Middle school aged children are a tough group to deal with, and a tough group to classify, as different school districts have different ideas as to what constitutes, “Middle School.” These students can range anywhere from fifth to ninth grade. Whether or not they learn what they are supposed to learn, children take giant steps in their cognitive development. This mental maturity effects how these students interact with the world, and most importantly, how they learn. Knowing each individual student is imperative for tutoring in a middle school.
Students generally enter middle school at the tail end of the Concrete Operational Learning Stage, according to Jean Piaget’s stages of mental development. These students also generally end on the Formal Operational Stage, which is the final step in learning how to learn. Students in the Concrete Operational stage tend to learn better when they have tangible learning aides. The word, “Concrete” might be a dead giveaway, but if it is not, these students need to learn in a hands on environment. These typically younger students learn best by doing.
As middle schoolers get older, tutors should assist students in the transition from the Concrete Stage to the Formal Stage. It will not happen all at once, but in time, these students should be able to learn by observing, and by working with knowledge in their heads. This is not to suggest that “learning by doing” should be eliminated. Students at any age (and I do mean from one to one-hundred) can always learn by practicing.
Other things that should be considered when tutoring middle school students, are lifestyle, and attention span. The personal lives of these students are starting to take shape. As adults, we often see their view of the world as ridiculous, and sometimes annoying. These are children though, and to them, what we see as petty things are of the utmost importance. This may not seem an important part of the learning process, but one must understand that learning is less likely to be successful if the student is preoccupied with something else. A tutor is not likely to resolve these other issues, but if the or she can be understanding, the student will be less likely to lock up, and refuse to learn.
Short attention spans in children can be one of the most aggravating things to deal with. However, it’s something that must be endured. Firstly, a tutor has to be patient with these children. Being antsy will likely lead less focus. The best thing to do, is to not work on one thing for an extended period of time. A good rule of thumb, is to not work for more than fifteen minutes on any one concept.