Friday, April 13, 2012

Sunday School Teacher’s Guide to How Middle Schoolers Learn

Junior High doesn't exactly fit under "Children's Ministry," but we wanted to share this information with you. Those of you who faithfully teach middle school/junior highers have a tough—and very important—task. You are working with students who are going through a multitude of changes, emotionally, physically, and environmentally, all while trying to figure out who they are.  

Here's a helpful excerpt from Faith Teaching, by Steve Wamberg and John Conaway, from Cook Communications Ministries:

Change is the definitive word for middle schoolers (sixth, seventh and eighth graders), who share these characteristics:
1. Dealing with change in school buildings, routines, and friends;
2. A profound emphasis on peer relationships;
3. Physical changes (both visible and internal);
4. A gradual shift from concrete to abstract thinking; and
5. The ability to reflect on one’s own thoughts and actions
What Works and What Doesn’t Work with Teaching Middle Schoolers

1. Allow for plenty of group interaction time, with partners, small groups, or with the whole group.
2. Create an atmosphere where every student is valued and included—encourage acceptance of all.
3. Set opportunities for active games and team activities.
4. Encourage the exchange of ideas and much discussion—find out what they’re thinking.
5. Allow students to make choices between activities; balance competitive and noncompetitive activities.
6. Pose challenging questions that expand the students’ thinking.
7. Help the students understand the symbolism and truths represented in proverbs and parables.
1. Don’t have students work only independently.
2. Don’t allow students to sit in cliques or always with the same peers; don’t embarrass students for any reason.
3. Don’t rely on seatwork for the entire class period.
4. Don’t do all the talking and expect students to listen.
5. Don’t have the students do the same thing the whole time.
6. Don’t give students all the answers.
7. Don’t expect every middle school student to fully understand figurative language.
8. Don’t dictate to students how to use what they have learned.