Focus on relationship-building to support middle school transition
The transition to middle school can be challenging for some students. In addition to the physical and emotional changes that happen during this time of adolescence, students must also adapt to a new environment and social situations. To ease this transition and provide additional support to students, both Lake Stevens Middle School (LSMS) and North Lake Middle School (NLMS) have special time set aside for relationship-building. At LSMS this is known as Homeroom. At NLMS it’s called Advisory Period.
After the first period dismissal bell a group of students enter Sarah Walker’s math classroom at LSMS and quickly begin rearranging tables and chairs. They each work to ready the classroom for Homeroom. The class is made up of sixth- and seventh-graders from a range of academic and social abilities. Walker’s Homeroom also includes three Life Skills students.
Students arrange their chairs in a large circle and begin by reviewing the Pirate Scroll—a rundown of the important announcements, events and activities at the school. Next, attendance awards are handed out and students high-five and congratulate each other. To round out the 18-minute period, students participate in an activity where they randomly draw a classmate’s name and then greet him or her using good eye contact and a handshake. Finally, students share the highlights of their weekends.
Daily Homeroom activities vary, but the goal remains the same—to build social-emotional skills and to motivate students to achieve academically while intervening with struggling students.
“Homeroom gives students a safe place and a trusted adult they can count on during the day,” said Walker, who participates in the activities alongside her students. “These 18 minutes can motivate students for their entire day. They get excited about seeing one another and sharing stories. This is building camaraderie throughout the school because students who may have not interacted are now making time to greet and get to know one another.”
At NLMS, Advisory Period is 15 minutes and is structured in the same manner to support students. NLMS teachers Rebecca Wilson and Maria Daly presented information about the school’s Advisory Period to the Board of Directors at its Oct. 25 meeting. Wilson and Daly led Board members through some of the same activities that students participate in.
Curriculum for Homeroom and Advisory Period is created by a team of staff members at each school and is guided by research-based principles for middle-level students. Every teacher and school administrator hosts a group.