Secondary Speaks: Advice for the Move from Middle to High School

Secondary Speaks is at it again, this time discussing what they wish more middle school students knew before coming to high school. The topics range from organization to skills to encouragement and a few other things in between. Click through to read the advice of many secondary teachers!
Welcome back to Secondary Speaks! Today we are sharing our advice for students who are making the leap from middle to high school.

As an 8th grade teacher, I'm always in the thick of this question, trying to adequately prepare our students for high school without overdoing it and losing focus, either. And since I've written before about how to transition INTO middle school, it was only fair for us to talk about gracefully leaving middle school, too!

Remember: Stay tuned for more posts, and comment below if you want to join in!

(If you want to catch up on previous posts from us, make sure to click on the Secondary Speaks tag at the bottom of this post.)

Q: "What do you wish more middle school students knew before coming to high school?"

Our answers seem to have fallen into a few main categories...

  • I wish more middle school students would take the time to learn what organizational tools work for them, and how to use this knowledge for their own benefit. For example do they like binders? duo-tangs? folders? online organization? Students need good organization skills to be successful. Kristy from 2 Peas and a Dog
  • How to organize their lives!!!! Scipi
  • I wish they new how to better manage their time and organize their material. Creative Couple
  • I wish more middle school students understood how important it is to be organized and responsible before going to high school. Middle school kids are all too often extremely dependent on their teachers and/or parents, particularly in regards to reminding them about homework, projects that are coming up, etc. They need to realize that this isn't going to be the case in high school (or shouldn't be). Planning ahead and being prepared is key to being a successful high school student. Lit with Lyns
  • Organization is so important! Lauralee
  • I wish my middle schoolers would: be able to manage their time on long-term projects, organize their materials so that they are ready to work at the beginning of class, be better note-takers when reading, realize that everyone feels weird in middle school. Mme R's French Resources
  • Organization skills. Those book bags are often a mess! Brynn Allison

Attitude, Effort, & Grades
  • To put their best effort into things on THE FIRST TRY. This is especially important if students are accustomed to being given second chances, redos, revisions, or the chance to turn in late work, because not every high school class will allow this. Revision up front is important! Secondary Sara
  • I have taught Freshmen for four years. The biggest shock to them is that they actually have to do their homework and study. Many of my students skate by with good grades in middle school by just listening and participating in class. High school requires effort. Students will have a much smoother transition if they realize this at the beginning of the year. Mrs. E Teaches Math
  • I really wish middle school students understood that in high school, a deadline is a deadline and there are real consequences for turning work in late. Although I haven't taught in a high school, I don't think teachers there routinely tell students that if they don't turn in an assignment on the day it's due, they can just turn it in when they finish. The ESL Nexus
  • I wish more incoming high school students understood just how important grades are in high school. Around here, students are promoted throughout middle school even if they fail every single class. In my opinion, this does not help students at all because they enter high school thinking that Ds and Fs can get them by. The reality is that when they enter high school with this mentality, they have to work a lot harder their sophomore, junior, and senior years to make up for the damage they did their freshman year. The Daring English Teacher
  • I wish that they knew that high school is "for real". Many middle school students don't understand before they come to high school that if you don't pass a class you have to retake it (most middle schools practice social promotion) and that if you don't have the grades, then you can't participate in many of the things that high school has to offer. I wish that they knew that the purpose of high school is to be the final preparation for high school. We are trying to reinforce all of the skills that they have learned and teach them many more new ones that will ensure success in college, the workforce and life beyond the walls of public education. SecondaryMathShop
  • Many times middle school students come to find out that their grades don't count in the grand scheme of things. So, some will say they'll increase their efforts in high school. My response is that your character, drive, and motivation are developed over many years. You cannot just "flip a switch" and decide to become a good student in one year. Brian Dalton

Knowledge,  Information, & Skills
  • Their times-tables! They are too dependent on calculators. The Lab
  • I would say students need grounding in good grammar. I find many students today write in text speak and I would like to really immerse them in the basics of the conventions of standard English before we start analyzing texts. Allyson's Creative Corner
  • I wish more middle schoolers knew that math really matters. weatherly
  • I wish that more middle school students recognized how important good writing skills will be for them later. There seems to be a popular opinion that reading and writing are somehow on their way out. But these communication skills will be as essential as ever for so many future endeavors, and it seems that often the only students who recognize that are the ones who are already writing at an advanced level. Classroom in the Middle
  • I see students at the end of high school, but I wish they came to me with a more critical eye for text. They can summarize like nobody's business, but to be able to evaluate and interpret would allow me to go so much farther with them.  (Sarah from Kovescence of the Mind 

  • Middle school can be a very difficult place. High school students are more mature and much more accepting of differences than middle schoolers. It gets better. Room 213      
  • That there are practical and doable ways to engage the mind actively -- even in those classes where faculty forget to do so. That enthusiasm is a choices and that you have to become your own best advocate! Play! Jump at every chance to do it differently -- so that your brain will expand to take in more useful information. Ellen Weber
  • You are your own destiny. You can make high school whatever you want it to be which means that whether you were at the top or bottom or even in the middle of middle school, high school is a chance to start over. It's a chance to meet new teachers who want to support your dreams. And it's an important time to build that foundation for your dreams, which means it is time to explore new challenges but also to get serious about where you want to go. DocRunning

What other advice would you give to incoming freshmen? Tell us in the comments below!


  1. I love this post. As a ninth grade teacher, these kids and what they need is my everyday. The significance of ninth grade is rarely discussed. The number one predictor of graduation is ninth grade status:

    So many of the important points have been made above. I want to second that ninth grade understanding of grades is minimal - they are surprised when they get low grades and struggle to comprehend how weighted grades work. The idea that their work counts sometimes takes a month or two to settle in and by that time there may already be some numbers that will be on their college transcript.

    I would add that ninth graders need to seek out supports in people around them whether these are peers, teachers, or other adults. Ninth graders need a sounding board and advice and often don't know who to go to when they need to share ideas, stories, or talk about the future. They need to be familiar with the idea of a mentor and think about who could fill that role for them.

    Thanks so much for this post!

  2. This is such a great post, Sara! Thanks for putting it together.

  3. These are great tips! It's really interesting how so many people mention similar issues. Thanks for including my idea!

  4. This is awesome! Thanks for sharing!!!

    Lit with Lyns


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