Transitioning From Elementary School to Middle School – Study Strategies

Transitioning from an elementary school to a middle school or junior high school can be a frightening experience for many students. After all, for many children, this is the first time they will be moving from class to class without a teacher or school escort. Students will be learning from a variety of teachers with different specialties and teaching techniques. Also, they will be intermingling with many students rather than their small classroom cohort.

Yet, one of the hardest transitions for many students making the leap to the middle school level is test preparation. Parents often ask, “How should my child study for a test?”, hoping that there is a secret strategy that will guarantee their child’s success on exams. Unfortunately, there is not a one-size-fits-all technique when it comes to test preparation. That being said, here are a few helpful ideas that may ease your child’s stress level (and yours as well) and hopefully increase his overall performance.

Have a plan and get organized

Odds are your child will have homework in nearly every subject throughout the course of a given week. Help your child create a calendar where he can write down due dates for assignments as well as all of his extracurricular activities. This will give the student an opportunity to visually see how many days he has to prepare for an upcoming test. It will also be valuable as the child will see the other assignments and activities he needs to accomplish in addition to having to prepare for exams. Furthermore, this will help you and your child see if he will have multiple tests on a given day.

Even if your child has difficulty remembering his homework or has a habit of leaving his assignment notebook at school, most schools have homework and assignments listed online and available for parents and guardians. Familiarize yourself with the homework page for your child’s school so that you can help him populate his calendar with all important information.

Keep in mind middle schoolers are notorious procrastinators. If they see on Monday that a teacher has a test scheduled for Friday, then they think they don’t have to prepare for that test until Thursday night. Cramming does not work! With the jump to the middle school level, the amount of information received by the student increases exponentially and there is too much information to cram in the night before an examination. Try to help your child divide the task into manageable time chunks when it comes to studying. It is much easier and less nerve-racking to study for an hour a day for three days than to try to study for three hours the night before a test. Thus, have your child make a note on his calendar on the days leading up to the test date to start preparing for the test at least two or three days before the exam.

Encourage them to “find” time on their own

One of the biggest alibis middle schoolers have for poor test performance is that they didn’t have time to study for the test. It is true that most children are involved with multiple activities both inside and outside of school, which all require a substantial time commitment. However, there are times throughout the day that students can find to review material. This can occur in a study hall, a few minutes after they finish lunch or in the car on the way to soccer practice. The goal is to encourage your child to review the material as often as possible. While I understand this is easier said than done, ten minutes here and there can make all the difference. Repetition of the main concepts is key.

Repetition develops talent

It doesn’t matter if your child is attempting to learn a new musical number for the piano, trying to memorize lines for the upcoming school play, working on his penalty kick, or trying to throw the perfect curveball, repetition is always the key. Too many times students think because they re-read the chapter the night before the test that they have “studied” and are prepared. They need to familiarize themselves with the material on a continual basis. It doesn’t matter the subject, the more students study the material, the greater their chances for success. After all, we don’t expect them to master a musical piece after only playing it once, so why would we expect the same when it comes to school content?

Find the method that works best for your child

There are many different ways that a student can study for a test, such as:

· Flashcards

· Re-reading the text

· Taking the textbook practice tests

· Creating his own study guide

· Re-writing her classroom notes

· Having another person quiz him

· Finding online practice quizzes

All of these are viable strategies to prepare for tests, but the key point here is to have the child find the strategy that works best for him. This will take some time to flush out. Each child learns differently and each must find the way (or ways) that gives him the best shot at success. A child’s preferred method might be one of the aforementioned strategies, or it might be a combination of the strategies, or it might be a strategy that does not even appear on the list. It does not matter what strategy the student chooses as long as it works consistently and is sustainable. Encourage your child to play with different strategies in order to find the methods that best fit his style of learning. And if your child isn’t getting the results he wants, then don’t be afraid to encourage him to experiment with different methods. Continue to experiment until he does find the one method that produces the desired results. After all, he will need to carry with him proper study skills well past the middle school level. The goal here is to help your child feel confident in his ability to prepare for a test on his own by the time he enters high school.

And of course, the stakes only go up from there.

Why Your School?

What are the real reasons people send their children to your school? Do you truly know? If you did know, how would that change your programming?

There is a parochial school in Chicago that says the reason parents send their children to the school is, “Superior academic education, safe learning environment, caring teachers, and religious education.” Are those the reasons your parents send their children to your school? How similar is that to what the parents say?

We interviewed a couple whose son recently graduated from the school mentioned above (eighth grade). We asked them if they were satisfied with the educational experience? With great enthusiasm, the parents told us that their son took the public high school placement tests. He placed in AP sophomore math and English. He skipped the freshman classes.

They felt the school provided a superior academic education just as it said it would. They also mentioned the caring teachers and the safe learning environment. Perhaps they mentioned the other things because of the importance the school places on them.

When asked if they would send there daughter to the school, their response was, “Heavens no! She doesn’t need it. For her it would be a waste of money.”

Their daughter is two years younger than their son. She is a top student in the Chicago public schools. She has caring teachers. She is in a safe learning environment. The parents are ordained ministers in a different denomination than their son’s school. They prefer the religious education the children receive at home.

When the family moved to Chicago 4 years ago, their son had special needs. They thought their son needed help with socialization, confidence, disciple (structure and organization rather than behavior), and focus. They choose the school because parents in the neighborhood said the school could provide what was needed.

The family was thrilled with the results. They feel it was worth every penny of the $5,500 per year for the tuition. They have many indicators that their son has improved in all of the areas they were concerned about.

Most of what the school said it was providing was necessary for this family (religious education is the exception). However, those necessary items were unable to justify the tuition for their daughter. The school never claimed to be able to help with the items that really mattered to the son and justified the tuition.

The fact that the family sent one child, rather than both, says the family is discerning. Many families are less discerning. They make the decision to send neither child because they are unable to understand the value to the second child.

How much better could the parochial Chicago school have done if it had been intentional about meeting the needs of that boy? How many other children could they enroll if they were intentional and collected evidence of their success? Would the family mentioned above have sent the second child if the school was more intentional and aware of its value to the community?

Do you really know why parents send their children to your school?

Next Step:

Determine why parents think your school is worth the tuition
Determine how to provide greater value through intentionally providing the services that justify the tuition
Collect evidence that the school does change lives in important ways

It is important to remember that what parents want today is different from what they wanted 10 years ago or will want 10 years from now. Providing value for tuition is a constantly moving target.

The schools that are able to make annual adjustments are the ones that are prospering and have sustainable programs. For others, sometimes the adjustment process starts too late and they close. Every school is either prospering or at risk. Where is your school?

How well aligned is what you say your school does with what parents want and what they are willing to for pay? Sustainability increases as the alignment increases.

Do you know how to check the alignment?