Transition to Highschool

The transition from primary to secondary school is in the limelight with the change that Queensland schools will undergo in 2015 with both Year 6 and 7 students commencing high school.  A large percentage of students move into their new schools and thrive on the challenges that secondary school offers, such as a range of different teachers and specialty subjects, whole-class debates, moving from class to class and navigating a timetable. For some students however, it are these exact ‘exciting challenges’ that make students with language and/or learning difficulties frightened to leave the security and support of their primary school.  Without careful planning and support, this transition into the next step in their education can cause extra anxiety for the students.

In addition, parents know when their child is struggling with the primary school curriculum and the thought of their children having to not only face a much more complex academic level as well as being subjected to social interactions with hormone-raging teenagers is enough to drive any parent into a state of despair.

So, how can we make this transition a bit easier for our vulnerable year 6s who are the unlucky first ones to make the great leap into deep unknown of high school?  PREPARATION!!

For children with anxiety (often derived from language/learning difficulties), they benefit greatly from familiarization.  A lot of high schools host open days to allow for this familiarization process however for a small number of children this is not sufficient.  On way to reduce this anxiety is to take photos on the ipad or iphone of the home rooms where they are likely to be, the port racks, the toilets, the manual arts building, home economics rooms etc, with the school’s permission of course.  Encourage your child to flick through the pictures at their own pace on a weekly basis over the summer holidays and use the pictures as a talking point.  Ensure to keep your voice as “matter of fact” and put a positive spin on the experience of starting high school. It would be great if some schools would put these pictures on their website to make these visual focus points more accessible.

The visual representations of the classrooms can also lead onto the practice of reading timetables.  Make up a few mock timetables (focusing only on 1 day at a time) so that your child becomes adept and confident in reading their timetables.  With reference to the timetable you can ask them what types of school equipment they would need for the different subjects e.g. for maths they need to make sure they have their protractor, calculator and maths grid book.

Once you have their booklist you can help their organizational skills by coordinating their books into their subjects.  Then conspicuously place the same type of sticker on all the books/equipment that relate to that subject, for example, all of the items that are required for science would be marked with a teenage mutant ninja turtle sticker in the bottom right corner. When they get their real timetable you can put the corresponding sticker next to each subject on the timetable so that they will remember the equipment for each class.

Other school students entering high school who have difficulties reading, writing, problem solving and socializing may in fact have underlying language difficulties. Some students are great at masking their poor understanding or ability to use language and may present in the classroom as the following:

  • the class clown
  • the student who is not engaged
  • the daydreamer
  • the student with behavioural difficulties

If you consider that a large percentage of schooling life is conducted orally, you can start to understand why these students who have language difficulties disengage or misbehave at school etc.  Children with weaker language skills benefit from visual aids to support the spoken instructions and explanations from their teachers.  Therefore, it is important to use drawings, mind-maps and visual organisers to help explain concepts that come up in their homework.  Another strategy to help overcome language difficulties is to practice identifying key words in a sentence and then building this up so that they can summarise a paragraph.  It would be important to practice this skill building activity with books/stories of their interests such as Ninja Turtle books, or lego books etc

High school can be such a challenging time for any student and all a parent wants is that their child can talk to them about it.  While adolescence and tweenies (that is, students who are between being children and teenagers) often find it difficult to communicate their feelings and thoughts with parents, one way around this would be to encourage them to use a mood diary (checkout imoodjournal app for ipads).  While in the tweenie stage they may still share their entries with you but as they get older this role may become taken over by the chaplain or guidance officer.  Make “special time” each evening to have a chat about your child’s day. By getting into this daily routine now it will help keep those communication streams open.

By implementing these few tips now, it will better help to prepare your child and help their transition into high school.


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