CCA orientation program prepares families for transition to middle school

CCA hosts "Springing into Sixth Grade," a middle school orientation program for families making the transition from elementary school.

In any family, a child’s transition from elementary to middle school requires careful navigation. CCA families face the same questions. How do we work with multiple teachers? How do we choose the right classes? How do I shepherd my children through their increased responsibilities?

Knowing what to expect helps ensure a smooth transition that promotes middle school success. That’s why CCA middle school administrators will present “Springing into Sixth Grade,” a middle school orientation presentation and discussion, on May 9.

“We thought about transitions in brick-and-mortar schools, where they have a day when fifth-graders get to walk around the building,” said Nicole Smith, sixth-grade assistant principal at CCA. “How do we do that here so that families know what it’s going to be like?”

The 2017 agenda was developed based on feedback from the 2016 event. Features include:

• A PowerPoint presentation explaining team teaching, communications with teachers, expectations of students and learning coaches, weekly class schedules, programs for special education and gifted students, truancy rules, available clubs and other topics.

• A panel of CCA Family Mentors to answer parent questions.

• A student panel of current sixth-graders, presenting in a separate room to fifth-graders.

• Videos of middle school administrators introducing themselves, so “every parent will be able to put a face with the name,” Smith said.

After the presentation, parents will receive a survey to offer feedback and ask questions. Plans are in the works for making materials available for families who can’t attend May 9.

Knowing what’s coming can help families adapt to changes in their routines and schooling experience. So just what should parents and students expect in sixth grade? First, Smith said, each student is assigned to a team of teachers for math, science, language arts, social studies, art, and health and physical education, plus an optional electives teacher. The teachers work collaboratively all year for a single group of students.

Another change is the ability to choose electives. Art class and health and physical education are required electives, but students have choices in languages and other subjects — including keyboarding, entrepreneurship and digital arts.

Smith offers these tips for a smooth transition to sixth grade:

• Be intentional about communications with individual teachers. Families no longer have only one teacher to contact for all subjects. Parents must devise plans for addressing questions to multiple teachers of different subjects.

• Get organized. Working with more teachers, families will get more emails every day. Virtual email folders help parents find and respond quickly to critical messages. “We help them understand what that organization can look like because, if parents don’t have a plan, they can get derailed very quickly,” Smith said.

• Take advantage of the welcome call. This call from the school is a family’s chance to share the child’s learning styles and preferences, and to iron out communications details, such as the best time for calls. It’s an opportunity to start planning extra help for a child’s learning challenges. It's a time to discuss whether the student needs synchronous time with teachers and classes, can handle asynchronous, on-their-own learning or should manage a combination of synchronous and asynchronous learning.

• Be open about challenges in the home. CCA administrators and family mentors are fully equipped to help families reach support services and overcome barriers that hinder the child’s ability to learn. “We have a ton of supports we can connect families with, but if we don’t know they’re struggling in certain areas, we wouldn’t be able to help,” Smith said.

“Springing Into Sixth” is a collaborative effort of CCA fifth- and sixth-grade teachers, administrators, the Family Services Department, family mentors and many others “to really set students up for success,” Smith said.

“The feedback from families and students last year was that this was very helpful in making them feel more comfortable about the transition and knowing that there are so many people here who are willing to support them,” she said.

If you go:

• "Springing into Sixth Grade" events are scheduled for 11 a.m. May 9 at CCA’s Family Service Centers in Harrisburg (Crums Mill), Philadelphia Center City, Dickson City, Andreas and Seven Fields. Each program is one hour, followed by pizza and socializing.

• To RSVP, contact CCA Director of Family Services Amy Boyd at [email protected] Direct questions about sixth grade to Nicole Smith at nasmith[email protected], middle school Principal Chris Yerkes at [email protected] or middle school Manager of Special Education Katie Weaver at [email protected]


Commonwealth Charter Academy


May 3, 2017


Learning Lab

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