term for middle school age students is “tweens,”
the age range roughly from 10 – 14 years; five years
from teddy bears and five years from college. The individuals
in this group vary widely developmentally, socially and academically.
It is a very fragile and yet important time in a student’s
development. Instructional strategies need to be tailored
to the age groups’ needs. Recent reports concerning
increasing high school dropout rates make looking at this
group essential for creating an environment that allows students
to not only grow but also complete their required education.
to Developmental Needs
The National Middle School Association (2003) points to seven
conditions that young adolescents crave: Competence and achievement;
opportunities for self-definition; creative expression; physical
activity; positive social interactions with adults and peers;
structure and clear limits; and meaningful participation in
family, school and community.
movement every 15 – 20 minutes. Ask all the students
to get up and hand in assignments. This age group cannot
sit still for 50 minute lessons or 80 minute blocks.
students process information physically. Designate areas
of the room for various responses to specific questions.
flexible grouping, allowing students to work with different
choice in school projects for self-definition.
clear rules and enforce them calmly – to help students
function as members of a civilized society.
to Rick Wormeli, “These are not ‘fluff’
activities; they result in real learning for this age group.
Integrating these developmental needs is vital to tween success.”
Academic Struggle as Strength With young adolescents, it is important to explain
to students that not everyone starts at the same point along
the learning continuum, or learns in the same way. Everyone
is a beginner in some areas.
students try to protect their reputations and rarely take
chances for fear of faltering in front of others.
asking difficult questions for which we may not know the
answer, then guide students in the process of finding an
and reward risk taking and failed scientific experimentation.
students to recognize their own growth.
Differentiation requires pathways for learning that may differ
from the majority and requires the teacher to give multiple
examples and employ multiple strategies. With exposure to
many approaches, students can decide what works best for themselves.
The goal is to make learning coherently a goal for all.
exposure to sophisticated learning even when basic skills
students for skills development based on their needs academically.
mini-lessons for basic skills or on advanced material.
alternative assessments for students to demonstrate their
mastery of a topic.
all students accountable for the same standard but allow
them to get to the goal via different paths.
the test is the assessment, everyone must take the test.
students a chance to redo work until they reach mastery,
not everyone learns in the same way on the same day.
Formative Feedback Tween
don’t know when they don’t know, or when they
do know. Provide frequent feedback that assists in comparing
what they did with what they are supposed to have done.
short assignments for prompt feedback.
on one or two areas of assessment for each assignment.
quick exit strategies, a question that deals with the main
theme or the critical content.
to Be Unconventional
Tweens are interested in what is novel and what appeals to
their curiosity about the world. Let them:
the answers; let them derive the questions in math;
a video for an elementary class on the need for water;
a concept dressed as a character from a specific time period;
is the age of “what can YOU really show me today”;
they are bombarded by media, make it exciting.
states, “We must be experts in the craft of guiding
young, fluid adolescents in their pressure-filled lives, and
we must adjust our methods according to the flow, volume,
and substrate within each student. It’s a challenging
river to navigate, but worth the journey.”
Rick, “Differentiating for Tweens,” ASCD, Vol.63, No.7, April, 2006
I hope you’ve found this article
helpful. If you have a question or suggestion, don’t
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