The Middle School (Grades 5-8) is an important bridging period between Primary School and High School.
The first challenge relates to adjustment – from the the nurtured care of the class teacher to an environment where the student has to be more resourceful as he/she works with a variety of specialist teachers and is expected to be more independent and responsible.
Subjects are defined and the study is in more depth. Our approach to inquiry takes into account the critical needs of the adolescent brain, attempts to inspire and engage by providing a rigorous academic experience and yet respects that the student is developing in a variety of areas of perception, including a sense of his/her identity in a fast changing world. The programme anticipating a variety of different needs in the future for global citizens equips the student with a wide range of skills as well as knowledge in a range of subjects. Mother Language, Mathematics, Science, Foreign Languages, Social Sciences, Visual Arts, ICT, Music, PE
In his recent report, Sir Michael Wilshaw, Chief Inspector of Schools in England, identified that too many students are let down in the early stages of secondary school, entitling his report ‘Key Stage 3: The Wasted Years?’. He goes on to identify that a weakness in teaching and pupil progress reflects the lack of priority given to Key Stage and Middle Years by many schools.
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.
Students at all three grade levels need variety. While it is important for knowledge and conceptual understanding to be based in concrete experiences, middle school students will become as bored with exclusively hands-on experiences as with straight textbook instruction. Sixth graders will stay with engaging projects for some time. Seventh graders have other agendas and often test out their social skills, however nascent they may be. Eighth graders will rapidly and smoothly convert a lab into a full-blown social experience which has little to do with what the teacher intended.
The key to working with each of these grade levels is to keep them involved. Adolescents seldom stop to contemplate. They storm through life. Plan lesson sequences with a mixture of strategies, from observing real things, to writing, to reading, to oral sharing to planning and carrying out investigations. The more variety and the quicker the pace, the better it suits them. It takes creativity to keep the attention of these students. Using humour, bringing in strange objects, telling stories, and asking intriguing questions are all useful. In addition, involvement in planning is very helpful as they become ready to take on more and more responsibility for their own education.
Our Middle Years has been designed to support students during this crucial time. The adolescent brain is at a stage of specialising and pruning connections in a ‘use it or lose it’ fashion. It is crucial for students to make meaning of their learning to help strengthen new connections and to ensure that the existing knowledge and skills are not lost or pruned. This happens in a range of subjects: Mother Language, Mathematics, Science, Foreign Languages, Social Sciences, Visual Arts, ICT, Music, PE and not least Global Perspectives.