School Transition And Resilience Training

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1 1 School Transition And Resilience Training

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3 Introduction pg 5 An Overview of START pg 8 Key Findings pg 9 Teaching and Learning Principles pg 11 Getting 'Start'ed pg 13 Year 6 Transition Activities pg 15 Year 7 Transition Activities pg 34 Activities developed for Year 6 or Year 7 pg 57 Being your own best friend pg 78 Habits of resilience pg 100 3

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5 Introduction School Transition And Resilience Training (START) is a program encompassing The Framework for Student Support Services in Victorian Government Schools and the middle years of schooling theory and practice strategy. The START program embodies core aims expressed in The Framework for Student Support Services in Victorian Government Schools (The Framework). The START program has been designed to assist schools to plan and implement crucial primary prevention strategies to build belonging and promote wellbeing in all students as they reach a stage of potential vulnerability. The START program materials support schools to address the needs of students at this point in their development by: making connections between curriculum and student welfare agendas encouraging the use of local primary and secondary school networks to jointly develop approaches to student transition promoting strategies for whole school and classroom organisation that contribute to a safe and supportive school environment providing curriculum materials to strengthen student resilience exploring approaches to improve family and local community involvement enabling teacher team work, mutual support and ongoing professional development across primary and secondary schools. This resource is well grounded in middle years of schooling theory and practice, and provides teachers with many innovative teaching and learning ideas. During the middle years of schooling young adolescents are confronted with rapid physical, emotional and intellectual changes while simultaneously seeking to establish their own place in the world. Many educators have recognised that schools need to change significantly at the Years 5-9 level in order to better assist young people through these changes. The Department of Education and Training (DE&T) has recognised the importance of the middle years and the impact these years have on students, and has developed a comprehensive strategy to support schools to ensure they are best meeting students' needs. 5

6 The DE&T Middle Years Strategy aims to: apply a general design approach to whole school improvement focus on improvement in student literacy and numeracy levels, student attitudes, attendance and retention pay particular attention to under achievement by groups of students such as boys, Koories and new arrivals. Transition is one element in middle years reform and an important one, but in order to be effective it needs to be part of an ongoing broader middle years agenda. In the general context of school change it has been observed [ ] that piecemeal attempts to provide quick-fix solutions do not work. This is because what are perceived to be individual and isolated problems are, in fact, elements of a much more global issue affecting the school. If, therefore, they are treated as individual circumstances, they will falter or fail completely. Therefore any thought process which perceives of students as moving from one school to another in a complete change of culture on a single day is obviously not going to work. The transition process must be seen as part of the whole-school strategy for the middle years of schooling. Middle Years Matters, The State of Victoria, September 2000 Central elements of a comprehensive middle years strategy will include: a whole school approach to addressing the needs of students in the middle years use of a specific school improvement model - the Hill and Crevola model effective school cluster cooperation and collaboration over time linking with the latest research linking with curriculum and teaching and learning reform ongoing teacher professional development. As such, the role of the START resource kit is to provide activities and strategies to assist students to develop resilience and to successfully make the transition from primary to secondary schooling. It will be most effective when used as part of a broader whole of school, cluster-based middle years strategy. Transition from primary to secondary schools involves changes that can be both exciting and worrying to students and their families. Successful transition is vital to the development of students' self-esteem and academic self-competence as well as to the prevention of potential anti-social behaviour, substance misuse, depression and suicide. Effective transition programs can potentially reduce these negative outcomes. The promise of a whole new group of friends, different teachers, new subjects, pizza in the canteen and an adolescent environment buzzing with excellent adventures is compelling for many students. Even the most curious and brave young person possesses some vulnerabilities at this age and stage in their development. 6

7 Parents also have to adjust to changes when establishing their child in a new school setting, at a time when their children are beginning to express their individuality and autonomy. Consultation with parents about their expectations of the transition process has revealed that many parents find transition difficult. Parents speak of the different cultures of primary and secondary schools, the daunting scale of secondary schools and the consequences of a loss of familiarity with the school, its organisation, teaching staff and even the friends that their children were associating with. With these considerations in mind, we need to ensure that the transition experience is positive and responds to the diversity of the needs of students and their families. Teachers are also anxious about the wellbeing of students in transition. This is highlighted in the way most schools have established transition programs, and embraced principles and practices developed through the middle years of schooling movement. With this in mind, the program has drawn on examples of better practice from a broad range of settings and strategies. These examples include small table teams to help organise student classroom activities, the creation of passports and the implementation of 'Personal Best' programs. The Victorian Department of Education and Training has funded the START project. The project has drawn on local and overseas research as well as consultation with teachers, students and parents to identify key issues and strategies to build this model. 7

8 An Overview of START The START program is broken into sections: background information and considerations for developing a transition program, including key findings; teaching and learning principles; tips for getting 'start'ed; and a discussion of the issues surrounding school organisation. The program then provides some activities for students involved in transition from primary to secondary school. The Year 6 activities focus on preparing young people for secondary school and celebrating the completion of primary school. The Year 7 activities have a focus on building positive relationships and learning about secondary school. A section of activities based around the development of social skills is also included. The 'Understanding Yourself' and 'Goal Setting' activities can be conducted at either the primary or secondary school level. For the program to be effective and conducive to continuity and consistency it is recommended that school clusters agree on which activities they will run at each level. The section on social skills concentrates on the issues of friendship and safety, which are pertinent to this stage of school life. There are many other social skills that are also important to young people, however many of these are already covered comprehensively in other programs and existing health education curriculum. The section 'Understanding Yourself' helps students develop awareness around how they build their emotional life. Clearly, students cannot be completely responsible for their mental health, but they can have some control over it. Students can also be aware of the effects of their words and actions on the mental health of others. The activity 'Habits of Resilience' leads into the section 'Goal Setting'. While traditional health and personal development programs have taught goal setting as a purely cognitive process, we believe that goal setting is the vision, habits are the engine. For instance, a student may set one of their goals as gaining a place in the school netball team. However, the choice between watching television or doing exercise will be determined more out of habit than a decision preceding an act of will. Habits are the building blocks that construct the outcomes. Consequently, when a student sets goals, the planning process needs to determine the appropriate habits that need to be developed and nurtured to achieve the goal. An assessment of students' habits will also assist the student and teachers to assess how the student is progressing toward their goals. While some basic activities are provided to explore the habits of resilience, they are mere seeds in a longer process. To develop habits students need to persevere and practice until these habits become routine behaviour. Consequently, to make a meaningful difference, parents and schools need to find methodical ways of supporting, encouraging and acknowledging the constructive behaviours of students. The final section is on goal setting. As the great Australian horse trainer, Colin Hayes, said, 'The future is for those who plan for it'. Hayes built a horse racing empire from his own vision, beginning without money, knowledge or contacts, just a plan. Finally, it should be noted that many of the sections are inter-related. The program has not been developed with a view to being taught in any particular order. It is more important that teachers have a sense of what they want to achieve, and select the activities accordingly. 8

9 Key Findings School transitions can be stressful for many students, particularly for early maturing girls and low achieving boys. Negative changes in Year 7 students include: increases in distress, such as worries and self-consciousness decreases in self-esteem, particularly for girls if it coincides with puberty decreases in academic achievement associated with a loss of confidence about ability to handle the work at the secondary school level decreases in student trust of teachers and teacher trust of students that seems connected to not knowing each other well enough. Primary schools and secondary schools are often very different places. Secondary schools are more likely to have: greater teacher control with fewer opportunities for student decision making less personal and positive dimensions to student and teacher relations increased whole-of-class organisation that potentially increases social comparison and competition an increase in the degree of competitive standards used by teachers to judge student competence. Research into building resilience in young people (Resnick et al,1997; Fuller et al, 1999) has identified several factors that are critical in the capacity of students to cope with stress and adversity. These factors are essentially related to engendering in students a sense of belonging, fitting in or connection regarding: family peers school community. 9

10 The research also suggests that programs which make a positive difference to student transition from primary to secondary school effectively: increase visible teacher support to students promote meaningful relationships between students and between staff and students reduce the amount of environmental shifting between classes and other activities promote student self-efficacy through approaches that enhance goal setting, mastery learning and inter-personal problem solving skills involve families in transition through provision of information, opportunities for discussion, awareness of the role that parents can take to support school initiatives provide professional development and opportunities for team support among teachers. The research also supports the notion that skills targeted in transition programs that enhance student resilience include: supportive relationship skills: social skills that improve connection to peers, teachers and family members self-efficacy skills: skills for coping constructively with stress as well as the development of positive academic self-competencies positive goal setting: skills to assist more optimistic thinking, a sense of direction and meaning in life. 10

11 Teaching and Learning Principles It is recommended that schools intending to implement the START program are aware of the following principles that are fundamental to teaching and learning in the middle years of schooling. 1. A shared vision and commitment to young people needs to be developed and communicated between school staff, students and their families. Teaching and learning in the middle years of schooling is most likely to be effective when based upon a shared philosophy of fundamental values and beliefs within the school community. This can provide the key reference point for any discussion and decision making process concerning matters such as school transition. Values and beliefs such as justice, care, respect, and a concern for the needs of others can then be reflected in the every day practice of teachers, students and administrators. A commitment to advance the learning capacity of all students and the achievement of outcomes that are meaningful and beneficial to the student is critical at this stage. Providing students with opportunities, skills and recognition for participation in school activities enhances their self-esteem and sense of fitting in at school. Encouragement of active and responsible citizenship improves their acceptance and sense of belonging within the community. This sense of commitment is crucial on a whole school basis. However, it is also important to develop a shared vision across primary and secondary schools in a local cluster. Facilitating communication, mutual planning and work among teachers of different school levels can contribute to improved outcomes. To this end, middle school networks have been established in a number of school clusters to develop a more seamless approach to teaching and learning. 2. Sensitivity to child and adolescent stages of development needs to be reflected in school policies, procedures and practices. Findings from the Middle Years Research and Development (MYRAD) Project indicate the importance of responding to particular physical, emotional, intellectual, social and cultural needs of young adolescents. Very important specific needs that must be addressed between Years 5 and 8 include: identity relationships purpose empowerment success rigour safety. 11

12 Recognition of these needs can inform school priorities concerning structures and processes for organising student learning, such as establishing secondary level sub-schools based on the stages of adolescent development (middle and senior) and engaging in regular consultation with students about their concerns and needs. 3. Commitment to supportive relationships needs to be a school community priority. Developing productive and affirming relationships with adults and peers in an environment that respects differences and diversity is of particular importance to young adolescents. Students at this stage need to enjoy quality relationships within a school environment that ensures that each student is in contact with a small number of adults. In the development of this program, students were surveyed to seek their opinion on school and transition issues. One Year 6 student, when asked about what they thought secondary school teachers would be like, commented: "If they know more about you, they are better". With this aim in mind, it is recognised that teachers of junior secondary students need to have more contact time with fewer students if they are to know and understand them well. Teachers also need opportunities to form teams with colleagues at both the primary and secondary level to enhance communication, develop trust and to experience that "work shared is work reduced". 12

13 Getting Start'ed When considering program changes in your school at the Year 6 or 7 level, the following approaches to school structure and organisation are helpful. 1. Provide sufficient teacher time for: initial consideration of the program by all staff discussing the changes that have to be made for effective implementation team planning, monitoring implementation and evaluation. 2. Ensure appropriate leadership and support in order to: gain priority and ongoing encouragement from the principal and other key personnel build in access to relevant professional development for teachers (whole school as well as those involved in the program). 3. Use a flexible approach to school arrangements by: reviewing teacher allocation (e.g. fewer teachers, teacher teaming, pairs of pastoral group teachers) re-arranging the use of physical space (e.g. for home rooms, designated locker areas, equipment, technology and other resources) enabling changes in timetabling. 4. Undertake curriculum integration to: make learning more relevant through the use of themes, projects and activities that are based on real-life issues, challenges and the personal and social concerns of students. 5. Actively encourage family and community involvement to: enable initial and ongoing participation in the program. 13

14 References Barratt, R. (1998) Shaping Middle Schooling in Australia: A Report on the National Middle Schooling Project, Australian Curriculum Studies Association. Inc. Cumming, J. (1996) From Alienation to Engagement: Opportunities for reform in the middle years of schooling, Australian Curriculum Studies Association. Inc. Fuller, A., McGraw, K. and Goodyear, M., (1999) Bungy Jumping Through Life: what young people say promotes wellbeing and resilience, Australian Journal of Guidance and Counselling, 9, 1, Resnick, M.D., Bearman, P.S., Baumna, R.W, Harris, K.E., Jones, K.M., Beuhring, J., Sieving, T., Shew, R.E., Ireland, M., Bearinger, L.H., Udry, J.R., (1997) Protecting Adolescents from Harm: Findings from the National Longitudinal Study on Adolescent Health, Journal of the American Medical Association, 278, 10,

15 Year 6 Transition Activities The following activities can be modified for Year 7 15

16 Thinking About Secondary School - Activity 1 What's Your Opinion? - Activity 2 Good Teacher Activity - Activity 3 Passports - Activity 4 Communicating Your Thoughts - Activity 5 What do Parents Think? - Activity 6 16

17 Year 6 Transition - Activity 1 Thinking About Secondary School Adapted from Catching On STI/HIV Prevention Education Resource DE&T 2002 Creating a Supportive Learning Environment Setting the Ground Rules Setting ground rules with students is important in any classroom. It enables students and teachers to have a mutual understanding of what is expected in terms of their own behaviour and the behaviour of others. It is particularly important when students are involved in teaching and learning activities that may require the sharing of a range of ideas, values and attitudes. Students need to feel safe and supported, not only by teachers but also by other students. A useful strategy is to engage students in the development of these ground rules. If the students have difficulty in developing these, you may like to start with some of the following rules for discussion: we do not put down each other everyone has the right to speak what other people say in class is confidential it is equally important to enable students to withdraw if they find issues personally confronting and to protect them from making harmful disclosures. In other words, every person has the right not to offer an opinion. Purpose For students to begin thinking about secondary school and taking charge of the process of transition. Preparation Photocopy question sheets for each student. 17

18 Process: 1. Introduce the program by asking students if they have been thinking about secondary school recently. Ask them what their thoughts have been about. 2. Ask students to complete the question sheet in their workbooks. 3. Group students according to their chosen colour. Discuss reasons for choice and feelings. 4. Compare choices of colour among students and discuss how students chose different colours. The Colour of Secondary School Have you thought about secondary school? Yes / No List three of your favourite colours, and three of your least favourite colours. Most favourite colours. Least favourite colours. Which colour is most like how you feel about secondary school? Why did you choose that colour? Why do you think that colour makes you feel like that? Have you always felt this way about that colour? Yes / No 18

19 Year 6 Transition - Activity 2 What s Your Opinion? Purpose For students to begin thinking about secondary school and taking charge of the process of transition. Preparation Prepare cards for the continuum. Process: 1. Ask students to stand in a horse shoe shape. 2. Place a 'Better' sign at one end of the room and a 'Worse' sign at the other end of the room. 3. Explain to students that this is a 'continuum'. When you say a word or phrase, you want students to stand on a position along the continuum that represents how strongly they feel. For example, if you say the word, 'Life', students who think their life will definitely be better at secondary school will stand close to the top of the continuum near the 'Better' sign, while those who aren't sure about what will happen to their life will stand toward the middle of the continuum, half way between the signs, and those who think their life will be worse, will stand more toward the 'Worse' sign. 4. Ask students to explain why they are standing in the position they have chosen. 5. Tell students they can change their position if their opinions change while listening to other students. 6. Complete the START survey for schools. As well as getting students to think in more detail about their move to secondary school, this survey can be used to pinpoint issues that may need to be addressed either individually or as a whole class. Ask students to complete the survey and then collect. Some suggested words for the continuum activity. BULLYING CANTEEN TEACHERS SUBJECTS FRIENDSHIPS ENJOYMENT SPORTS 19

20 START Survey for Schools 1. When you are thinking about secondary school do you: (please circle one answer for each of the phrases below) Feel good Never / Not Much / Sometimes / Mostly / Always Feel bad Never / Not Much / Sometimes / Mostly / Always Feel nothing Never / Not Much / Sometimes / Mostly / Always Unsure Never / Not Much / Sometimes / Mostly / Always Please describe the feelings you have about going to secondary school: 2. Write down a list of what you think might happen on your first day of secondary school. 20

21 3. At your new school do you think you will: (circle the answers) Make new friends? Yes No Unsure Be taught by good teachers? Yes No Sometimes Behave better than you do now? Yes No Sometimes Need to work hard? Yes No Sometimes Learn more than at primary school? Yes No Unsure Enjoy yourself? Yes No Sometimes Feel safe? Yes No Sometimes Know what to do? Yes No Sometimes 4. The three things I look forward to most about going into secondary school are: The three things I worry most about going into secondary school are:

22 Year 6 Transition - Activity 3 Good Teacher Activity Purpose To encourage students to begin thinking about what they expect from secondary school. Preparation Photocopy "Greatest Teacher for Me" sheet Butcher's paper Scissors Glue Textas Process: 1. Ask students to think about who would be the best teacher for them. 2. Distribute large pieces of paper to each student with a photocopy of the Teacher Description Cards. 3. Ask students to cut up the photocopied sheet into individual cards. 4. Either by themselves or in pairs, ask students to rate the cards from Most Important to Least Important. Explain that there are no right or wrong answers. These ratings are their opinions. When they are satisfied with their ratings, paste them to their paper. 5. Ask students to present their sheets to the class and explain their ratings. Invite other students to comment. 6. Fill out the "Greatest Teacher for Me" sheet. 7. Remember to thank students for their contribution, since it will help you to teach in a way that they will appreciate. 22

23 Teacher Description Cards Fair Organised Smart Positive Knows your name Gives short instructions Good discipline Friendly Fun Persevering Understanding Kind Cool Firm Good sense of humour Talks to students Helpful Answers questions Gives clear instructions Tells you how to do things better Encourages students Laughs Speaks to people by themselves Asks questions 23

24 The Greatest Teacher for Me! If you could have anybody in the world to be your teacher at your new school, what would that be like? You can choose anybody or make someone up. The only criteria is that you would really like this person to be your teacher. Name What do they look like? Draw their picture underneath or on a large piece of paper. Using the 'teacher description' words, label your picture. You may add any other words you think are important. Do you think teachers are important? Why? 24

25 Year 6 Transition - Activity 4 Passports Purpose To build self-esteem, inform teachers and students about each other and celebrate (acknowledge) achievements at primary school. To continue to encourage the process of building a positive identity. Passports ideally are commenced in primary school and continued in Year 7. This can often be arranged by clusters of schools. In some circumstances this is not possible in primary school but passports begun in Year 7 can still be useful as they provide students with a snapshot of themselves that can be valuable in identity formation. Preparation Prepare a layout for the passport or get students to develop a layout on the computer. Process: 1. Introduce the notion of the passport, the benefits of students creating their own passports, e.g. to celebrate their achievements at primary school and to communicate to their teachers at secondary school. 2. Advise students about how much control they will retain over its distribution - whether it will be sent to their Year 7 pastoral care teacher and whether other people will see it. 3. Be aware that passports can contain personal information about family characteristics, illnesses etc. Decide in advance what type of confidentiality is desirable for your students. 4. Provide support to students as required. 25

26 Outline of Passport Front Cover Design My Passport to Name 9/9/2002 MEXICO 10/10/2002 LONDON 26

27 Page 1 About me! My name What I like to be called My birthday My address My phone number My parent or guardian Other people who live at my house My primary school My jobs or responsibilities at primary school 27

28 Page 2 What I want you to know about me Please write any personal things that you would like to share with your new pastoral care home room or form teacher. You can choose not to share this with other students. You could write this as a letter if you wish. There is also room for you to include a picture if you wish. Here are some ideas My pets, my favourite sports, my favourite music, my favourite food, my concerns, my favourite book, my future career, my hobbies, I am terrific at, my hopes and dreams, my favourite movie. Page 3 What I want you to know about me (include a picture) Page 4 I learn best when You are unique and like to learn in special ways. Think about the ways you like to learn and why you like to learn things this way. Some examples are given to help you begin. Only use the examples that are relevant to you. Please add any ideas that are special to you. I learn best when ( e.g. it is quiet) Because I learn best when (e.g. I am working with a partner) Because I learn best when (e.g. I am doing things) Because I learn best when (e.g. I am in a group) Because 28

29 Page 5 Goals I want to achieve Think about the things you are looking forward to at secondary school and in particular the things you want to be able to do and learn. Think about why these goals are important to you. Below there are places for you to write down your goals. Goal 1 Goal 2 Goal 3 Page 6 Work I am proud of Please select three pieces of your work that you are proud of. You may include more if you wish. A good place to start may be a piece of written work, some mathematics or a piece of artwork. You may like to add an explanation about why you are proud of each piece. 29

30 Year 6 Transition - Activity 5 Communicating Your Thoughts Purpose To communicate concerns and expectations about secondary schools. Preparation Previous activities Photocopy - The sample letter to secondary school principal Envelopes Stamps. Process: 1. Form students into groups. 2. Ask students to brainstorm all the questions they would like answered about their new school. 3. Using the sample letter, draft a letter to the principal at your new school. 4. When the letter has been checked by the teacher, address and send. 30

31 Sample Letter to South Side Secondary College Activity- Write a combined letter to a secondary school Example The Principal South Side Secondary College Dear Principal, We are four students from Dogwood Primary School called Nuygen Le, Toby Amsely, Harriet Zagovsky and Ahmed Mohammed. We are writing to you because we are interested in finding out more about your school. These are some questions we would like answered. 1. What kind of facilities does your school have? 2. Do you need to pass any kind of tests to get into your school? 3. Do you have any special criteria for students wanting to come to your school? 4. What is your dress code? 5. What subjects are compulsory in Year 7? 6. How many periods are there in a day? 7. Is there an area in the school set aside just for Year 7 students? 8. Do you have home room teachers? 9. How safe are the toilets at your school? 10. Do you have any facilities for disabled students? Thank you for taking the time to reply to this letter. Yours faithfully, Harriet, Nuygen, Ahmed and Toby 31

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