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Know your students: Nature of the student in intermediate elementary

Students in grades 3, 4 and 5 range in age from 8 to 11 years. These are years of intellectual expansiveness. Students transition from a time when concrete operations are solidifying, through a time of trouble with abstractions, to an increasing ability to abstract. Third, fourth, and fifth grade students are interested in the natural world, in how things are put together, and in how things work. During these years, they also work well in groups.

Third grade students are full of ideas and like to explain their ideas. They enjoy working cooperatively and become engrossed in the activity at hand. A primary focus of third grade students is discovery and exploration. They are industrious, full of energy, and often exhibit curiosity. In addition, third grade students are generally able to reason about the conclusions and implications of simple scientific investigations.

Fourth grade students have intellectual curiosity but are often less imaginative than third graders. They relate more to the subject matter than to the teacher. Fourth grade students look for explanations of facts, how things work, and why things happen as they do. In addition, the ability to deal with multiple variables emerges at this grade level. This is a good age for scientific exploration.

Fifth grade students want to be kept interested and motivated. They are actively receptive as learners of factual information and often love to memorize. Perhaps because they like logic and like to organize, collections are of particular interest at this age. Fifth grade students are capable problem solvers and have an increasing ability to abstract. They work best when following a set schedule of activities.


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Text modified from Making Connections: A Guide to Implementing Science Standards © California Science Teachers Association. 1999. All rights reserved.

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