Transition to Middle School

The transition from elementary to middle school presents students with increased academic demands and takes place during early adolescence, one of the most challenging developmental phases to navigate. As students adjust to a shift in their school environment, an expanding social world, and their own rapidly growing sense of self, they must also respond to more complex academic demands. Schools and districts must simultaneously address the harms and inequities of the pandemic while planning for each student’s transition. 

Guiding Questions

  • How can faculty and staff develop the capacity to effectively implement a transition support program that will address the needs of all students?
  • In what ways can school leaders prioritize classroom practices that support the social emotional learning and well-being of students?
Examples, Tools and Strategies
Strategies Aligned Resources

Explicitly teach students about middle school   

Schedules, routines, behavioral norms, and academic expectations all become increasingly complex in middle school.  When explicitly taught school routines and expectations, either during a structured orientation session or through daily practice during the first weeks, students gain clarity about the new demands of middle school.  This allows students to practice their growing independence in safe ways and gain confidence in their ability to navigate challenges as they arise.   

Review the “Middle School Matters: A Guide for Georgia Schools on Middle School Transition+ Add to Action Plan toolkit that is intended to help educators, families, and students understand the process of transitioning to middle school. Pages 21-24 provide an overview of activities that introduce rising 5th graders to middle school norms, practices, and expectations.  

Structure teacher collaboration across schools 

Elementary and middle school teachers can work together to share information about transitioning students, their learning successes, and required supports.  This information exchange is most fruitful and comprehensive when teachers’ collaboration is scheduled into the school-year calendar and operates according to a structured, common protocol.  Teachers can take their partnership one step further by organizing a transition night for students, families, and school staff that includes a school tour and presentation of supportive resources.  With current concerns about Covid-19, this transition or welcome event may need to be held virtually.

Read this article + Add to Action Plan to learn about strategies to build a culture of teacher collaboration in your school and/or district and  actions teacher teams can take to enhance student learning and supports.