Moving on up: A transition lesson plan

Written by: Naomi Richards | Published:
Image: MA Education

Transition is always a stressful time for young people. Coach and author Naomi Richards offers some lesson ideas to help prepare our year 6 pupils for their move to secondary school this September

By the middle of year 6 children are ready to make the move up to secondary school. Having just completed their SATs and now knowing what school they are going to and who they are going with they become restless and eager for the next stage of their life.

Their behaviour in the classroom in terms of attention span seems to dwindle and they are not so interested in learning anymore. They just want to make the jump and have a great summer becoming more independent before September arrives.

Not everyone will feel confident

Many of the children will feel ready and will act as if they are. They will feel confident and want the freedom they are going to have. Other children may feel more fearful of what secondary school is going to be like and worry about being a small fish in a big pond.

How are they going to cope with so many other children around and much older children too? There will be lots of worries for the children who get anxious and also those who do not see change as a good thing.

Whatever the worry the children have, it is up to primary schools and their year 6 teachers to help them feel strong and ready for year 7.

So how can we prepare them for it? The worries can be addressed in one lesson or across several. A suggested lesson plan would be as follows.

Lesson plan

Introduce the subject of transition and change. Discuss the benefits of moving schools with people they know or going to one where they know no-one. Share with the children the opportunities they are going to have and ask them about the things to look forward to.

Start a conversation about feelings and explain that not everyone will feel the same. Some children will feel anxious. Ask the children to think of things they or other children may worry about, get them to write them down.

Collate the worries into groups such as “organisation, homework, friendships” and so on and then break them down further. For example, organisation – this could be worrying about not being organised and forgetting something for school. What would happen if they forgot something? What are the ramifications in the early stages of year 7? What could they do to prepare themselves so they did not forget anything? What does it mean or say about them if they forget something?

Once each worry has been broken down, organise the class so they take the umbrella worry and discuss each one in small groups so that everyone’s voice gets heard. It is important that all the group members share their ideas and take an active part. Quite a lot of the work done at secondary school is done in groups and so the children need to get used to putting their ideas forward and making a contribution to their “team”.

The children need to come up with ideas of how that worry can be diminished. What would they say to a child who was worried about that thing? Could they role-play it out? Design a poster? Come up with a short song? What would the challenges be for a child with that worry?

This will help the children think of strategies in a fun and interactive way that they can use so they are more prepared for year 7. Those ideas can then be shared with the class and perhaps a leaflet made up for the children to take home. You could even go a step further and get the pupils to make a video for the year 5s that will be moving up to year 6 when they leave.

So what kind of worries do children have? The kind of worries children will have will be around:

  • Getting to school on time.
  • Keeping in touch with old friends.
  • Making and keeping new friends.
  • Homework: too much or not being able to do it.
  • Fitting it all in: after-school activities, homework, sleep.
  • Teachers: not getting along with them and strict teachers.
  • Lessons: the harder and more difficult content and understanding the lessons.
  • Bullying: face-to-face and online.
  • Peer pressure: resisting it.
  • Travelling to and from school.
  • Being organised.
  • Getting lost at school.

Similar lesson plans can be used for all of these worries and it is a great start to get children ready for year 7.

Self-esteem and confidence

It is incredibly important that we help those children who have not had a great experience at primary school too – perhaps stigmatised, they may have had few friends or were bullied – and those who aren’t confident. Those children will be more anxious than others. Their self-esteem or their confidence may be low. We need to help them see the new school as a fresh start and that their experience can be different and more positive at secondary school.

How do we identify these children? They are going to be those children who don’t put their hands up in class, do not say positive things about themselves and do not want to join in or try new things.

One idea would to be to do a lesson on confidence to remind all the children what it is to look confident (stand up straight with shoulders back), feel confident (I know what I am doing and I am going to do it well), eye contact (not too much and not too little) – how to chit-chat (something many children struggle with as it does not come naturally) and make conversation. It is important that they are taught how to look confident even when they don’t feel it.

In terms of self-esteem, you could do a lesson on identity. This can incorporate getting the children to make a collage of the attributes they have – generous, kind, thoughtful – the kind of person they are, what they like to do, what they are good it.

Not only will this remind themselves who they are but it will also help in terms of making friends. When making friends we generally look for those people who we have something in common with. By reminding ourselves who we are it makes it easier for us to find our tribe.

Self-esteem is also about self-acceptance and being able to say “this is who I am and I may not be like anyone else I know but that is okay”. The world would be a dull place if everyone was the same.

Transition is a tricky time but teachers can help allay the children’s fears and help build up their confidence so they are able to embrace a time of change and development.

  • Naomi Richards is The Kids Coach, a life coach for children who provides coaching on behavioural and emotional issues. She invented The ‘WOW’ board – a self-esteem tool for kids – and is the author of Being Me (And Loving It) (Jessica Kingsley Publishing, April 2016) and The Parent’s Toolkit (Random House, February 2012).

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