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Teaching Young Adolescents. By Lauren Dotson and Sara Cottrell. Quote to Consider.

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Teaching young adolescents

Teaching Young Adolescents

By Lauren Dotson

and Sara Cottrell

Quote to consider
Quote to Consider

“Middle schoolers are very impressionable. They are working hard to figure out who they are and who they want to be. Students I work with really want to feel like they ‘belong.’ Students are very creative and energetic at this age. I feel like middle school is a ‘critical’ time for students. During these years, experiences can either ‘make or break’ a student in terms of their personal beliefs and/or attitudes about school and life in general.”

-- Lora Davis (middle school health teacher)

Content and instruction
Content and Instruction

  • “It’s good to have a say in class, to do something that we like but that helps us learn at the same time. If we gave the teacher the idea, we know we made a difference. We had an idea of something to do, and it worked to help the class.” –Genesis, pg. 57

  • ~Fires in the Middle School Bathroom

Relationship responses
Relationship Responses

  • “ Teachers should open themselves up and share their memories about when they were kids. My friends and I used to think that teachers were just robots, they’re just there to get money and teach you a subject, but not really to help. But if you show us you have a heart, you have memories, you were a kid, then we can relate.” –Carmela, pg. 53

  • ~Fires in the Middle School Bathroom

Interest and involvement
Interest and Involvement

  • My dad, he’s been trying to get me on to a soccer team, but no one had a spot open. So now that my school has a soccer team, I’ll be able to play. I want to be in the tradition of my family—I really like playing soccer, even though we lose a lot. When I know there’s a soccer game or a practice, I feel more enthusiastic to go to school.” Genesis, pg. 167

  • ~Fires in the Middle School Bathroom

Health and wellness
Health and Wellness

  • “We’re ready to do something and the teachers give us work, and we just want to get out. That’s what happens to me. I can’t concentrate, I’m too hyper. I don’t know how to get my energy out.”—Gabe, pg. 132

  • ~Fires in the Middle School Bathroom

Themes in both student and teacher answers
Themes in Both Student and Teacher Answers

  • Parent support (Glasser = love)

  • Staff support, encouragement, relationships (Glasser = love, belonging)

  • Peer opinions (Glasser = belonging)

  • Need more movement, engagement, healthy food options (Glasser = freedom, fun; Kohn = decision-making)

  • Ability grouping can be harmful to students’ self esteem (Glasser = belonging)

Themes in both student and teacher answers1
Themes in Both Student and Teacher Answers

  • Need more student-driven curriculum to engage interests (Glasser = freedom; Kohn = decision-making, ownership)

  • Connections between content and real world (Glasser = survival; Kohn = constructing meaning)

  • Safe learning environment in which students and teachers can make mistakes and admit to not knowing everything (Glasser = love, belonging)

  • Development of student’s own moral code through adult guidance and own conscience (Glasser = freedom, power; Kohn = decision-making, ownership, constructing meaning)

Themes in student answers only
Themes in Student Answers Only

  • Need more ownership of educational experience (Glasser = power, freedom; Kohn = ownership)

  • Ability grouping is good for higher students (Glasser = belonging, power)

  • Grades equal success (Glasser = survival)

  • Relationships with friends and peers affect motivation and involvement (Glasser = belonging; Kohn = decision-making)

  • Trust teachers, but peer opinions weigh more heavily when making decisions (Glasser = belonging; Kohn = decision-making)

Themes in teacher answers only
Themes in Teacher Answers Only

  • Collaborative learning, differentiation (Glasser = freedom, fun; Kohn = decision-making, ownership)

  • Ability grouping can make differentiation easier (Glasser = power)

  • More choices of electives and extracurricular activities (Glasser = freedom, fun; Kohn = decision-making, ownership)

  • Self advocacy, confidence, and support from school and home lead to student success (Glasser = love, belonging, power; Kohn = ownership)

  • Good relationship with teacher motivates students to work hard and be involved (Glasser = love)

Questions to consider
Questions to Consider

  • How can make the school environment healthier for our students?

  • How can we encourage more student input in the classroom without relinquishing our leadership position as teacher?

  • How can we express to students that grades do not equal success when schools are grade and testing-centered?

  • How can we involve students in extracurricular activities when there is a lack of parent involvement, support, or transportation?

  • How can we differentiate to meet students’ academic needs while still meeting their social and emotional needs?


  • Cushman, Kathleen. Rogers, Laura. (2008). Fires in the Middle School Bathroom: Advice for Teachers from Middle Schoolers. New York: The New Press.

  • http://raider.mountunion.edu/~schnelpl/control%20theory%20-%20overhead.html

  • http://www.alfiekohn.org/index.php

  • http://images.meredith.com/lhj/images/2002/10/a_parenting_1018.jpg

  • http://teens.lovetoknow.com/Image:Teen_studygroup.jpg

  • http://www.lbhf.gov.uk/Images/coach2_tcm21-120750.jpg

  • http://www.motherearthnews.com/uploadedImages/articles/issues/2008-04-01/HyperKid.jpg