SCMS preps 5th-grade students for change

Meeting, other activities get students adjusted to culture shift
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Leader Photo by Lee Pulaski Fifth-grade students and their parents gather in the large instruction room at Shawano Community Middle School prior to an informational meeting Thursday about how middle school is different from elementary school.

Shawano Community Middle School has added a new experience to help get fifth-grade students prepared for the jarring transition from elementary school to middle school.

The school invited parents of students currently in fifth grade to an informational meeting Thursday to explain some of the changes that can be expected and new rules students will be expected to follow.

According to principal Stuart Russ, this is the first time the school has held a parent meeting in addition to the other things staff members do to prepare students to transition to the middle school.

“The whole purpose of the event is to just give a brief overview about what to expect as sixth graders (later) this year,” Russ said.

Russ noted that, in addition to the meeting, school counselors are making the rounds at Olga Brener Intermediate School. They talk with the fifth-grade classes about the changes that come, including no longer having just one teacher provide instruction for most of the day.

“Here’s the good news: You have a bunch of adults that are excited about having you here, who care about you, and who want you to be successful,” Russ said.

Rebecca Jacoby, guidance counselor, told the parents and students that there are a number of other things the school will do between now and September to prepare students for the culture shift. The school will invite fifth-grade students to the school in May for a transition day, and students will get information about the coursework at the sixth-grade level.

Fifth-grade classrooms will also receive combination locks in the spring so students learn how to use them when they get their lockers, something not usually available at an elementary school.

“They have locks on their lockers in the hallway, their gym lockers, and then if they’re in the band or orchestra, they have another locker for their instrument,” Jacoby said.

Another spring activity is learning how to utilize hall passes, according to Jacoby. The teachers also assign more homework to prepare students for middle school work, she said, and a career assessment is also done in the spring.

The district also offers a summer school class to help students adjust from elementary to middle school, learning about the passing periods and developing study plans to be their best in middle school. The middle school offers core courses like English, math, science and social studies on a daily basis to the students, but it operates on an every other day basis for homeroom, study hall and classes like physical education and elective courses.

Jacoby said last summer’s program was so big that it had to be separated into two classes.

There will also be one more parent meeting offered, taking place in late August during the school’s teacher meet-and-greet.

Sixth-grade students will spend the last class period of their day in exploratory classes like technology, keyboarding and art, according to Brittany Pensis, guidance counselor. Each of the different classes are 4½ weeks long to give students a wide variety of options, she said.

“It’s a good opportunity for students to explore and see what they like and don’t like,” Pensis said. “They try new things, and they might discover that they really like them.”

Giving them short primers in sixth grade prepares them for the next two grades, when they’ll be taking year-long elective courses, Pensis said.