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How to manage the transition from elementary to middle school

onsejos prácticos para la transición de primaria a secundaria. Prepárate para gestionar este cambio y ayudar a los alumnos en esta etapa

The change, or rather, the transition between elementary and middle school is not always easy. Teachers can sometimes be unsure of how to prepare their students and manage this change as they enter this new stage. For this reason, in this post, we are going to explain some of the differences between the two stages. We hope you find this useful!

Table of contents

The curriculum: a great ally for managing change

It is important to analyze the transition from elementary to middle school and demystify the beliefs that surround it. The truth is that changes should be progressive and students should adapt to them gradually. Middle school teachers should be consistent with elementary school teachers during this transition in order to meet the needs of students.

Although both students and teachers are most affected during this transitional stage, the curriculum becomes a fundamental ally so that changes are progressive and students can adapt gradually. The curriculum has been designed to teach mathematical processes and knowledge gradually and without drastic changes. Therefore, it is essential to understand what the curriculum guidance is regarding this transition and the changes between elementary and middle school.

But what happens to students when they have to face these changes? How do elementary school teachers manage this change? How do the new middle school teachers receive it?

These questions raise doubts for many teachers. Therefore, we will delve into some of these questions and try to analyze them in order to address all the changes. Let’s go!

Preparation and managing a change in teachers.

How elementary and middle school teachers prepare to help students is vitally important. On the one hand, elementary school teachers have received specific degree-level teacher training, so they are not necessarily specialists in mathematics. On the other hand, middle school teachers have received specific training for a particular subject (such as mathematics), and teacher training can come later.

This fact makes a big difference in the day-to-day classroom life for both middle and elementary teachers. While middle school teachers tend to focus more on mathematical knowledge and how to deliver it to the class, elementary school teachers are class teachers, so they have many more subjects to deal with.

With this in mind, the concerns of elementary and middle school teachers are often very different. Added to this is a lack of communication with families: elementary teachers, also being tutors for the most part, have direct contact with families; however, middle school teachers do not, they must first talk to the tutors who then pass on information to student’s families.

Here are some tips to help you keep these differences in mind and know how to manage them.

Working together as teachers for a successful transition

A good way to join forces as teachers is finding moments to get together, share experiences, concerns, etc. Elementary teachers and middle school teachers should be in close communication as this can always help to break down barriers and be consistent.

Teachers’ associations are also a good point of contact. There are many of them all over the world. One of the most referential is the NCTM (National Council of Teachers of Mathematics) of the United States.

The teaching of mathematics as common ground

Elementary school teachers, do you remember how you learned mathematics in middle school? How about the middle school teachers? Do you remember how you learned math in elementary school? Sometimes, as teachers, we have internalized the way we learned to teach mathematics in our stage so much, that we do not pay enough attention to how our colleagues do it in middle or elementary school. Yes, a good way to be consistent is to get to know how our peers in other stages teach mathematics.

Students should start middle school knowing how to add, subtract, multiply and divide. But how do teachers teach the concept of addition? We do not only refer to algorithms, but to everything students need to know about addition. In this way, if teachers lack teaching tools which in turn prevents them from helping the students, then this can be the differentiating factor when helping students in their learning process. Let’s learn from our colleagues in the other stages!

How students change during the transition

Finally, how students change is an important aspect that must be taken into account when helping them during the transition. Students begin to stop being children. They become much more complex, rebellious even. Their social environment influences them much more in their learning process. Therefore, keeping the balance between what is similar to elementary school and what has changed in middle school will be key in helping them to adapt.

But we should not be afraid of change. Changes have to happen. We must begin to give them independence, to understand mistakes as an opportunity to learn, etc. Our training as teachers will be our great ally in meeting the new needs of our students. We would like to end with a key quote from John Cotton Dana:

  • Anna Llobet

    Content Writer and Communications. While studying at Barcelona’s Universidad Pompeu Fabra, she realized the importance of communication in transmitting knowledge and emotions. She has always been very interested in education and the values surrounding learning math: “Math is also a language to explain the world.”

  • Cecilia Calvo

    Cecilia Calvo has a degree in Mathematics from the Universidad de la República (Udelar) in Uruguay and a PhD in Teaching of Mathematics and Experimental Sciences from the Universidad Autónoma de Barcelona (UAB). With more than 30 years of teaching experience, she currently teaches math at the Galí Bellesguard School. She also leads training courses for mathematics teachers and collaborates with Innovamat.

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