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Effective Middle School Orientation Activities

by Karen LoBello, studioD

Kids leave the familiar environment of elementary school to tread the waters of middle school. This change typically occurs in sixth grade. Middle-school students face academic and social challenges ranging from having six different teachers to maneuvering stubborn locker combinations. Parents can ensure their children participate in orientations offered by the school, and they can also initiate activities to help their tweens feel more confident transitioning to middle school.

Visit the School

Middle schools are usually larger and more complex than elementary schools, and when kids visit ahead of time, they might feel less intimidated on the first day of school. Elementary students often tour the middle school as a group, but parents can also arrange visits. Worrying about places such as the cafeteria and the locker room in the gym might cause prospective middle-school students to lose sleep. When they see these spots, it can alleviate many of their concerns. Schools sometimes send out schedules before the start of school, so children and parents can map out a route as they walk room to room. Even attending a concert or a sporting event at the school will make it seem less foreign.

Practice Opening a Combination Lock

Locker combinations are a major source of anxiety for future middle-school students. If possible, look at the actual lockers at the middle school. Parents can buy combination locks so their children can practice opening them before the start of school. Even though the school personnel might issue their own locks with different combinations, the tween will have gained confidence that she can maneuver any lock. A variation would be making a combination lock from heavy paper and a fastener. The child can practice moving the dial to match various combinations

Read the Handbook

Kids who are about to enter middle school have plenty of questions, and many of them will be answered when they read the school's handbook. Parents can look through the book with their children and talk about such items as rules of conduct and dress code regulations. Many kids are eager to find out all they can about middle school before they get there, so their interest is piqued and they're open for discussion.

Work on Organizational Skills

Some kids struggle with middle-school academics, and organization and time management are often at the root of their problems. Parents can give their children responsibilities at home that require time management. They can also teach their kids how to use organizational tools such as a notebook or a three-ring binder. Children of this age often don't realize how quickly papers from different classes can overwhelm them if they're not filed in the correct spots. Parents should buy a daily agenda planner and show their children how to record objectives and homework. Discussing these skills can lessen a child's anxiety.

Explore Extracurricular Options

Because tweens begin to turn more to friends and peers than parents, it's important for them to feel like part of a group. Being involved in extracurricular activities fills this void. Parents can arrange for their children to visit choir, band or orchestra classes so they can form opinions about which group they might like to be part of. They could rent an instrument during the summer if the child shows an interest. Kids who think they'd enjoy drama class can join a theater group that would give them confidence to try out for school plays.

About the Author

Karen LoBello is coauthor of “The Great PJ Elf Chase: A Christmas Eve Tradition.” She began writing in 2009, following a career as a Nevada teacher. LoBello holds a bachelor's degree in K-8 education, a secondary degree in early childhood education and a master's degree in computer education.

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