5 Tips for a Successful Primary to Secondary Transition

We’re so excited to shared that Samantha, from Samantha in Secondary, is our guest blogger today. Samantha has written an excellent blog post all about helping your students with the transition from primary to secondary grades, so keep reading to learn more — and what a timely post this is, as the end of the school year is a light at the end of the tunnel now!

This is a title graphic that says, "5 Tips for a Successful Primary to Secondary Transition" with a photograph of letter blocks and colored pencils on a classroom table.

As a 9th grade teacher, transitions are something routinely discussed and reflected upon with my colleagues. Early success in a student’s first year of high school is imperative. The number of students who graduate high school and move on to higher education is directly correlated to their ability to pass 9th grade. Yet, each year we receive an alarming number of students who are wildly unprepared both academically and socially. Open communication between secondary and primary educators is key in working to alleviate this gap. In no way do most secondary educators believe that elementary school teachers “aren’t doing their jobs,” but there is always room to be more intentional about the ways that we set students up for success. Below are five things to keep in mind so that we can all continue to work together in the best interest of kids.

Routines: Set routines and stick to them. Pacing is usually rigorous at the secondary level, and there isn’t much time to reteach routines. Students are expected to adapt quickly. The earlier they can achieve this skill, the better. Continue to remind students of the importance of routine and following instructions the first time. Those consistent reminders will help them transition more smoothly.

Hold the Line: Deadlines are important, and I can’t count how many students have come to me (or have had their parents contact me) looking for any wiggle room they can find. We’ve all heard every excuse in the book for why students can’t get their work in on time. Enforce deadlines without apology. They just get firmer as students progress.

Discuss Professional Etiquette: At the beginning of the year, I always do a presentation on the proper way to email a teacher. (You can find the presentation I use here if you’d like to check it out!) I always suggest to all of my middle school teacher friends to start this conversation as early as possible. Students sometimes still don’t understand why they shouldn’t email their teacher the same way they’d text their friends. Discuss this skill early and often.

Rigor: Get students comfortable with lessons that don’t include a song and dance. A lesson that is engaging to a secondary educator isn’t necessarily the same at the primary level. (Wouldn’t we all love if every lesson included a song and dance, but alas, we all have standards to hit!) I have seen some amazing work by teachers who put a lot of time and effort into their lessons and are able to include rigor, as well as an element of entertainment, but that becomes almost impossible as students get to upper level courses with more content to cover. Let them learn to get comfortable with a “boring” lesson occasionally.

Soft Skills: Elementary teachers are excellent at reminding students to treat people kindly and fairly. When I’m scrolling through my Instagram feed, I see plenty of examples of the great work primary educators do in this area, and they often practice what they preach! Show students how these skills directly translate into their academics. Assign and monitor the soft skills of group projects: collaboration, listening, clear communication, dividing responsibility, presenting, displaying leadership, etc. Showing students how to effectively provide peer feedback as young as possible lays an excellent foundation for their secondary career. All of these skills are usually quite a work in progress, even as freshmen in high school, so starting them early and practicing often is beyond helpful.

In addition to these five tips, consistent reminders and open dialogue about the transition to secondary education can help students mentally prepare themselves. If possible, bring in a group of secondary students to discuss the transition with your students or schedule a school tour. Getting students as comfortable as possible before the transition actually takes place can make a world of difference!

This is a headshot of Samantha from Samantha in SecondarySamantha is the blogger and teacherpreneur behind Samantha in Secondary. She has been teaching for 12 years in a variety of secondary settings and currently teaches 9th grade ELA in rural Maryland. Samantha is passionate about literacy and classroom management. Follow along through her blog or on Instagram @SamanthainSecondary.

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