Everyone knows the transition to high school can be a challenging one. That's why high schools have initiated summer camps for incoming freshman and special programs that track and support students who experience difficulty during the first months in their new surroundings. Included: Wolf Watch supports students in transition.
Educators have long realized that ninth-graders are likely to encounter greater academic and social problems than students at any other level. Not only are the students making a difficult transition from junior high or middle school to high school, but courses are more challenging than ever before and the pressure to fit in socially also increases. As a result, educators have designed innovative programs to help incoming freshmen adjust to and succeed in high school.
In Sewell, New Jersey, a four-day camp program prepares incoming freshmen at Washington Township High School. This past summer, 217 students participated in the camp.
The main goal of the camp is to help students transition and assimilate at the high school, said guidance counselor Tanya Brown-Johnson.
The opening day of camp includes getting-acquainted icebreaker activities and a scavenger hunt that involves locating classrooms. The camp is housed in the building where freshman and sophomore courses are offered, but students become familiar with the entire school. We try to make the experience as much fun as possible, Brown-Johnson explained.
On the second day of camp students go into classrooms and work on skills they will need, such as time management, study and test-taking strategies, and even college planning. They learn what lockers are like and how they work.
On Wednesday students participate in games to reinforce concepts presented earlier in the week. They play study skills bingo, a musical chairs game based on interests they share, and a four corners game to identify the holidays they have in common as well as similar tastes in food and music.
Each camper receives his actual class schedule on the final, wrap-up day of camp. Then students walk through the route on which their schedules will take them. Upperclassmen who have helped with the camp answer questions from the incoming freshmen to give them a student perspective on what high school is like.
Camp closes with a ceremony during which campers are given a certificate and a celebratory pizza party.
The transition from middle school to high school has a social aspect, and the camp gives students a sense that theyre not alone, said Brown-Johnson.
Each day students evaluate their activities. They give the camp overall favorable ratings, according to Brown-Johnson. Each year the camp gets better and better, she said. It's a wonderful opportunity to bring together students from our three middle schools and give them an idea of what to expect in September.
John Wright, principal of Timber Creek High School in Orlando, Florida, believes a decline in parental involvement has a negative effect on student performance in high school.
Sometimes parents think they can step back because their children are older, Wright told Education World. But ninth grade is a very challenging year nationwide, and parents need to talk to their children about school and remain involved in all four years.
To prepare incoming freshmen, Timber Creek holds an orientation in which they receive their schedules and lockers so they have an idea of what to expect on their first day of school. There is also a special pep rally for freshmen during the first two weeks of school.
Wright and Timber Creeks teachers encourage freshmen to sign up for extracurricular activities in the belief that this will help students perform better academically, and because, as Wright says, Were educating the whole child.
Timber Creek has a monitoring program called Wolf Watch (the schools mascot is the wolf) for students who are dealing with academic or behavioral problems. About a dozen teams of staff members support students striving to improve their performance. For example, there is help in literacy, aid for homeless students, and assistance for exceptional education students working for a standard diploma. About 10 percent of freshmen participate in Wolf Watch.
The high school also offers the 20/20 program, an approach to class recovery. Students who fail a course in the first semester can take a computerized version of the class in the second semester during an extra period built into the school schedule. Classes are also offered on Saturdays and at night.
The keys to success in the freshmen year, said Wright in summary, are continuing parent involvement, students participating in extracurricular activities, and identifying struggling students early on and providing them with support in academic and behavioral areas.
Article by Sharon Cromwell
Copyright © 2010 Education World
Originally published 11/08/2010