Tuesday, August 21, 2012

6th Grade Orientation Presentation and Notes


Hello! and welcome to the middle school. Over the next 45 minutes we will be throwing a lot of information your way. Some of you are middle school veterans, others are embarking on this stage for the first time.

We think we have something for everybody today. I’ll start by explaining what you can expect from your child in general during the middle school years, move into how we believe Canterbury's middle school best serves your child during those years, and end by highlighting some of what we have in place to accomplish our vision of what a great middle school child looks like at the end of 8th grade.

Next, Justin Zappia, our Athletic Director, will touch on Canterbury Athletics, and Kathy Durham, our Director of Student Life, will outline some of the nuts and bolts of the day-to-day Canterbury middle school experience. We’ll end with some time for your questions.

So let's begin:

SLIDE 2 (based on Developmental Designs research)

Adolescents undergo more growth during their middle school years than at any other point in their lives. Your child's adolescence will dictate their (and your) middle school experience. Essentially, their life will be defined by four goals during this time:

  1. Separate from the adults,
  2. Develop strong peer relationships,
  3. Find their identity, and
  4. Have adults sign off on who they want to become.

The most important thing we as the adults in their lives can do is understand where they are developmentally, meet them there, and create structures that will help accomplish these four goals in safe and healthy ways.

VIDEO: Ryan’s First Day in Middle School

Adolescent growth happens across three facets: physical, social-emotional, and intellectual


  1. Middle schoolers grow at different rates and at different times
  2. For some 6th graders and most 7th graders puberty begins and hormones begin firing throughout the whole body while,
  3. The brain is under construction and not ready to handle the overload of messages, hence:
  4. A lot of impulsivity and lack of self control  - not all the time, but it is common


  1. Middle schoolers are exceptionally moody
  2. Because they are seeking to establish strong peer relationships, they are hyper-sensitive and self conscious
  3. At the same time, they are seeking their independence and identity so they push boundaries and often discover sarcasm as a primary means to push those boundaries. (and by the way, according to the middle school child, adults know nothing. Just FYI.)
  4. But, by the end of  8th grade they have begun to identify the values they believe uphold their perception of themselves and will demand fairness in all things.


  1. Children often begin middle school as concrete thinkers: everything is right or wrong, black or white.
  2. They can be resistant to reflection and would like nothing better than to put something on paper and never be bothered by it again.
  3. They like to argue, but beginning at the end of 5th grade and into 6th and 7th grades they grow into an ability to think conceptually and abstractly.
  4. They begin to identify organizational and study skills that work for them.
  5. By 8th grade, our students are putting together Big Picture thinking skills, willing to reflect and revise, and want to do well on meaningful projects - still, don't expect them to admit this to you!

So through all of this growth, your children will experience highs and lows. They’ll need to know how to react to both. They’ll often be confused and sometimes anxious or frustrated and, while they would never tell you outright, they are craving guides and boundaries that will help them (as Developmental Designs puts it) "navigate the waters."

We are partners in guiding your children and our students through those waters. We believe our middle school is set up to meet the kids where they are developmentally. As you will see, the look and feel of a middle school is different than that of a lower school - a little noisier, a little looser. While it may seem very different, it is a natural off-shoot of the foundation that the lower school has provided.

The structure and processes of the middle school mean we are able to meet your children where they are developmentally and bring them to a point where they can enter high school as well-rounded, value-driven individuals, ready to contribute to their new school community and the community at large. 

VIDEO: 8th Grade Independent Latin Project - The End Game

It all begins with Canterbury's vision of what an excellent middle school educational experience for your child should look like.


We start with a whole child approach. A complete education necessitates that whatever we do, we make sure we address all aspects of your child’s life in ways that lead to the well­-rounded individuals we seek to graduate. The cornerstone of that approach is an emphasis on academics. For this whole child approach to work, we must foster trusting and respectful relationships with our students, and also with you, the parents, as well as our colleagues at school. When decisions need to be made in the pursuit of our goal of educational excellence, we make sure those decisions are guided by middle school best practices and our students’ best interests. Linked to this last point, is that we must be certain those decisions and whatever structures are in place ensure the social and emotional well being of our students. As excellence connotes, we must have high expectations of the students and ourselves in pursuit of the 21st century skills that our students will need as they enter high school and beyond.

So what does that vision look like on a day-to-day, month­-to-month, or year-to-year basis for your children here at Canterbury? We implement our vision in many different ways, but it can be divided into four main categories: Student Leadership, Structures, Student-Focused Support, and Communication.

Throughout the year, you will hear more about the various items that fall under the categories you see up on the SmartBoard, but I would like to highlight a few that I think are particularly relevant here today.

Developmental Designs
  1. DD is the "older sibling" to the Responsive Classroom philosophy the lower school uses. The research and practices of both are similar. The Iinchpin to DD is the advisory. As you saw in the Directory, your child is part of an advisory and that advisor will be your child’s advocate for the entire 5th grade year. It will be in this group that the students’ build their first sense of community in the middle school, but it will not be limited to the advisory.
  2. One of our goals as a faculty is to ensure that we continue to infuse the DD principles of relationship, autonomy, competency, and fun into all aspects of the school day including classroom routines, all school routines, discipline, and social norms. You will be hearing more about the Developmental Designs program from me and your advisor. You can also visit my blog to see some posts on the topic. We have been steadily working on DD in the classroom and beyond, and are excited to continue to implementation across the middle school.

Student Support Team
  1. Since my arrival at Canterbury we’ve had the Student Support Team to facilitate conversations related to our implementation of the middle school vision and to work to support our students in all aspects of their experience at Canterbury. This team includes myself, Kathy Durham, Director of Student Life and Unity in Diversity, Emily McCollum, Middle School Counselor, Judy Cram, Academic Counselor, and Nathan Finnin, our chaplain. 
  2. With this team in place the middle school has multiple expert perspectives examining student life, as well as school processes, procedures, and frameworks to make sure we are doing the best job possible.


  1. Protocol: I ask that you follow the protocol laid out for you on the slide here when there is a classroom issue or non­classroom issue that comes up. It often solves problems quickly and can get everybody back on the same page with only a minor bump in the road.
  2. Blackbaud Parent Portal: We will be rolling out a new website with vastly improved functionality and interactive capabilities. The part that will benefit you the most will be the parent and student portals that will allow you to sign in to a secure and individualized website that will show your child(ren)’s life at Canterbury. This page will include schedules, classes, assignments, grades, progress reports, report cards, activities, teams, announcements (class, division, and/or whole school), forms, and more. You will be able to choose from a number of different ways to be notified of any changes that are happening on this site. Once this site is ready to roll out, we will be offering parent education in a number of different forums, so don’t be too intimidated right now. Just know that this will be the one-stop-shop for everything Canterbury as it relates to your child. Most specifically, class assignments and grades will be open for all middle school students.
  3. Middle School Homework/Test Calendar: Until Blackbaud is fully functional, we will be using a Homework calendar that is embedded in the website under News/Calendar and Middle School Academic Calendar. We have had this system in place for some time. Two years ago we implemented a homework page for all homework assignments, tests, quizzes and projects. You will be able to go to this one page to see what is happening in 5th grade by day, week, or month. I am asking the faculty to post their homework assignments to this page by 3:30 on Monday for the week. If there are any worksheets to be completed, they will be uploaded to teacher’s individual pages, which will be linked to this master page. This Calendar Page is meant to be a guide to the homework assignments, and these assignments may change as a result of remediation, change of pace, or enrichment during the week. As such, teachers will make these changes in the students’ agendas. As a result, please refer to your Agenda first for homework assignments. By using a combination of the Homework/Test Calendar Page and agendas, we maintain our stress on personal responsibility, while providing guideposts for you in terms of where your child should be when it comes to homework.
  4. Middle School Director's Blog: l often write blog posts highlighting what is happening in the division including curriculum previews, Developmental Design information, Student Support Strategies, the physical, emotional, social, and intellectual development of the middle school adolescent, examples of student work, and a list of special events. My intention is to keep you abreast of what is happening in the building and help inform you about the intricacies of middle school life.

While there is a ton left to discuss on that schematic, I do want to allow time for Kathy to give you her information, and leave time for questions.



New and Very Cool Things About 6th Grade


I hope this has been informative for you - I’m sure you have a ton of questions. Please know that my door is always open, my phone (almost) always open, and my email definitely open! So please do use me as a resource when you need me. We are all here to help make this transition and your middle school years the best possible years they can be. In an effort to practice sustainability and save paper I've posted this presentation, my comments, and two articles that highlight how to handle adolescents at home and the importance of partnership between school and families in children's education.


What’s Best For Kids? Tips for ParentsUnderstanding and Appreciating the Wonder Years by John H. Lounsbury

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