Leaping into middle school with confidenceOn March 19, 2019 by Heather
A 5th grade boy asked me if he was going to get crushed in the hallway. A 5th grade girl worried that she wouldn’t get the lock on her locker opened fast enough.
Questions flooded out as my students expressed so many concerns about…middle school.
It wasn’t all worry. My students were excited about different sports, clubs, and opportunities (and, of course, new friends). But they had so many specific questions that were really gnawing at them and squelching what could be excitement.
At my school, we were already doing the typical things. We take kids on tours of the middle schools. We share information about open house, sports tryouts, clubs, and other opportunities. But the more I listened, I could tell that my students’ questions really needed to be answered by kids who were experiencing middle school.
One day, an idea struck me. We use technology in my classroom to enhance learning all of the time. Why not use this technology to build a bridge between my students and middle school students?
We had been using Flipgrid frequently in my classroom to make videos to enhance learning. Why not use Flipgrid to video questions to send to middle school peers?
We could develop video pen pals and conversations which would empower my students to feel more confident about their upcoming transition.
To get started, I needed to find a teacher at the middle school who would co-pilot my project. I had previously worked with the middle school technology coach, so I reached out to her and she was immediately on board. She enlisted the help of a homeroom teacher who was already familiar with and using Flipgrid. We quickly became partners and our students video pen pals!
Now it was time to get organized, so I took some time with my students to collect their questions.
What were their fears? What did they need to know about middle school to feel confident? What questions seemed silly, but felt important?
Some of their questions were typical, ”Can we sit with our friends at lunch?”. Some were surprising, “Are the bathrooms clean?”… Some were encouraging, “If there isn’t a club we are interested in, can we schedule an appointment with the principal to try to start one?”.
All of the questions were important to my students.
With questions organized, my students worked in small groups to craft their Flipgrid video questions. Some videos were serious, others were hilarious! I could see my students really getting into this project, but also feeling more connected to their next school.
After we finished all of the videos, we could hardly wait to receive responses. I was asked daily if I had heard anything from our pen pals. I loved watching excitement replace worry.
It wasn’t long until we received response videos!
The middle school students really stepped up and served as mentors and encouragers for my elementary students.
They shared advice, knowledge, and encouragement that meant so much coming from peers who truly understand.
My students, laughed, smiled, and sighed relief as they learned more about their new school. They quickly connected with these students and they now have familiar faces to see next year. The whole project and partnership was a success!
Since this day, we have been casually sending more questions (we forgot to ask about dress code of all things!) and continue to correspond with our middle school friends. It has truly been a blessing to my students and myself.
Are we 100% fearless? Of course not. But, because of this partnership, my students are ready to explore opportunities and navigate middle school with so much more confidence and success!
**Interested in learning more about incorporating technology into your classroom? Want to talk school counseling? Connect with me at www.heathereskridge.com or @elem_counselor on Twitter!