The Transition to Middle School
Fifth Grade Parent Meeting
Thursday, May 21, 2015
6:00-7:00 pm – Auditorium
Would you like to hear how having four sections will affect the sixth grade next year? If this is your oldest child, do you want to know what to expect from the move up to the “third floor?” Are you curious about what a cohesive middle school means within a K-8 school? Fifth grade parents are invited to join the sixth grade teachers, Vice Principal Laura Horst, and me on Thursday evening to get an overview and introduction to sixth grade. Here is a preview of some of the areas we will address:
Cohesive Middle School
Our work to create a cohesive middle school within a K-8 setting began 6 years ago. Some of the key components include:
- Aligning the sixth grade schedule with the Grade 7-8 schedule to allow teachers to teach across grades and to provide support services more effectively.
- Establishing an Advisory program 3 times a week that provides a smaller community for students and enables a stronger connection to one adult. Each grade follows a grade level specific curriculum based on the developmental and social needs of the students. Teachers use Developmental Designs as a guide. Since the launch of the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program in January of 2013, a weekly Olweus meeting has been part of advisory during which students and advisor discuss school climate related to children feeling safe and included.
- Establishing a twice weekly common planning time meeting for all grades 6-8 teachers that enables teachers to meet in a variety of configurations to discus student performance, to plan collaboratively, and to develop common initiatives.
- Adding a grades 6-8 Conservatory program that increased music to twice a week, created larger performance groups (Chorus, Band, Orchestra), and enabled us to offer non-performance options (guitar, music production).
Sixth Grade Specific
We see sixth grade as a transition year from self-contained elementary grades to working with many teachers. Here are some important features in sixth grade:
- Students have an additional homeroom period four days a week (in addition to Advisory three times a week). This time is used for extra support and extension, but also enables students to spend extra time and develop a stronger relationship with a homeroom teacher.
- Students change classes for English, Math, Science and Social Studies, but remain with their homeroom group throughout the day. In seventh and eighth grade, they are divided into at least two different groups during the day.
- Spanish continues in the elementary FLES model (3 times a week), but increases to 45 minutes per day.
In December, I wrote about one key decision we made in preparing for our first four-section grade level moving into sixth grade. We intentionally chose to keep the sixth grade a transitional year by providing the extra homeroom period. We are sorry to give up (for one year) having sixth grade teachers teach one section of seventh grade because this model provides continuity of teachers for students in seventh grade and opportunities for departmental collaboration for teachers. We feel strongly, however that the sixth grade homeroom structure gives students a solid foothold and allows them to form a stronger relationship with one teacher. These relationships are key to our cohesive middle school.
BEF Celebrating Teachers
Last Tuesday, I had the pleasure of attending the Brookline Education Foundation’s annual Celebrating Teachers event. I always find this event uplifting – learning about the creative grants grants and hearing the inspirational speeches given by this year’s winners of the Caverly Award for Excellence in Teaching (Stephanie McAllister – BHS Social Studies and Alyssa Rubenstein Schneider – Runkle Gr. 5). We are very appreciative of the support BEF has been providing teachers for the past 34 years.
Congratulations to two Lawrence staff members whose grants were not previously announced:
- Dominique Ferdinand for “I Teach K! Conference” collaborative grant. Dominique and 3 other Brookline K teachers received funding to attend a national Kindergarten conference.
- Dianne Muendel, our Literacy coach, was selected as one of the inaugural “Margaret Metzger Fellows.” Dianne and the other fellows will devote time this summer to writing about their lives in teaching. Their pieces will be shared at a public celebration in September. To read more about Margaret Metzger, the late BHS English teacher, from whom this fellowship’s inspiration is drawn, go to: http://www.brooklineeducation.org/node/171.
Previously Announced Teacher Grants
- Maggie Russell – Gr. 2 Teacher - “Japan” (winner of the BEF’s Adam Russell Gelfand Award). Maggie will travel to Japan this summer along with this year’s SET-J teacher, Keryn Gannon.
- Vicki LaRiccia & Gabby Mahesh – Special Education Teachers. – “Time for the Mind: Drawing Students to the Present Moment by Creating Mindful Classrooms“They will attend a summer conference at the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health.
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