High School Transition: Creative Ways to Help Your Students Make the Leap from Eighth Grade to Ninth Grade [Episode 127]


Here's What to Expect in This Episode:

Think back to the time you transitioned from middle school to high school. You went from being the oldest in the school to now being the youngest in a new building with a bunch of new opportunities in front of you. Many incoming ninth graders are apprehensive about being in a new school and unsure about the classes they need to take and what to get involved in. So, in today’s episode, I’m sharing how to seamlessly transition students from eighth to ninth grade.

When you get a new caseload of incoming ninth-grade students, there are simple and easy ways to help make their transition smooth and make them feel welcome. These practical ideas include tours of the high school, creating a panel of students to answer any student-led questions, being available to meet them in person, and creative ways to introduce yourself and answer their questions. Nowadays, there are so many different platforms to send information out, so I encourage you to take advantage of those to better reach more students.

Making the transition to high school can be intimidating and overwhelming for incoming ninth-grade students, so making it easier as the school counselor is a simple way to make them feel comfortable and welcome. So, if you’re looking for practical ideas to implement to make the transition from eighth to ninth grade smooth, this episode is for you! 

Topics Covered in This Episode:

  • Practical ideas for making the transition to ninth grade smooth
  • The different ways to get new and incoming students into the building for the first time
  • Why having current students answer any student-led questions is helpful and beneficial for the new group of students to hear
  • A variety of ways to introduce yourself and receive or answer any questions student might have about their new school

Resources Mentioned in This Episode:

Read the transcript for this episode:

Lauren Tingle 0:00
Hey, I’m Lauren. I’m your host of High School Counseling Conversations and welcome to episode 127.

Lauren Tingle 0:07
8th graders are probably freaking out right now as they’re finishing their time as the big fish in the pond and about to be tiny minnows in the big high school pond pretty soon. I know I messed up that illustration, but you know what I mean. They were the most important ones, the big man on campus when they’re in middle school. And now they’re about to be a tiny little thing in a big setting when they get to high school.

Lauren Tingle 0:33
I personally remember feeling panicked moving from eighth grade to ninth grade. I came from a tiny school, a tiny private school, where I had been with almost the same 35 kids from kindergarten all the way till eighth grade. And I was moving to a huge public 6A high school, where I would soon graduate with over 650 students in my senior class.

Lauren Tingle 0:54
I had never opened a locker before, I needed a map to get around the school. It was absolutely terrifying. I missed the one day that they had over the summer for orientation because I was out of town. So I showed up on the first day like a deer in the headlights, and also didn’t help that I was a tiny four foot nine. And I turned 14 a week into the school year, like nothing about this was going in my favor.

Lauren Tingle 1:20
So what does the transition from eighth to ninth grade look like for your incoming ninth graders? Are your future freshmen as terrified about high school as I was? I got a DM from a follower and a listener named Melanie asking for ideas for transitioning eighth graders into ninth grade. And I thought this would be a great idea for a podcast episode.

Lauren Tingle 1:38
So here’s your reminder to always reach out with your questions you never know when they’ll get answered in a complete podcast episode. I thought we could talk this week about some practical ideas that you as a high school counselor could think about implementing to make that transition smooth for your eighth graders who are coming into ninth grade. Let’s get started.

Lauren Tingle 2:35
So I don’t know if you already have the setup or not. But what if you did a tour from the middle school into the high school? I just think wow, that would have really alleviated some stress for me had I been able to walk around the school look at a map, kind of figure out where the freshman classes were if there’s like a Freshman Academy.

Lauren Tingle 2:54
Now, you might not have the manpower or even the willpower to get all of your eighth graders up into the high school to give them a tour. And maybe you have too many feeder schools to do that from. But if you just had like one middle school coming into one high school, I could see that being a lot more feasible.

Lauren Tingle 3:12
Now, that would probably just take a lot of coordinating a lot of planning, you know, getting all the field trip stuff, ready renting buses, but if this is going to be your focus, and you really find it important to get your middle school students into your building during the school day, this could be a real possibility for you to put on the calendar. And maybe you don’t have time to do it now at the end of the year. But it’s something to think about for next year.

Lauren Tingle 3:37
But also remember tours of the school don’t have to be during the school day. So the school that I came from we had we were called the generals and we had a future generals insight night is what it was called. No fun way to simplify that was FGIN. And funny enough, just for some reason that just got abbreviated to Figen. We call it future generals insight night.

Lauren Tingle 4:01
So we would set up this night to invite all eighth graders from all over the county or private schools or wherever they were coming from who were interested in coming to our school for ninth grade. It really gave them kind of like an open house, especially even before they were making the decision to come to our school. This may feel like a lot of work. Yeah, it was but there were a lot of people involved. This was not just the counselors role to do this.

Lauren Tingle 4:25
When we have this setup, and we had these eighth graders coming into our building, we inevitably had less questions around schedules, picking classes, getting involved in clubs, trying out for sport, general registration, and then career centers and fine arts and foreign languages. When we would open up our doors and let all of them come in at once, they could get all of their questions answered in one place by all of the people who had the answers to them. And that was not just us as the counselors. So this could be something to put on your calendar and try out.

Lauren Tingle 4:55
Again a warning. It does involve a lot of people in your building to make this happen. So, if you have a ninth grade administrator, or you know, someone who’s an assistant to your Freshman Academy, who does a lot of this coordinating, they’re going to be main people in making this big endeavor happen. But it’s also very student led too so having students represented clubs and sports, having all the counselors there to answer scheduled questions, maybe your clerk there to have the papers to register, or show them how to do that on the computer. All of these people come together to make this work.

Lauren Tingle 5:28
Okay, after tours, what if you could do an in person introduction. So if those students are already coming to you, and they’re going to be on your campus, you’re probably going to be sharing that responsibility of hosting this day. So can you go to them are they going to be moving through the building in like a round robin style where you can have your own session, and you can be there introducing yourself? Or if your whole team of counselors is splitting by alphabet, they’re probably going to need to meet or see the faces of lots of counselors.

Lauren Tingle 5:55
So if there’s a way that you could incorporate a counselor station here, if they’re coming into your building, or if you are just going to the middle school to maybe help with registration or something can your face be a friendly face that meets them, and just says, Hey, I am so and so I’m going to be your counselor, I’m going to be one of the counselors when you come to our high school.

Lauren Tingle 6:16
Just so they have that touch point. They don’t have to know you super deeply, you’re probably not going to know them and know their names. But just that recognizing of a familiar face is going to be huge when they step on an unfamiliar campus as they move to ninth grade.

Lauren Tingle 6:30
Something I think would be neat is if you had a current ninth grade panel, so your ninth graders who are finishing up they’ve lived one full year in the high school setting, and they’re about to move on to 10th grade. What advice can they give to incoming ninth graders? Because it is fresh in their minds. They remember the things that they were super nervous about. And they know that things that they are more confident about now that they’ve had one year in the high school setting.

Lauren Tingle 6:54
So can you bring a panel of ninth graders to the middle schools that are feeding into your high school? Or if you are having your incoming eighth graders at your school, whether it’s during the day or in the evening, could you host a panel at this welcome night or Welcome Day of ninth graders?

Lauren Tingle 7:12
Now, I’ll get to this in a few minutes about how we’re going to ask them questions. But offering that space for those eighth graders to ask questions interact with ninth graders who have just been there would alleviate a lot of anxiety as well, I think. They can see somebody has gone before them, somebody has survived and somebody else has made that transition just before they did.

Lauren Tingle 7:34
I think seeing those students and having them in their mind, maybe even some students who had come from their particular middle school to say, yes, these were the things that were similar, these were the things that were different, this is what I didn’t expect, this is what I’ve overcome, just giving them some prompts to be able to share that you can either have the eighth graders ask questions ahead of time, or you can give those current ninth graders some prompts to be sharing from upfront.

Lauren Tingle 7:59
I think if you’re going to have a panel, you’re going to want to be aware of the inclusivity that you’re going to want to present from the stage to make all the students who are coming in feel welcome in your school. So represent all different types of students. So whether that’s what they look like, what they sound like, where they’re from, what neighborhoods they live in, what they’re involved with, whether that’s sports, clubs, the academics that they are choosing to follow whether that’s a career center or a fine art center, or particular foreign language, like give a broad array of opportunities and pathways from upfront that an eighth grader could really see themselves in the shoes of whoever is on stage.

Lauren Tingle 8:42
Another really simple way to ease the minds of these eighth graders transitioning into ninth grade is to use a presentation. Use the slides that I already have in my TPT store and you’ll put that out to your eighth graders coming into ninth grade. So you could do this while they’re in eighth grade already. Or you can just wait until they’re in ninth grade.

Lauren Tingle 10:01
Nothing says that you have to be the one to transition them from eighth to ninth grade. Especially if you have a lot going on just to move all of your students on your current caseload up to the next grade level. I kind of feel like, it’s not really your responsibility to be pursuing these eighth graders before they’re your actual students, because let’s be honest, you might put a lot of work into that. And then there are a lot of students who don’t come to your school. So I am not against you waiting until they’re in ninth grade to help ease that transition into high school.

Lauren Tingle 10:31
So you could use these transition to ninth grade slides, and you could one, teach it yourself. Or two, you could record a video and then share it out to your students. So I’m talking, you could be a live person in front of a classroom, going through the slides, answering questions, explaining what ninth grade is like to them in person. This will be a great way for you to ease into classroom lessons, and to work on maximizing your reach far and wide for ninth grade students.

Lauren Tingle 11:00
If you are wondering how in the world, you can do that, or how to get into classrooms at all, to begin with, I’m gonna link episode 66 of this podcast in the show notes where you can go and listen about how to maximize your reach and how to get on teachers good sides to get in the classroom and do those lessons.

Lauren Tingle 11:17
If you feel like you don’t have the time or the energy to get those on the calendar and be live in front of all of those ninth grade students, I get it, the beginning of the year is absolutely insane. And you might have a huge caseload. Another option would be to do a screen record like in Canva, or on PowerPoint, put your face on a camera, record yourself doing this presentation and then share it out, you could share out in the Google Classroom, you could share it with advisory teachers to show in the classroom, or you could email it to your students, there are a lot of different ways that you can get this information out to them.

Lauren Tingle 11:51
And you know, if you do it this way, maybe you’re gonna have a teacher who does not show it in their classroom. Or maybe you’re gonna have a student who doesn’t check their email, and they never see it, or they never log into Google Classroom and they don’t even know that there’s something there waiting for them.

Lauren Tingle 12:04
But I will say the students who want the help are going to find it, they’re going to take advantage of what you’re putting out there. And you know, as a high school counselor, this is a theme all the way until graduation, the exact same thing happens with scholarships. They act like they want the help, and then they never come pursue the help or they never take advantage of the resources that you’re putting in front of them. So same mentality, create this stuff that would be helpful for the students and the ones who need it will take advantage of it.

Lauren Tingle 12:32
Instead of doing an entire presentation, if you want to go even simpler than that, you could just record a video of you introducing yourself to those current eighth grade students, just as a little welcome. Or if you have a whole team of counselors, record quick little videos, put them together, mash them up, and send them to your those students who are coming in or as soon as you have those ninth graders and you’re creating a Google Classroom for them, upload it into there.

Lauren Tingle 12:57
I love using videos as introductions because there are so many more students in your building than there are counselors. And it is a easy way to multiply yourself and to multiply your time so that you can go do the other things that you inevitably have to do on your to do list.

Lauren Tingle 13:12
Another thing I thought of that you could do would just be send a mass email once you have those ninth graders in your system, say, hey, reply to this email with your questions about high school. And you know, you could be getting a lot of reply emails. So if I were you, I would preemptively create a rule in your Gmail or your outlook that sends all the responses to those emails to one folder. Then you could take all those questions and you could put those in a custom presentation for your incoming ninth graders and answer the questions that they want to know the answers to.

Lauren Tingle 13:44
You could physically respond to all of those emails, of course, but you’re probably going to see a lot of the same questions come up over and over again. So like I said, you could do a regular presentation, or you could record a set of videos to respond to those, maybe you record quick little videos, and you put them on a YouTube playlist, and then you send out that YouTube playlist, because you could always add to it, if they have that link.

Lauren Tingle 14:05
You could use these questions that students respond to and set up that student panel that I mentioned before. So this is where you could get questions that they want to hear the answers to you and have current students respond to those.

Lauren Tingle 14:18
If you’re not into receiving a lot of email responses, you could always set up a Google Voice number and you could get text messages. I kind of think that this one would be a little harder to keep organized. I like the email because it’s in one folder in one place. And I don’t have to worry about seeing those on my phone or collecting them and trying to put them back on my computer where I would like to organize them. So I’m more of an email girly, but maybe you create a Google Voice number and that would work for you too.

Lauren Tingle 14:45
Lastly, maybe once you have these ninth graders in your building, it’s no longer just a grade level above them that you want them to hear from. Maybe you want them to hear from seniors a couple of years down the road, who have lots of advice for ninth graders.

Lauren Tingle 15:00
I know, I’ve done a bulletin board before where I have advice from upperclassmen to underclassmen. And honestly, all they are a wealth of information. By the time they get to senior year, they’re really pensive and reflective. They’re ready to get out the door. But they also recognize they have a lot of life wisdom to offer to ninth grade students.

Lauren Tingle 15:19
And so yes, you could put up a bulletin board, from your seniors to your freshmen. But you could also get those seniors to represent up on stage again and do a panel for those ninth graders. There’s so much wisdom to be had from peers, where, you know, parents say, Oh, they don’t listen to me, can you talk to them as a high school counselor?

Lauren Tingle 15:38
You also know that you’re just another adult, they might not listen to you at first, but they’re going to listen to the influence of their peers. And so having a senior student panel will be really impactful for your ninth graders.

Lauren Tingle 15:51
So I know that was a lot of ideas to get your brain thinking about the eighth grade transition to ninth grade. I would love if you would send me a DM and let me know which of these was inspiring to you. Which of these are you going to hopefully implement into your high school counseling program to acclimate your ninth graders into high school?

Lauren Tingle 16:11
I’d love to hear about your journey as to what that’s going to look like in your school. So send me a DM over on Instagram. I’d love to hear from you. I’ll see you next week.

Connect with Lauren:

Cheers + Happy Listening!

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