Preparing Year 6 for the Emotional Transition to High School
The transition from year six to high school involves much more than new academic subjects, timetables and learning the names of a dozen new teachers: it’s a process that requires emotional resilience, self-awareness, self-management, and new social skills. To make the path more turbulent, this transition happens right when many students are entering puberty and experiencing some bewildering changes.
In a review by Evans, Borriello and Field, the transition from primary to high school is described as one of the most stressful events in a young person’s life, and can have impacts on a child’s psychological well-being and academic performance. Students themselves have reported fears about bullying, peer relationships, getting lost in their new school and coping with a bigger workload.
Most educators and schools offer some sort of transition program to prepare students for practical changes like managing their own books, following a timetable, having a different teacher for each subject, and using a diary to plan homework and assignments. However, by supporting their emotional wellbeing and having tricky (and yes, embarrassing) conversations about mental skills and puberty, teachers can help students make the practical elements of their transition to high school much easier.
There are several simple things you can do in the classroom:
- Speak positively about the transition. When speaking to students about going to high school, focus on the opportunities it brings like new sports teams, artistic or music activities, making new friends, and learning new subjects. Encourage them to be open to trying new things, even if it feels scary at first.
- Let them hear about the transition first-hand. If possible, arrange a talk with older students in year seven or eight – hearing stories from their peers can be powerful. This is obviously much easier if you are in a K-12 school, so if it’s not possible, encourage your students to talk to friends, cousins or older siblings about their experience.
- Reassure them that all feelings are valid. Students will experience a range of emotions. Reassure them that whatever they feel – nervous, happy, excited, sad – is completely normal. It’s also helpful to remind them that it’s okay to feel a different way to their friends and peers.
- Blend practical and emotional preparations. Set up a ‘Day in the life of a high schooler’ where students need to follow a timetable (perhaps getting up and changing desks for each topic you teach), and practice note taking and planning homework in a diary. Leave time before and after the experience for students to discuss how they feel and ask questions.
- Encourage them to take care of themselves. Eating well, exercising and getting enough sleep are key factors for thriving in stressful situations. Planning a lesson about the importance of these can empower students with practical ways to cope with the anxiety they may be feeling.
- Introduce students to the mental tools they’ll need to succeed. Determination, emotional intelligence, self-management and social awareness are all critical at high school. Using video and digital resources can help you deliver a lesson that will open their eyes to the invisible tools that sit alongside their textbooks and pencils.
Help them connect puberty to the emotions they’ll face starting high school. Tackling the puberty topic early is important, but it’s equally beneficial to show them how mood swings and hormones play a part in how well they cope with stress, relationships and new experiences – like starting high school.
Our top resources
Video is the perfect way to introduce complex topics and open sensitive conversations in a comfortable and safe way. ClickView has a variety of digital resources designed for year five and six students that guide them through mental, emotional and physical health topics.
ClickView’s free Wellbeing resources During challenging times, it’s normal to feel more stressed or concerned about things than usual. While curated for COVID-19, this special collection of lesson plans, resources and videos is suitable for any period of transition. It helps give students the tools they need to manage their wellbeing, from building confidence, relationships and healthy habits to understanding anxiety and practicing meditation. Take a look at our free wellbeing resources today.
What You Need to Succeed This series of primary PDHPE videos explores the emotional and mental skills that students need to succeed both inside and outside the classroom. Topics covered include: having a growth mindset, aspiration and ambition, developing emotional intelligence, developing grit, self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, social skills and lifelong learning.
Next Stop, Puberty! This Australian Teachers of Media (ATOM) Award-nominated series takes the ick out of educating students about puberty. The six Miniclips, produced by ClickView, take a light-hearted, factual and inclusive approach to the confronting (and often embarrassing) physical and mental changes teens face during puberty.
What’s with the Listies? Another ATOM Award-nominated series from ClickView, What’s with the Listies follows quirky comedic duo Matt and Rich as they explore five themes of social and emotional learning to help students express and manage themselves in everyday life.
By taking time out to listen to their concerns, explore and reassure them about their feelings and educate them about the mental and emotional tools they have at their disposal, students will feel more equipped to handle one of the most exciting times of their lives – high school!