Magazine article AMLE Magazine

Smooth Sailing to Middle School

Magazine article AMLE Magazine

Smooth Sailing to Middle School

Article excerpt

Fear of the unknown-or fear based on a false belief- is one barrier fifth graders and their parents face as they make the transition to middle school. When this barrier is removed, students can embrace the new adventure and be successful.

Ask iPhone Siri what articulation is and she'll tell you it's "the shape or manner in which things come together and a connection is made." My articulation planning started about a decade ago when I was principal at James Cashman Middle School in Las Vegas, Nevada. Mrs. Webb, the principal of one of the feeder elementary schools, and I arranged for me to visit with her fifth graders in the spring to prepare them for middle school.

Since then, my articulation plan for feeder elementary school students has evolved to address the expectations and fears of students and parents, to build support and cohesion across the vertical alignment schools, to promote articulation between school leaders and teachers, and to promote student academic achievement.

School Articulation Visits

As principal at Saville Middle School in Las Vegas, I invited the four elementary alignment feeder school principals to my school in early August for a principals' planning session where we discussed our schools' data (demographic, discipline/attendance, academic growth, and master calendars), identified strengths and weaknesses, set goals, and formulated a plan for the successful transition of their fifth graders into Saville Middle School.

We recognized time as an important commodity for all educators and scheduled school visits and mutual activities so they were not overly disruptive to the fifth grade instructional time. We established a timeline for mutual activities, site visits, and teacher trainings, and set our plan in motion.

In October, I paid my first visit to the feeder schools to begin bonding with the students and teachers. The elementary school principals introduced me to each fifth grade classroom. I was careful to limit each visit to nine minutes per classroom. I strengthened our connection by asking such questions as, "Who has a sibling or friend at my school?" I presented the simple rules that would help the fifth graders prepare for middle school: 1) Come to school every day. 2) Complete all your work. 3) Follow all the rules.

Of course the students had many questions, but in order to stay within my nine minutes per classroom, I asked the teacher to collect and email me the student questions ahead of time. I reviewed them, combined and categorized them, and addressed them in a PowerPoint presentation.

During my January visit to each elementary school, I reviewed my PowerPoint from October with the fifth grade as a whole. With the help of a sixth grade student leader, I was able to answer more students' questions within this 30-minute assembly and I reminded the students that I would be back.

In early spring, a middle school counselor and student leaders from student council and National Junior Honor Society, and students from the performing/visual arts classes traveled to each elementary school to generate some excitement for student involvement in cocurricular activities. The counselor also distributed class registration packets and explained course selections.

I followed up this visit with a fifth grade parent night at my school so parents and fifth graders could turn in registration packets and meet me. I did a brief presentation about my philosophy, expectations, and the school, and answered questions. I was no stranger to the students and they were confident in introducing their parents to me. …

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