It’s that time of year! School is almost ending! And while to many it is a joyful time, for some it is a bit scary. I am an occupational therapist and part of an elementary school community. And the 5th graders are getting ready for a huge transition. Think about it. It is a huge change. Many say things like “kids have it easy.” But think about it, as a child, their worries/cares are just as big to them as our adult worries/cares are to us. It’s all relative. Here are some of the challenges or novel experiences our soon to be middle schoolers are facing:
- going to more than one classroom
- short amount of time to get to classrooms
- larger building to get around
- more students around (larger student body)
- lockers!!!!!!!! and locker locks
- carrying more stuff around
- 6 day schedule? what is that?
- more independence needed overall!
- gym uniform????? lol
This is a list I compiled just from experience. But think of what the student must be feeling from his/her 11/12 year old brain? The other day my writing prompt was about such a topic. The starter sentence was: “Some things I’d like to practice before 6th grade are….”
And the answers were amazing. More than I covered on my above list! They included:
- being nice/making friends
- behaving like a 6th grader
- going to classes on time
- learning how to lock and unlock lockers
- going to lunch on time
- getting on the bus on time
- finishing homework
What can we do as professionals and parents to support our kiddos who are about to embark onto the next step of their educational experience? As an OT, I do the following with my 5th grade students, which can easily been carried out by parents/caregivers as well!
- Students are currently practicing locker lock/combinations. Purchase one now and start practicing! What a relief to have that figured out how to work one before 6th grade!
- Get a copy of a 6 day cycle schedule and start checking that out and discuss how it works.
- Have your child do a tour of the middle school. Many do provide that option.
- See if your middle school has a “orientation” day. In our district we provide a special day in summer with a fun scavenger hunt including locker practice.
- Literally practice putting things into and out of your backpack into a locker (we have one in the OT room). At home you can practice this with any closet/surface, just to practice sorting the books/clothing/lunch.
- Binders: get used to them. And have your child get used to them! Organization is a key skill in middle school. Learning how to organize materials by subject and by periods in the day is pertinent.
- Keep the writing skills going. Keep a journal over summer that includes writing a paragraph or two about something he/she did that day.
- Keep the peer relationships going. Have get-togethers or adventures even after school ends.
- As fall gets closer, go over the bus schedule, or even take a ride with your child on to show the bus route.
- Make extra copies of your child’s schedule to have in the event he/she loses or forgets his/hers.
- Keep encouraging your child to maintain his/her room, supplies, etc., so that the organization skills continue.
Remember, school transitions are tough for little minds. Let’s do as much as we can as parents/teachers to help ease the transition!
Mary L. Adolf, M.S., OTR/L