Monday, April 26, 2010

Three Tips for a Smooth Transition

The following is a guest blog post I wrote for the Really Good Stuff Teacher's Lounge Blog.

Three Tips for a Smooth Transition

The school year is winding down. State testing is in full swing and summer is right around the corner. As educational professionals we get used to the routine of the school year. It important to remember, however, that although we may be in our groove, students are moving on and transitioning.

As a school counselor, I work with students and teachers through various transitions. Transitions can be challenging, whether the transition is from Pre-school to Kindergarten, elementary school to middle school, middle school to high school, or even from one grade to the next. I have found that there are three things that can create a smooth transition for students: involving stakeholders, addressing questions and concerns, and having fun!

1. Involve Stakeholders
Involving stakeholders is a great first step to a smooth transition. Stakeholders can be anyone who is directly or indirectly involved with the population of students transitioning. If students are transitioning from Pre-school to Kindergarten, stakeholders would be the parents of the students, Pre-school teachers, Kindergarten teachers, principals, counselors, and other professional and support staff who have regular contact with the population. Creating open communication with all stakeholders allows everyone who works with the students to feel heard and connected. It is essential to involve parents from the beginning. Parents play a valuable role in students’ education and can offer great insight into their students’ needs.

2. Address Questions and Concerns
Even when students appear to be perfectly ok with transitions, chances are they still have questions or concerns.  As part of the transition program from fifth to sixth grade at my school, I gave all of the fifth grade students a blank index card. I asked them to write their name, one thing they would like me to know about them, and one question or concern they have about attending sixth grade.  Almost every student had a question and/or concern. When students were finished I asked for volunteers to share what they wrote on their card. This activity was great because students concerns were normalized and heard.  I was able to answer their questions and address their concerns and it helped me to get to know students.  When addressing questions and concerns it is also a good idea to debunk any myths students may have heard about the next grade or a new school.

3. Have Fun!
Transitions do not have to be scary; they can be exciting and fun! At my school, in order to make the transition from fifth to sixth grade fun and nonthreatening, we are creating a transition program that includes more than just a tour. Students will participate in fun activities that promote interaction with the other fifth grade students, including creating a wall of tolerance, making a healthy snack, learning Zumba, and other interactive activities.  Show students that change is a normal and necessary part of life, and they have fun doing it!

The end of the year can be a difficult time for students and education professionals alike, especially if students do not know what to expect in the next chapter of their educational journey. No matter where students are transitioning to or from, teachers and other educational professionals play a valuable role in creating a smooth transition for students.

Danielle is a K-12 Certified School Counselor, Nationally Certified Counselor, and blogger at School Counselor Blog, a place where school counselors share innovative ideas, creative lesson plans, and quality resources.  Contact Danielle via email, follow her on twitter, and become a fan of the School Counselor Blog Facebook Page.

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