Aug 16, 2009

Tips for Kids Going to Middle School: Getting Organized

Is your preteen nervous about making the transition to Middle School? As a parent, you may be asking yourself what you can do to pave the way for a smooth adjustment. In our two part series, asked mothers of experienced middle school kids for advice to help parents prepare their preteens for the first day and beyond. This article focuses on teaching your kids the skills that they will need to be successful in with their schoolwork.

Getting the Lay of the Land
Familiarity is key and our parent experts have some great suggestions to help preteens get comfortable with their new surroundings before they start school.

  • The smartest thing students can do before the first day is to arrange a visit to the school, specifically asking for a tour and map. From there, find your classes before the halls are filled with students. – Cheryl Stahle, former middle school teacher and mother of a 9th grade boy
  • Teach you child how to use their combination lock before school starts. Help them memorize the combination and learn how to open it. -Raffi Darrow, mother of 7th and 6th grade girls
  • Remind your preteen that they aren’t the only ones getting used to a new school. It helps manage their anxiety knowing everyone isn’t looking at them fumbling around. – Cari Kraft, mother of an 8th grade boy
  • Make multiple copies of your preteen’s schedule – one for their locker, their book bag, their main binders, their desk or room at home. – Cari Kraft
  • Become involved in an extracurricular activity, such as the yearbook or school newspaper, that fosters getting to know the school. – Michelle Levine, mother of an 8th grade boy


Locker 101
All the parents we talked to agree that a well-organized locker leads to a well-organized student.

  • It’s important to organize your books and other materials in your locker in a way that will allow you to pick up things quickly without having to hunt for them. -Cindy Erwin, mother of an 8th Grade boy.
  • Managing the demands of multiple teachers and classes becomes a cinch if students color code their classes. I recommend that each class be assigned a color. For that class buy a binder and pocket folder that are close to the same color. That way you can find your materials quickly, both for classes and organizing homework assignments. -Cheryl Stahle
  • Get a little locker white board so they can make notes to remind themselves of important assignments and events. – Cari Kraft
  • Extra locker shelves can be bought at any discount or office supply store and will help your preteen organize their locker. – Cindy Erwin
  • Suggest keeping books organized so that the ones they need next are on top. – Cari Kraft


Almost as important as a well organized locker is having the right supplies available. Our parents recommend:

  • Extra pens, pencils, notebook paper, index cards, post it notes, white out, highlighters, scotch tape, a stapler and a calculator
  • Hand sanitizer to use before eating and a mirror to check braces and hair.
  • For girls, a maxi pad, in a discreet bag – just in case.
  • A change of clothes in case of an accident, safety pins for clothing malfunctions, and a sweater for the colder weather.
  • A few extra dollars


Organize For Success
Most kids are not naturally organized and homework can easily get lost in the shuffle. Our expert parents suggest teaching your kids a system that will support them in managing all their assignments.

  • USE the planner that is given to you by the school, or buy your own. Write down every assignment, its due date, and any specific instructions. – Cindy Erwin
  • In your planner, highlight the date when an assignment or test is approaching. Then, allocate time each day to work on a small piece of the project. By learning to assign homework by breaking down bigger projects into smaller ones, there are no last minute rushes or missed assignments. – Cheryl Stahle
  • Do homework as soon as it is assigned in the priority order of what is due first. – Cari Kraft
  • Review your class notes each night and annotate them with questions to clarify areas of uncertainty with the teacher the following day. The simplest way is to write a question on a post it note and put it on the spot where your notes are not clear. – Cheryl Stahle
  • Get a folder for each subject with 2 pockets. Use one for completed work and one for TO DO work. Remind your child to check their folders each day after their homework is done. -Raffi Darrow
  • Do a double check before you leave your locker at the end of the day to make sure you have the books you need for homework. – Cari Kraft
  • Many schools now post assignments on an Internet website. If yours does, check it frequently. -Cindy Erwin


Teachers, Teachers, Teachers
One of the biggest differences between elementary school and middle school is managing multiple teachers.

  • The most important tip I can share is to prepare your child for the fact that there will not be one teacher “watching over” them any longer. They will need to develop relationships with several teachers, and perhaps an office person or counselor who can assist them with any problems or concerns. -Cindy Erwin
  • Students need to view their teachers as an ally and ask for help. I have had very shy students leave me notes when they are hesitant to ask questions and that works as well. Just don’t be afraid to approach a teacher. – Cheryl Stahle
  • As a parent, make sure you write at least one email to introduce yourself and touch base with each of your preteen’s teachers. It’ll go a long way to show the teacher you’re one of the ‘parents that care.’ -Michelle Levine
  • What frustrates me the most as an educator is when a student doesn’t say hello when greeted in the morning. Starting even with this most basic courtesy is a great first step in developing relationships with teachers. -Cheryl Stahle

Leave a comment