Saturday, March 3, 2012

A Smart Girl's Guide to Starting Middle School

It is that time of year....time to start talking about middle school and helping students prepare for the new environment of 500 students per grade level, lockers with combination locks, more freedom, puberty, and peer pressure. This year, my plan is to help my students through a couple whole group classroom guidance lessons, a visit to the middle school, and also some small groups for students who could use a little extra support.
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I just ordered a set of 5 of these American Girl books: A Smart Girl's Guide to Starting Middle School by Julie Williams.  I plan on organizing my group based on the chapters of the book:

Week 1: Fresh Start: A New Mindset
(What are your worries, concerns, and fears? What do you think middle school will be like? Things to think about before you go. Starting with a positive attitude)

Week 2: A New School: Navigating Your Way Around (practice opening locker combinations, making a good first impression with peers and teachers)

Week 3: Subjects (how to stay organized, new study habits, how to use homework hotline, importance of taking notes)

Week 4: Friends (how to deal with fading friendships and making new friends, avoiding peer pressure, building self esteem and being proud of who you are)

Week 5: Bringing it all together/closing

This is my outline so far. I plan to use the book like a book study and add a few other resources and activities. I'm really excited to get this group started. Do any of you run groups like this? If so please offer ideas and suggestions! :)


  1. Good for you! First of all, we always talk about the distortions and myths about middle school that are rampant on TV and in the movies. (getting shoved into a locker, clueless teachers, stereotypical characters, etc.) I have them talk about discrepancies that they notice between real life situations that they are already familiar with and TV/film portrayals. This generates a lot of discussion and relief.

    I also cover the importance of identifying a trusted adult. Many of them have been in our elementary school since they were little and have had long term relationships with me and their classroom teachers, so haven't ever had to do this. Also, they have had one classroom teacher each year who gets to know them well and probably notice if something is wrong. In the middle school they will be changing classes, so may have to take more responsibility for speaking up if they need help. On the plus side, having more teachers gives them more opportunity for finding a "good fit" trusted adult, but they need to be proactive about this.

    Another thing we do is study a map of the middle school, which seems to assuage a lot of concerns.

    1. Thanks a lot for the advice! I have been developing this idea more today and have added an activity where the students will draw a support tree and include people they feel comfortable going to for help. I am also going to have them include people at the middle school who they could go ask for help. I am going to use some Activities from this PDF:

  2. I run a "Jitter Bug Club" for my 5th graders. We basically discuss the same topics. One neat thing that we do is, with the collaboration of the middle school counselor, we blog with 8th graders and ask questions. The 8th graders answer their questions about middle school. The 5th graders love the communication with older students and find out that middle school isn't as scary as they think.

  3. Maybe we can have our future middle school students blog or skype together. It would be neat to see students across the states working on the middle school jitters together. Michelle

  4. Michele that is such an awesome idea! I can't wait to try that this year, thank you!

  5. I love this idea. I am in my practicum and am preparing to start a small group of girls on the transition into Middle School. I may use some of these ideas!