Transitioning to secondary school is a change that Year 6 children will have been preparing for all summer, and arriving at their new school can result in feelings of excitement, apprehension and nervousness. This storm of feelings can be difficult for teachers to effectively manage, but we are here to help you in your role to safely guide them through this daunting time and ensure it goes as smoothly as possible.
It’s easy to forget that many of the day-to-day activities that make up secondary school life have to be learned. While in Year 6, most pupils will have had many things done for them that they are now expected to do themselves.
For perhaps the first time, pupils will have to:
A peer-mentoring scheme where children from Year 10 and 11 work alongside student support services to provide mentoring to encourage students in Year 7 can go a long way towards making children feel settled and supported. The mentors can help the new pupils work through any small problems they have such as making new friends or finding classrooms, helping them grow into a confident and independent pupil.
The mentors from older years can work on a one-to-one basis to encourage and support individual Year 7 students, or as a “Form Mentor” who can run activities and games with the entire form.
Implementing peer-mentoring scheme also has the added bonus of giving your older students experience and responsibility, ready for their further learning and adult lives.
Most secondary schools hold induction and taster days to let Year 6 pupils get to know the school, teachers, and the type of learning they can expect. Attending a taster day helps the soon-to-be Year 7 pupils feel at home when they start term, as they will have some familiarity with the school and may have even made a few new friends.
If you are in charge of arranging taster lessons for the pupils attending your induction day, you should pick one of the fun, practical lessons you will teach throughout the year to get them engaged with their new environment before the term starts. They will understandably be excited during their taster day so this will be more effective than learning from a textbook. Feeling that learning will be fun will help the apprehensive students develop more positive emotions towards their new school.
Taster lessons are also a good opportunity to teach the new intake of pupils the behaviour expected of them when they begin in the new term, and give them a sense of the ethos of your school.
When the Year 7 students start at your school in September, they may feel nervous or shy, which will prevent them from interacting with other students in the class. A good way to make sure all students – not just the confident ones – socialise with their peers, is to organise some “ice-breaker” activities or games.
These could be simple “name chain games”, where the first student says their name and their favourite food/animal/colour/television show, then the next student gives their name and favourite thing and repeats the last student’s answer. The following student then says their name and favourite thing, followed by the two preceding students’ answers, and so on until you have a long chain of names and answers.
Student 1: My name is Ben, and my favourite food is chocolate ice cream
Student 2: My name is Amit, and my favourite food is sandwiches – Ben’s favourite food is chocolate ice cream
Student 3: My name is Lucy, and my favourite food is chips – Amit’s favourite food is sandwiches, and Ben’s favourite food is chocolate ice cream.
As an extra test, and to make any forgetful students feel better, the teacher can be the last one, who has to try to name each student and their favourite food!
You can also play games where the students ask each other questions to see if they can find another student with the same favourite colour as they do, or they organise themselves into groups based on their birthday months. Anything that gets the children interacting in a fun way works!
A fun activity to help your new students learn about the geography of the school is to ask them to work in groups with clipboards as you take them on a tour of the school, and mention interesting facts about areas of the school (“our playing field is 75m long” “the entire school has 20 classrooms” “the science block is in the southernmost part of the school”) as you go along. When you return to the form room, you can ask students questions based on some of the facts you mentioned and give a prize to the team that gets the most questions right.
Overall, the most helpful thing you can do to help your students settle into their new environment, is to be patient as they learn their way around and the behaviour expected from them. Letting your pupils know where to go if they are struggling, and that you are there to listen to them, is hugely beneficial in helping them feel confident at your school. Being too strict with your pupils too early can negatively impact their attainment throughout the rest of their school lives.
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