The Freshman Transition Network

Working together to transition freshmen & transform schools from the bottom up!

What suggestions does the group have for making the connection between current eighth graders and the school/teachers they will have in the fall? Our school had a two-day "Summer Blast" last summer, but not all students attended...and probably the ones who needed it the most did not.

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Great question. I bet some folks out there have some very interesting programs in place. I'm with Deane and would love to hear about them. I think in general that it's a a great idea for high schools to really focus on building relationships with middle schools. Often high schools are more apt to point fingers at middle schools (forgetting that colleges and businesses do the same to us!). This often creates an atmosphere of near, if not outright, hostility between schools. For any program, such as the the "Summer Blast" Deanie references, to be successful the middle school will have to be on board. Build those relationships with the middle schools.
Early in the school year we have an eighth grade night. Parents and students attend an introductory meeting. The extra-curricular sponsors and some students have informational tables set up to answer questions.
We later have a shadow day. Eighth graders from our feeder schools are matched up with ninth grade ambassadors and shadow them during the school day. They also have a group session to give general information and answer any questions the students may have.
We have had a jump-start academy for four years at North High. Due to a lack of funding we limit the number of students who attend. They are selected by coordinating with the feeder schools and are then sent invitations. Every year we struggle with what we are going to do during the two days we have them, but it is always geared student behavior and introducing them to the physical structure of our building. We go through important items in the handbook, talk about appropriate behavior, tour our building and do a variety other activities.
The second day of jump start is coordinated with our 9th grade orientation night. We have a hot dog roast and then meet with the students and their parents. The groups break apart and the students go through the building while administrators, counselors and ninth grade leaders meet with the parents. The first day of school our sophomores, juniors and seniors go home and only the ninth graders stay. They take a structured tour of the building, meet their teachers, meet the secretaries in their locales (guidance, activities, front office, and the LMC), check out their lockers, and experience eating in the food court.
We have had good feedback from parents and students for most of the activities we do, but we are always looking for ways to improve them.

Esther Molyneux
On Shadow Day, how many students "shadow" each ambassador? We will open our first academy this fall and wanted to do something like this. With 350 incoming freshmen and only 11 ambassadors, I wasn't sure how to accomplish a shadowing experience. Am I interpreting "ambassador" incorrectly? Is this just a current freshman that is paired with a rising freshman?
Sara, I am sorry I did not respond last school year. I was just going through all these and saw your questions. We have current freshmen who have been recommended by the 9th grade academy teachers to be ambassadors. They are given two or three 8th graders to shadow them. The 8th graders start out in the auditorium with a short presentation from the Principal and then they meet their ambassadors and it is off to class. We do not get all of our incoming 8th graders, but each year we seem to have more and more participants. This past school year we had three different shadow days. Unfortunately, I do not know the total number of students who visited.
Esther - sounds like you guys are really putting a lot of effort into getting your 8th graders excited. Every year at Salem High School we have a registration fair for our 9th graders prior to registering for the 10th grade year. Our 9th graders see all the elective courses and clubs that SHS has to offer. This past year our middle school asked if they could send some of their 8th graders up to participate. The students they sent were ones that they were hoping would get more excited about high school and school in general if they had a chance to see the neat programs we offer (commercial kitchen, preschool program, welding, etc.)
Thank you all so much for the great ideas. We are having the Blast in August and in the meantime, my principal will begin communicating with parents and students via their gaggle accounts. During the SB, we plan to have upperclassmen and freshmen engage in an open forum. Some of the panel will be freshmen who have a clear memory of their own transition, and some will be seniors who can give information about the long-term experience. We also will have a session for the parents with the administrators and special services staff. We are planning sessions on organization--including organization for the NC Graduation Project. We will be teaching note-taking, electronic filing, notebook organization, and give out information about all courses and the materials the students will need. We will have a session with "video commericials" developed by all clubs and organizations to show students what activities are available. I am getting really excited about the opportunity to get them ready for Day One.
Big/Little Sister --- Big/Little Brother
You might set up a Big-Little Brother program and a Big-Little Sister program. The "Big's" might be a team of a rising Sophomore, Junior, and Senior that would each serve as "Bigs" for a small group of incoming Freshmen. Each team could decide on a special activity and time to do their activity during the summer. Of course, you'll need to train the "Bigs" so that this becomes a positive experience for all. The activity might include a "behind the scenes" tour of the school, tips on getting homework done easily, an opportunity to sign up to get involved with school activities and then maybe a fun but educational team activity and/or a cookout. The big/little teams would work through the summer so no one would miss out due to vacation week... Of course, check with your attorney to be sure you have all the proper releases in place before starting... but then do it...
Urbandale High School does a couple of things. Like others, we have a Shadow Day. We try to get a mixture of students who have been successful throughout middle school, and those who have the potential to be "at-risk" and we have them shadow a current freshman throughout the day, including lunch time. We also have a tours by all 8th graders that include a presentation on "What to Expect". In the summer, we send a note to each student signed by all 9th SLC members saying that we are looking forward to their attendance in the fall. A week prior to the beginning of the school year, we have an orientation that invites the students and their parents/guardians to meet the teachers, have a 'walk-through' of a regular class day, then meet with the media center and food service staff.
Thanks for all the great ideas that you gave us in the summer. We are having a very smooth freshman year, and we feel that the summer activities helped tremendously. Now we are moving toward the second semester, and we plan to have the success conferences. Any suggestions?
I assume you're referring to Success Prep Conferences - let me know if you have any specific questions. Either Ray or I could travel to your school to help you all with this if you're interested. We've done that before with other schools. Also, check out this handout for some ideas and big picture goals.
Thanks for the notes...I still have them from the seminar and in the book. Could I visit your school sometime early this spring?
Sure - I'll send you a message with some details.

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