Freshman year can be an exciting time for students, with a new school, opportunities to make new friends, and increasing independence. But it also can be stressful. Rigorous instruction, less structure, and increasing pressures to succeed can become barriers to students’ ability to keep up.
Research tells us that the transition from middle to high school is the riskiest time for student dropouts. In fact, more students drop out during this period than any other grade. Research also shows social-emotional learning (SEL) can give students the support they need to overcome challenges and succeed, particularly during the middle-to-high-school-transition.
As students settle in this school year, make sure to prioritize SEL. Building students’ social-emotional skills will help ensure they succeed, and the benefits will have long-lasting impacts on their success in school and in life.
Here are a few ideas to get started:
- Encourage Involvement
Many studies show that achievement improves when students are active in extracurricular and after-school activities. Sports, clubs, and out-of-school programs promote many social-emotional skills, including goal-setting, self-discipline, motivation, confidence, and teamwork. Encourage students to join at least one activity.
- Be a Listening Ear
Sometimes a simple check-in with students can make all the difference to improving their well-being. Make a point to welcome students and ask how they are doing. Give them a way to communicate with you one-on-one — during set office hours, through email or text message, etc. Showing students that you care about them will build trust, improve their cooperation, and boost achievement.
- Establish Peer Mentors
High school students have likely developed peer relationship skills, which you can leverage to help students succeed. Establish a peer mentor program where juniors and seniors coach freshmen. Ninth graders will benefit from interacting with student role models, and ALL students will increase confidence and their ability to build meaningful relationships.
- Build Self-Efficacy
Teaching students self-efficacy helps them accept who they are and learn to celebrate their differences. The ability to be confident in their capacity to react to everyday situations also teaches students to advocate for themselves and believe in their own ability to succeed. Here are some activities to increase students’ self-efficacy throughout the year.
- Recruit Parent/Guardian Involvement
Start the school year with conferences or an open-house to establish open lines of communication with students’ parents or caregivers and introduce them to SEL. Parents and guardians can be powerful allies in helping students remain on-track throughout the year. Enlist their support for things like homework assistance and regular attendance, and also to reinforce SEL constructs you are including in daily instruction.
Ninth grade is a critical time for students and can pave the path for success or failure. Give students the support they need by building their social-emotional skills. Contact our SEL experts to learn more about how to support the transition from middle to high school with SEL.