Whether your child is moving on to the next grade, or making the leap to a new school, planning makes for a successful transition. At The Cloverleaf School, we work with our students to develop Learner Profiles. Each student helps to create a portfolio of useful information about how s/he learns and what s/he needs to succeed. This is helpful for the students, parents, teachers, and therapists.
One part of the Learner Profiles is something every child can do: write a letter to next year’s teacher. This activity includes several fun steps that parents can start over summer break. It provides next year’s teacher with a better understanding of a child’s interests, anxieties, areas of strength and areas of struggle – all from the child’s point of view.
Help your child create a Letter for Next Year’s Teacher in 4 easy steps:
- 1. Who Am I?
Start with autobiographical information (age, family, friends and interests). Ask your child what s/he would most like a new teacher to know. Some children readily express their likes and dislikes, and can identify who they can count on for support. Other children need guidance to discover these things.
One way to help your child explore these areas is by using fun quizzes. While driving, call out, “Pop quiz!” and begin fill-in-the-blank sentences like,
“I am ___;”
“When I grow up I will ___;” or
“If I had a million dollars I would ___.”
Quizzes can have themes like “My Favorites” or “People Who Rock,” or even Top 10 lists. They are great entertainment for the whole family. Sometimes they can even be quite surprising! Most importantly, they help develop your child’s self-confidence.
Once identified, you can help your child write down the autobiography, or video-tape it.
- 2. Questions I Have
Next, make a “K-W-L” chart with your child.
K = “What I Know”
W= “What I Want to Know”
L = “What I’ve Learned”
Together, make a list of all the things you and your child already know about next year’s classroom or new school (K). Then brainstorm questions your child still has (W). Here, some of your child’s worries about the transition will start to show.
Begin to ease those worries by answering what questions you can, either using the school’s website or by asking another family. Then, print the answers you find in the (L) column to show what you’ve learned.
Write down any remaining questions in the letter, or return to the video-camera!
- 3. What Works For Me
Self-advocating is easier when you know what you need. Before the school year ends, ask your child’s current teacher to make a list of your child’s strengths, challenges, and the modifications they have used in the classroom. Go over this list with your child for input.
Next, do a visualization exercise with your child to help identify other things to help. Take notes as you ask your child to:
- Describe the perfect classroom. Tap into artistry. Draw a map or make a model.
- Describe a great school day. Ask what subject comes first, the game during P.E., how the lessons are presented. Pay attention to preferences such as seating, group work, and accommodations.
Once again, return to the letter or the video to capture the essence of your child’s vision. Include any art work in the letter.
- 4. My Goals For This Year
To establish clear goals, start by reminiscing with your child about a time when s/he mastered something, like riding a bike or writing his/her name. Look for accomplishments in academic, social, and physical areas.
Then ask about what s/he wants to tackle next. First, do some general brainstorming. It’s okay to put out some funny, outrageous ideas to keep things from feeling too overwhelming or serious. Then, help narrow the list down to three goals, preferably one for each category (social, physical, academic).
Specific goals help your child see his/her own interests and ambition. It also gives the teacher more insight into your child’s values.
Once you’ve got all of the information assembled, package it up with your child so that there is a nice presentation for the teacher, regardless of whether it’s on a CD or in a letter. This will help your child see a project completed, and make it more intriguing for the new teacher!
In addition to your child’s letter, make sure your child’s new teacher has copies of standardized testing scores, academic or social assessments, classroom accommodations, and parent-teacher conference notes.
Armed with all of the above, you, your child’s teacher, and your child will be well equipped to take on a brand new school year with confidence!
Building on Success: Helping students make transitions. Alberta Education, Alberta, Canada (2006)