Preparing For Highschool

The middle grades 7/8 are very much about high school preparation. Below are some of the ways we will be preparing.

I do not require students to follow a set organizational strategy, such as an agenda. Rather, I model various strategies of self organization and encourage and prompt students to find a way that works for them.

For instance, to track due dates and upcoming important events, I use:
-a physical calendar within the classroom
-a list/checklist on the board in the classroom
-a list on the blog

Students could choose to use their agenda, the calendar on their personal device, the list function on their device, the reminders function on their device, a calendar at home, etc.

I provide prompts and opportunities for inputing this information, to start, but then expect students to carry on with the method of their choice. The blog is always available to find the information they require.

I regularly model my organizational approaches during the year.

As students enter high-school, they are going to be asked to self regulate and choose methods that work best for them.

Students, consider: how can you organize your many tasks? Which method will you use?

I like to break larger projects down into smaller, more manageable chunks so that students can see how the process works and time themselves accordingly.

For writing tasks, for example, I have a tracking system in the classroom that highlights where each student is through out the writing process: are you brain storming? on your first draft? editing and revising? Working on your final draft?

I help students keep track of where they are and where they need to be.

We are also working on large independent projects that will last several months. Again, these are broken down into steps with corresponding dead lines.

Students, how can you transfer this practice into other areas of your life? 

Definitely once you get to high school students are expected to be more independent.

I like to promote independence in various ways.

First, by providing choice and options in various assignments.

For instance, instead of a making everyone write the same essay response, I will offer a choice of options and also always the option of STUDENT CHOICE TBD, meaning the student can come up with their own option and approach me to see if it would work.

I will often also provide choice not just in topic but in format. In geography, for instance, I may provide different format options: drama, art, music/song, written review, digital video/website, etc, as a means of communicating knowledge.

Secondly, in my homework policy, especially as it relates to math, I like to give students the opportunity to improve their math skills if they decide that is what they need. Do they need to do more work on fractions? Well, I've got review material and activities on my blog if that is the case! But if you excel at this task, you may chose not to do this particular task.

In this way, students are encouraged to take ownership over their learning needs. 'What do I need to succeed?' is the question I want them to be asking themselves. What is it you need? Is it review? Is is an extension? Is it extra help?  Is it more practice? Take ownership of what you need and I'll give you the tools to find what you need.

The decision thus rests with the student, promoting independence.

Students, how can you become more independent in guiding your learning choices?

In high school, students are often asked to start career planning, and to take inventory of their strengths and needs, and to better understand their learning styles and areas of interest.

We will engage in a lot of conversation around this self-exploration and I also built it into my program. Offering choice of format, as well as topic, allows students to notice which ones they gravitate to. Do they like representing ideas in dramatic form? With technology? Via writing? What subjects most engage them?

These are important conversations to have before starting high school.

Students, consider what are your interests, skills, needs, abilities?

I use technology a lot in my classroom as a teacher. It's my main method of organization my materials and my plans. So I model the use of digital citizenship, digital access, digital communication, digital learning.

I also like to ensure that intermediate students are well versed in standard tech skills: accessing, sending and receiving email, using email to ask questions of teachers, using digital platforms in the cloud for ease of communicating (Google docs makes writing tasks so much easier, as you can work on them from any internet -accessed device).

That's just a few examples.

In high school (and beyond), students will find this bank of tech skills useful and adaptable to various situations.

Students, how can you use technology to support your learning? 

We will take regular trips to Eastview. Eastview does an exemplary job of easing the transition from grade 8 to grade 9, starting in the late winter/early spring.

I have also in the past worked closely with Eastview teachers, organizing, for example, a grade 8/9 STEAM project that we completed in a grade 9 science class at Eastview. I'm hoping to do some other cross elementary-high school activities this year!

If you've any questions about preparing for high school, please do not hesitate to contact me!
Julie Johnson

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