This fall, King School launched Middle School University for new and returning students entering Grade 6. The engaging program took place during the first two weeks of school and provided an introduction to essential skills and concepts for successful learning in middle school.
The Grade 6 team identified the need for such a program last year when it began to notice that students were struggling to keep up with the pace of middle school following two years of remote and hybrid learning.
“With COVID, sixth graders were coming in with gaps in executive functioning,” said Dana Karin, Grade 6 social studies teacher. “We wanted to give a unified message to them that said ‘here’s how you can be a middle schooler.”
Last spring, during a professional development day, Karin, along with English teacher Jenna Sotire, science teacher Lindsay Chiodi, and mathematics teacher Michael Florio, decided on four areas of focus for the program. Each teacher agreed to dedicate one of their core classes to teaching a Middle School U course during the opening weeks. The event would culminate with a challenge where teams of students would utilize the skills they learned to compete in rotating blocks.
A group of 63 students took part in the program this year and learned about materials management, online platform use, effective communication skills, and how to identify and articulate executive functioning skills. Each teacher put a creative spin on their area of focus to keep lessons lively and engaging.
Executive functioning, taught by Karin, helped students to understand how their brains focus on tasks and how to create an optimal learning environment. Jake Bosse, Sotire’s maternity substitute, led materials management, where he helped students color code planners, organize binders, and even created a mock locker for students to model their lockers after.
MyKing and Google Classroom were introduced in Chiodi’s online platform course where she showed students how to check their schedules, assignments, and other information shared by teachers. Florio focused on the importance of effective communication and, in one lesson, had each student send a properly formatted email to Head of Middle School Josh Deitch, sharing one boring fact about themselves.
“Many students also let me know that if I wanted to speak with them further about these topics, I could,” Deitch wrote in a letter to parents. “So, I'm looking forward to conversations about Pokemon Go, fishing, golf, and sleeping.”
The course culminated on Friday, September 16, with the Middle School U challenge day. Wearing specially branded t-shirts, students demonstrated their acquired knowledge in teams through 25-minute challenges across each teacher’s class. One challenge tested communication skills by requiring a student to verbally communicate the shape of a lego model to another classmate, who would in turn relay the design to a builder on the other side of the room. Another required students to log in to Google Classroom for cup stacking challenge instructions and submit their completed challenge online.
The course set students in motion for a successful year in middle school. Katherine Curry ‘29, a new student to King, said “Being in a new school, it was good to clarify what teachers expect of you. What’s acceptable and what’s not.” Erica Mwenda ‘29, who has been at King since kindergarten, added “No matter if you were here for lower school or not it's a new building for everyone. Middle School U helped all of us get used to the way things work.”