Grade transitions, or transitioning between grades, can be both an exciting and a difficult time for many students and families. The most typical grade transitions that children experience difficulty with are going from Kindergarten to 1st grade, moving from elementary school to middle school (this sometimes happens from 5th to 6th grade or 6th to 7th grade, depending on whether the student attends a middle school or a junior high school) and then the transition from middle school to high school. School counselors have a great responsibility to prepare and support students and families during these transition periods. Preparing students for grade transitions early and providing support and resources during this time can ease the anxiety of the transition on both students and families and can promote student success.
- Early preparation for grade transitions is key to student success during these times.
- Be aware that any grade transition can be exciting and difficult for students and this is not limited to the most typical “big” transitions.
- Many schools plan annual events around big grade transitions, such as an incoming 9th grader welcome night or something for parents and students about starting middle school or junior high school.
- Be mindful that students may have questions and needs over time. For some, a school event around a transition may be enough and for others there may be an extended period of support needed.
- Transition needs often do not end once the grade transition occurs. Many students need help before AND after a grade transition.
- Parents often need preparation and support during grade transitions.
- Parents should receive information about the new grade level bus schedules, parent-teacher organizations, and available resources (e.g., counselors, social workers, nurses).
- Student mentors at the incoming grade level can be a great support to student during grade transitions and can help build community.
- Know what your responsibilities are in preparing students for the transition to come, this includes behind the scenes responsibilities, as well, such as documentation, paperwork and records transfers.
- School counselors often find it helpful to conference with staff and counselors who will take over with their students, if they do not follow them up to the next grade. This is especially important for students with any on-going issues in need of school counselor support.
- Transitioning between grade levels can be particularly challenging for students with autism and/or anxiety disorders. Here is a great resource for helping students with autism prepare for a grade transition.
- Students with IEPs may have specific requirements for transitions and transition IEPs are required for students at certain grade levels and/or ages.
- Planning for Successful Transitions Across Grade Levels (refers to students with autism, but includes great general info. as well)
- Carmel-Clay 8th to 9th grade Transition Handbook
- Middle School Transition from the Savvy School Counselor
- Steps in the Right Direction: Helping Students Make Successful Transitions from the ASCA School Counselor
- Grade Level Transitions: Elementary School Counseling
- Guidance lesson plans and PPT presentations for grade level transition events can be found here (middle/junior high)
- Guidance lesson plans and PPT presentations for grade level transition events can be found here (high school)
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