The Mind of the Middle School Student

Middle school adolescents are extremely complex. In fact, the reasons why they act they way they do are often a mystery. I never thought that I'd enjoy teaching middle school because I thought the curriculum wouldn't be intellectually challenging. Wow, was I wrong. After three weeks in a middle school, I realized that it wasn't the content that was challenging, but the methodology involved in teaching middle school learners that was complicated. And I quickly discovered that I enjoyed this aspect of the middle school.

At this age, the middle school adolescent is going through a myriad of changes. Students between the ages of 10-14 are just beginning to understand abstract concepts. However, due to the different rates of development among children this age, middle school students will range from concrete operational to formal operational thinking. In order to compensate for this, it is best to use multilevel teaching. This involves different students or groups working on different task to accomplish the same behavioral objectives. This ensures that the teacher will be able meet the individual cognitive abilities of middle school students. In order to do this, the middle school teacher must be creative, flexible and dynamic.

Peers play an important role in development of the early adolescent. It is during this period of development that middle school adolescents begin to discover their identity within a social context. Peers serve as a one source from which adolescents derive their concept of self. Peers also validate the adolescents feelings about themselves. While this may seem to be discourage learning, this characteristic of adolescence can be used productively inside and outside of the classroom. Students at this age enjoy interacting with their peers. Using group activities is one way to take advantage of this aspect of the middle school learner. Cooperative learning, peer tutoring and cross-age teaching are all effective methods that can be incorporated into the classroom because they use the adolescents social curiosity to achieve meaningful learning.

One of the most important characteristics of middle school students is their different learning styles. The middle school teacher should learn as much as possible about the preferred learning styles of their students. In order to do this, the teacher must by extremely observant, questioning and examining the actions and behaviors of their students. The middle school teacher should also develop a eclectic style of teaching. By doing this, the teacher will address the different learning styles of the students, ensuring that the learning needs of all the students are being met. This type of flexible teaching should incorporate the demands of audio, visual and kinesthetic learners.

All of the above characteristics underscore the complexities of transescence. At this age, middle school students are naturally curious, energetic, and idealistic. This is the result of physiological, psychological and cognitive changes. They are beginning to experience new thoughts, and emotions as the set out to discover identity. But they need and want some one to guide them. All of these characteristics can be harnessed by the creative teacher to promote meaningful learning experiences for the middle school student.

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