Fifth grade, the first year of middle school at Randolph, is a time of transition for students and—possibly even more so—for their parents.
There are some important developmental changes as a student leaves our Lower School and enters the broader scope of Middle School. We have referred to this time as the twilight of childhood, but it is also the threshold of independence.
Middle School? Bring it on!
Typically regarded as a time of messy hormonal turbulence, these are also years of great growth, and the men and women who choose to work with middle school students at Randolph do so because there is something about this stage of development that they love.
While others may shudder at the memory of their own Middle School years, our team says, “Bring it on!”
So what's different?
Here are 10 areas where we see important opportunities for parents to step up or step back to help their children make a successful transition towards independence.
They need more sleep
Fifth graders need more sleep than they did the previous year, between 9 and 11 hours a night, according to The National Sleep Foundation. This is a time of rapid growth in all areas, and they are going through the same period of physical, emotional, and cognitive intensity that shaped their toddler years. Teachers definitely see the difference during the school day between a child who is getting enough sleep and one who isn't. Sleep impacts performance in all areas. Talk with your child about why they may need an earlier bedtime this year.
All that growth burns calories! Make sure your 5th grader eats breakfast and packs a healthy snack. Let them make that breakfast and pack that snack, but check to ensure they are making healthy choices. Fifth grade is all about independence with guidance; what your child thinks is a healthy snack may not be what you think is healthy!
Learn time management
Help your child with time management and make sure to have them at school at a time that lets them get the day off to a good start. Our school day starts at 8 a.m., so that means no later than 7:55 a.m. Better yet, have them arrive a little early to hit the sweet spot for socializing with friends and/or seeking help from teachers at 7:30. This time at the beginning of the school day helps students find the equilibrium they need.
Also, encourage your child to take more responsibility for plans and belongings. Remind your child to check the announcement screens. When parents drop things off for students in the Middle School Office, their names will be posted to the screens in the 5/6 building.
Talk to their people
At Randolph, your child's advisor should be your first contact with any issue or concern, and it’s important to let the advisor know about anything going on at home that might impact your child during the school day. In addition, during a period of illness or absence, email the advisor, so he or she can coordinate with your child's teachers to make sure that your child keeps up with any work he or she is missing. The advisor is also a great point of contact throughout the school year; he or she sees how your child is at school and will have a good sense of their whole school selves.
Manage growth and change
On the cusp of puberty, 5th graders’ bodies are beginning to change. Some students shoot up during this time, so keep an eye on hem lines for shorts/skirts and watch for shirts that are so short they don’t want to stay tucked-in. It’s also a good idea to pay attention to your child’s eyesight. As hormones begin shifting, it’s common for children who have not previously had vision problems to develop them.
Read for 20 minutes a night
Fifth grade students are expected to read for at least 20 minutes a night and to log that reading. As Middle School students, they are finished learning to read and have moved on to “reading to learn.” As a result, reading for 20 minutes a night may be the most important homework your student has.
Students may read anything they choose, and our Reading Quest game encourages them to read a diverse selection of fiction and nonfiction genres.
On busy evenings, remind your child to “read in the spaces of life.” Waiting for a sibling’s practice to end, hung over the back of a Target cart, en route to dance practice – all are solid, often unused blocks of time that can be filled with reading. Don’t forget that audio books and read-alouds count toward the 20 minute goal, too!
Use SnapChat and all social media judiciously or not at all
Now think about the intense growth and malleability of the preadolescent brain. Many apps are designed to be addictive. We all need to be cognizant of finding a healthy limit.
The School can limit phone and app use during the day through our network and rules, but we can't stop students from exploring the Internet at home. (Further reading on our blog.)
Limit video games
There’s sound scientific evidence that video games contribute to attention disorders, poor school performance, mood swings, impulsivity, and decreased long-term concentration. (Read this, this, and this.) In addition, many of today’s multi-player games allow children to play and chat with strangers on the Internet. For these reasons, it’s a good idea to set firm guidelines about what video games are allowed and when they may be played.
The 5th grade team strongly suggests a moratorium on video gaming in the mornings before school; we want students to be focused on learning when they get here!
Take advantage of Quiet Room
Sometimes 5th graders need a little structural help. Randolph offers Quiet Room, a special space for 5th graders to work after school, from 3-3:30. While there, students can get help from teachers, complete homework, and read. Students may attend Quiet Room every day after school, or you can pick and choose the days that mesh with your family’s extracurricular schedule. Just email your child's advisor about when your child will attend, and remember that you will not be able to pick your child up until he or she is dismissed at 3:30 PM.
The workload increases in middle school, and most 5th graders still need support to manage the organization this requires. The 5th grade team suggests meeting weekly with your child—on Sunday evening, for example—to check the family calendar and MyRandolph. Let your child write extracurricular commitments for the week in his or her planner, and help your child plan when recurring assignments, such as Membean and IXL, will be completed.