California Department of Education
Taking Center Stage – Act II
After the school year begins, many mentors/buddies get involved in their own activities and the relationships with incoming students naturally decreases. As a result, many schools continue to foster the transition for incoming students by structuring the day differently for the younger students.
Often schools operate the sixth-grade classes in a separate section of the school in self-contained or semi-self-contained classes. In some cases, the school also provides separate lunch hours and passing periods. The goal is usually to provide sixth-grade students with a modified, more sheltered middle school experience in their first year. Younger students may appreciate the semi-contained environment, but they also need activities making them an integral part of the school.
Castaic Middle School, Castaic Union Elementary School District, a 2003 Schools to Watch™-Taking Center Stage Model School
To help incoming sixth graders adjust to middle school, they begin the year in a six-week core group. At the end of the six-week period, teachers move the students into classes based on assessment results.
Castaic DataQuest School Profile
Castaic Middle School (Outside Source)
Schools to Watch™-Taking Center Stage—Visitor's Guide: Castaic Middle School, (PDF; Outside Source)
Schools to Watch™-Taking Center Stage
Seventh- and eighth-grade classes in a developmentally responsive middle school become progressively more departmentalized as students become more mature. While sixth-grade students may be in self-contained classes, seventh-grade students may be in semi-self-contained classes such as a humanities core that includes language, literature, and social studies or in interdisciplinary teams where they travel within a small pack. By eighth grade, students are ready for more frequent class changes and ready to bridge to high school.
In the middle grades, teachers, parents, and other significant adults work to help adolescents begin with the end in mind. Planning ahead poses a challenge to young adolescents, particularly when most of them are not thinking more than a couple of days in advance. Because the end in mind for many young adolescents may be connected with their current interests and talents, middle school counselors and teachers can facilitate the end in mind by exposing students through electives and integrated career explorations to begin thinking about their futures. Use of personalized learning plans that help students think about interests, goals, and achievement of standards can become the foundation for successful transitions to a high school that will meet their learning needs and give wings to their future dreams.
Edna Hill Middle School, Brentwood Union Elementary School District, a 2007 Schools to Watch™-Taking Center Stage Model School
Each student at Edna Hill Middle School receives help in developing an Individual Learning Plan in sixth grade. Teachers, counselors, and parent/guardians help the students keep their learning plans updated until they promote to ninth grade.
Developmentally responsive practices help incoming students adjust to their new peer group successfully and make new friends. Clubs, organized lunch activities, sports, service-learning opportunities, and after-school offerings all help younger students to experience the excitement of exploration, making new friends, and developing competence in new skills.
Teachers help younger students by becoming familiar with student communities and then encouraging new students to get involved in school activities. For example, if a teacher learns that a student loves to doodle, the teacher can encourage that student to take the art elective or exploratory wheel that includes art. Teachers also support the integration of new students and development of good peer relationships through small advisory groups and morning meetings.
Relationships are a key element in the transition to middle school. Peer counselors and peer mediators can help students work through misunderstandings among friends or address incidents of bullying.
John Glenn Middle School of International Studies, Desert Sands Unified School District, a 2004 Schools to Watch™-Taking Center Stage Model School
The ATLAS (Approaches to Learning Academic Seminar) class for sixth-grade students helps involve them in the International Baccalaureate (IB) culture at John Glenn. The yearlong class meets daily and teaches them skills needed for success: planning, note taking, communication, and a positive sense of self. To reinforce the student culture of respect, the school administrator meets with the class in early September. Students attend monthly meetings with the counselor in workshops addressing important social and academic topics. In addition, fall academic rallies reinforce and recognize the school’s academic culture. Providing opportunities for the students to follow the school culture is critical since one-third of the population is new each year.
Bridge to the Middle
Family welcome and involvement
1“Eureka School Delays Onset of 'Teen Attitude'," California Educator, Vol. 10, Issue 6 (March 2006).
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California Department of Education
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Sacramento, CA 95814