Transitioning From Elementary School to High School

by Becky Parmiter

author email [email protected]


Transitioning from elementary school to high school can be exciting and anxiety-inducing for students. The move from elementary to secondary school is known to be difficult because it creates a change in routine and environment. There are new subjects, new people, and new skills to be learned. Students have to become accustomed to new teachers and new procedures. As we all know, there are also huge physical and emotional changes happening to students this age as they navigate puberty and new hormones. has created a comprehensive guide on how teachers and parents can help students that are about to be transitioning from elementary school to high school. 


Understanding the Transition 

The National Middle School Association identified five important aspects that occur as children move from their early years into young adulthood. These should be kept in mind in easing the transition process. 

Aspect I: Intellectual - Adolescent learners are innately curious, energetic, and motivated to learn even in the face of challenges. At this age, they are forming their ability to think critically. In a high school setting, there are a larger variety of subjects available to pick up and expand on, this can stimulate their natural curiosity and challenge their thinking skills.

Aspect II: Social - Young adults begin to find a need to individually express themselves while also being accepted by their peers. High school is critical to shaping a person’s identity and how they feel they are placed in the world. In modern times, school culture should encourage diversity, uniqueness, and expression so that all students feel welcome. 

Aspect III: Physical - Puberty hits students between middle school and high school, resulting in rapid, sometimes awkward bodily and hormonal changes. Schools need to provide both a physical outlet to get students moving and a place to discuss health issues. Ideally, physical education caters to all students and not just the athletically gifted. Additionally, schools should provide information on the physical changes that adolescents go through. 

Aspect IV: Emotional and Psychological - Accompanying the awkward physical stage are changes to mood and psychological processes. As students become more aware of their bodies and existence in general, they become more vulnerable and self-conscious. High school is a sensitive time for young minds and schools need to be prepared to support students in maintaining healthy communication, practicing mental care, and offering advice on how to process difficult, awkward, and anxious situations.

Aspect V: Moral - As students form their individual identities, they are able to reflect how they fit into the larger social structure. Some students are idealistic and think they can change the world. These types of feelings should be encouraged and educators should be equipped to help channel these thoughts. 

All five of these aspects are important to keep in mind for students transitioning from elementary school to high school. Educators and parents need to be ready to take the educational experience past studying and support students with their physical, emotional, and psychological growth. It is vital to assess students coming into high school to see if they are in balance with these aspects and to identify which students are most at risk. These students should be especially supported in their adaptation to high school. 

How to Identify a Healthy Transition 

Students who are adapting to their new environment well will be at ease at school and immersed in both studies and social activities. 

Specific indicators of success include: 

  • They have created bonds with other students that are positive in nature

  • They’re responsive with their teacher and engage with them in class 

  • They feel a sense of purpose at school

  • They are motivated and dedicated to their path to adulthood 

  • They feel safe to try new things, artistically or athletically  

  • They are succeeding in class, achieving acceptable grades, and meeting challenges well

In order for students to succeed, they need to have both external support and need to develop personal coping skills to feel at ease in day to day life at school. Schools and parents should be responsible for pushing students to have a sense of ownership and self-capability when it comes to their work. They should encourage resourcefulness and curiosity. They should witness and celebrate moments of resilience and offer coping strategies when things are challenging. Schools should make a push for teamwork and community contribution. All in all, the goal is to get transitioning students to feel a sense of independence as they start their high school career. 

Jump from high school

The Role of the Elementary School in Transition 

Eighth-grade teachers play the leading role in a successful transitioning from elementary school to high school. Elementary teachers and guidance counselors, in partnership with parents, should facilitate visits to the high school and help with any enrollment paperwork that might be needed for the transfer.

Beyond the administrative help, in the classroom, middle school teachers should start to introduce some of the potential learning approaches that students will encounter in their first year of high school - this can include practice tests that are in line with first year high school education. is an educational tool for teachers and students of all ages which offers practice tests and exams. We encourage educators and students to use the tool to practice subjects they might be interested in. Educators can create practice tests for their students to help familiarize them with the types of subjects, testing formats, and question phrasing that their pupils will encounter in their upcoming high school years. can be a helpful addition to the curriculum, aiding teachers in creating a strong learning foundation for their students. Teachers should encourage students to explore their learning styles, to build hard skills that focus on how to plan and organize homework, assignments, etc. This will motivate them to be able to stay disciplined in a new setting. 

On an emotional and psychological level, educators should try and create an exciting and positive energy about the upcoming transition. It’s vital that they keep an eye on students who may be struggling and to listen to their concerns about the transition. It’s also critical to flag to the secondary school any kids who might have a tough time with the upcoming change. 


Finally, extracurricular activities in middle school can aid with the move to high school. Helping students focus on their academic, artistic, or athletic capabilities beyond the classroom will aid in their confidence and ability to operate more independently in high school. 


How to Help At Risk Students 


Students with special education needs, those from low-income families, and bullied kids, or those with low self-esteem need an extra pillar to help in their transition from elementary school to high school. It takes a village. Parents, the school system, and any other agencies involved should work closely for the best outcome as these are the students who are least likely to transition well.


Teachers from both schools will need to be sensitive in their approach to these students. Some best practices include having the staff of the previous and future school meet to discuss what works best for the student based on prior history. From there, it is important to review the student’s learning plan to make sure it is realistic with how they have performed in the past. Changes to their personal curriculum may be necessary so that they’re not overwhelmed by challenging ideas. 


While some students struggle with understanding academic concepts, other vulnerable students have social difficulty and a tough time communicating. They often disengage from content. is a great non-threatening tool for them to use to work with the subject material more. Because the tests can be created by other students from all around the world, disengaged students might find it appealing to “escape” the current classroom and study in a more global manner. 


Building safe social relationships is key to helping vulnerable students. Elementary school and high school teachers can help facilitate this by creating space for their students to interact with their educators in a non-classroom setting. For example, during high school orientation, it would be wise to build in out-of-class team-building activities to bond students to each other and to their teachers. 


In some cases, it might be wise for students to meet with their high school teachers in advance of the beginning of the school year or to have an open house at the school. This allows students to become familiarized with the setting and a few of the faces that they can turn to when they require support. 


Buddy students are also a good strategy for fostering relationships between peers. Sometimes having an older student keep an eye on a freshman can help give the student an additional layer of confidence walking through the school. 


All students should be encouraged to express themselves through sports, arts, and other extra-curricular activities as this will provide a peer support group without them realizing, will reinforce team-building skills, and will sneak some social air into their lives. 

buddy students high school



To ensure a seamless transition from elementary school to high school, teachers and parents need to observe the student’s interests, strengths, and challenges, and work with the student in accordance to that. The more the student understands his or her own learning style, the easier it will be to apply their personal methodology to any curriculum.


Teachers at both elementary schools and high schools must keep a close eye on how their students learn so that they are certain that the programme they’ve created is appropriate and challenging enough. Curriculums are much more flexible these days and should keep student engagement in mind. What are today’s adolescents interested in learning? What sparks deeper and more critical thinking? Or, is there a different approach to help engage students with drier, but necessary material? 


It is essential for teachers on both sides of the transition to communicate with one another regarding student skill sets and interests so that the high school curriculum can be built to ensure the greatest possible success for the pupil. The more a student is interested in the curriculum, the more they’ll want to learn additional things about the topics and this will help encourage students to have a healthy appetite for learning, one that could empower them to use studying, research, and practice to better themselves throughout their lives. 


Parental Support


We’ve talked a lot about the role of teachers in this transition process and sprinkled in a few mentions of how parents can help. In actuality, parents are the most consistent part of this transition for their children. They are integral in ensuring the child’s success. Parents are responsible for guiding their children through this period of change and should keep a close eye on how they’re performing.


Regular check-ins with the school are necessary, especially if there are some issues in how the student is adapting. Parents should be involved in all aspects of the transition to high school, including the administrative needs, the planning of curriculum and course decisions, and what type of extracurricular activities could be good for their child.


Parents need to help their children understand the necessity of preparation. By starting to create morning and afternoon rituals well into their elementary school years, parents help students transition into a more mature way of approaching schoolwork. It is essential that parents create a consistent, structured homework routine that the child abides by. To create this as a habit, homework should be done at the same time every day, in a calm and non-distracting environment. Agendas are a wonderful tool to incorporate early in a teen’s life so that they can organize homework, extracurricular activities, and any upcoming deadlines.


Parents can use as a tool to help their kids study or to help assess how they’re doing. Going over online tests together is a great habit to create and will help parents be very in tune with their children’s academic performance. Parents should celebrate their children’s successes in using this tool and use it as a way to understand the challenges their child might be facing in their learning curve. 


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