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Know your students: Nature of the middle school student

The purpose of this segment is to help connect what is known about students' cognitive development with what you want them to understand about science concepts and the nature of science. Use this brief description, combined with your knowledge of your students, to guide you in making instructional decisions appropriate for your grade level.

Sixth, seventh, and eighth graders, roughly spanning ages eleven to thirteen, vary tremendously in their levels of maturity. It has been said that middle school students are interested in absolutely everything … for half an hour. Other than the first three years of life, this is the grade span in which youngsters are most transformed. They enter middle school as children and leave as young adults.

Sixth graders, except for a few more mature students, may look and act like children. They still regard the teacher as the fount of knowledge and their unquestioned leader.

Seventh graders have typically entered what may be the most disorienting time of life. They have discovered sexuality but still deal with most things like children. Bickering and tattling are rampant, and they are intolerant of imperfection in anyone or anything.

Eighth graders are generally in the process of coming to terms with their emerging adulthood and are far mellower than sixth or seventh graders. Many of them understand and appreciate irony and adult wit. While they are not children and want independence, they often prefer adult guidance to full responsibility.


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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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