We know that we need to do our best to teach students the academic and life skills that they will need for next year and the year after, but there are some other ways we can help prepare students. We need to take a look at the differences in programs and preset our students.
Here are the main areas I look for differences: furniture, routines and classroom supports. If your students typically go to a specific program after yours, talk to the teacher to see what skills were missing or what the student struggled with in the new setting. Our students can become rigid and opposed to change, so it is helpful to introduce changes in our program at the end of the school year to help students be more successful in the new setting. Here are some of the areas we work on.
- Will students be expected to sit in desks or tables? In my old K-2 program, students sat at tables. In the spring, I would bring in desks for students who would be expected to use desks in the next program. We would work on keeping your desks clean, moving the chair instead of the desk to get up, etc.
- Does your program use visual boundaries that won’t be there in the next program? For example, are there markings on the floor for lining up? Practice lining up without the visuals if they won’t be available at the next program.
- Will students be expected to use lockers? Teach students about opening lockers, the motor planning involved in getting all of their belongings in the locker, etc.
Routine changes are harder to prepare students for. Here are the routines I think about when I am working on a plan to get students ready:
- Will students need to change clothes for P.E.? Do students know how to change their shirt and pants independently? In elementary school, we don’t have to change for P.E., but our 5th graders begin to in spring so it isn’t new when they move up to middle school.
- Will students need to eat in the cafeteria or classroom? If students will be expected to eat in the cafeteria in the next program, begin working on it now.
- A biggie for my 5th graders is going from having recess to being at a school that doesn’t even have a playground. For this, we usually create a social story that addresses when and where they can still go outside. For example, while there isn’t recess, students are allowed to earn outside or gym time at the end of the day.
Classroom Supports & Expectations
- Will students be expected to raise their hand in groups? Make sure students have that skill by practicing it in classroom groups and therapy groups.
- Will students be expected to follow an individual schedule on their own? If so, begin giving giving them small activity schedules to follow without any help and build up.
- Will students have to complete homework in the next program? Start working on building that routine into students’ lives.