Fenton Staff Offers Tips for Students with 'Butterflies'

Getting a good night's sleep and a good breakfast are important for kindergarten, while staying organized and making school a priority are keys to sixth grade success.

The first day of school is an opportunity for students at a new building to begin making lots of new friends and broadening their horizons, teachers and counselors say.

Nevertheless, there will be some children who have "butterflies" in their stomachs about starting kindergarten, or moving from elementary school to middle school.

Many new kindergarten students are used to being away from home and in class, since they've had daycare or preschool, said kindergarten teacher Teresa Squires, from Fenton's It's her second time teaching kindergarten, after teaching it 20 years ago.

"There aren't as many criers as there used to be," Squires said.

But there are usually a few students who are nervous. Squires recommends that kids get a good night's sleep, eat a good breakfast and "come ready for fun."

Amy Bonk, also a kindergarten teacher at said children help each other when someone is nervous. Teachers also comfort students who are anxious.

"They really step up and nurture them, along with us," Bonk said.

Many times, students pick up anxiety from their parents, said Squires. Parents might need to "let go."

"A lot of it is the parent's attitude, she said. "One of my big things is, parents need to just have a positive attitude. Whatever the parents value, the kids will value."

And even an anxious child is into activities and engaged, and not crying anymore, in five to 10 minutes, said kindergarten facilitator Andrea Donajkowski, of

It's the first year will have a , so teachers and students will have time to do a lot more, she said.

Squires is excited about the opportunity, and she said students will have Readers Workshop, Writers Workshop, math, science and social studies.

And there will still be time for play, said Bonk.

This can include Choice Time, said Donajkowski. That's when children can choose which play activities they want to participate in, and which toys they would like to use.

In addition, kindergarten students will have specials, which include music, art and physical education, twice a week, Squires said.

Elementary to junior high

After kindergarten, another milestone is going from elementary to middle school. Students will have lockers and begin changing classes during the day, with up to eight different teachers, said counselor Tamara Hall, of Fenton's

"It's a big difference for them," she said.

Since the middle school curriculum is set up differently, students sometimes feel as though they have more homework than they did in elementary school. This is sometimes true, Hall said. And they have gym class every other day, instead of twice a week as they did in the elementary grades.

And middle school students will be able to select a foreign language they want to focus on, Spanish or French, she said. Another choice is music, between choir and band.

The fifth-graders are invited to visit so they can see the building and experience middle school for part of a day before they are there as sixth-graders. During the last week of school in the spring, fifth-grade students come to the middle school for a tour of the building and lunch in the cafeteria. They break into small groups of 10-15, with middle school students as their tour guides.

A little field day outdoors helps make it a fun day for them, Hall said.

Fifth-grade students receive a pamphlet for their families to review with them, "Say Yes to Middle School." Families talk about what might be different in middle school, from students' elementary school years.

In addition, the pamphlet supplies tips on how to succeed in middle school by staying organized and making school a priority. It's also important for students to enjoy the social aspects of this developmental stage of life, she said.

Hall advises sixth-graders to keep track of their homework and not fall behind. And if they have questions, they should ask them and keep asking until they find an answer. If a student has a question, there's someone in the middle school building who wants to answer it, she said. Students need to keep asking questions and not shut down.

Teachers, counselors and other employees at the middle school are excited to have the new sixth-graders coming to Hall said.
"We love our sixth-graders. We're excited when they come," she said. "And we're excited to see them be excited about high school later."


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