition, you can model it for your child by working through the steps of problem-solving or learning a new concept verbally.
A significant change in middle school is the shift from one teacher overseeing all of your child’s courses to one teacher for each content area. Juggling the requirements for each course requires a bit of initiative on behalf of the student. Here at Laurel Springs, teachers send welcome emails and videos to each student at the start of the enrollment to set expectations and to begin building the student-teacher relationship. Encourage your student to reply to that email with an introduction. This is a big step for some children, but it can benefit them greatly by opening the lines of communication with their teacher. In addition, encourage your student to get involved in the many social opportunities provided by Laurel Springs. This again requires some initiative, but it will allow the student to build connections with the staff and students and give them the opportunity to develop their interests within a community of learners.
“Procrastination makes easy things hard, hard things harder.” — Mason Cooley
Unfortunately, procrastination is something a lot of people, regardless of age, struggle to manage. When a looming project or other formidable task is hanging over our heads, the need to push it off one more minute, hour, day, or week can be hard to overcome. One of the many benefits of schooling online is that students have the flexibility to do school at any time that is convenient for them. With this flexibility, comes the added responsibility for students to keep to a daily schedule and stay accountable for completing assignments. As an educator, I am a firm believer in a Sunday night “prep hour”. Take time weekly to create a schedule for the upcoming week. Once you set a schedule, hold your child accountable to the tasks, assignments, and deadlines in that schedule. Here is a list of rewards for tweens and teens that can be used as motivation for completing tasks and assignments on time:
- Time on an electronic device or gaming system
- Recreation activity such as hiking, swimming, or biking
- Family game night
- Time spent on a favorite hobby
- Movie night
- Time with friends
Don’t allow procrastination to keep your child from reaching their goals. Once a child is behind, motivation can be lost and getting back on track can become very daunting.
Hopefully these simple tips for middle school preparation will enable your child move closer to becoming an effective, efficient, independent, and lifelong learner.