Middle School Brains....Yikes!

My Middle School "Brains"

Middle school students are in a world of their own.  I know from experience- I work in a building with pre-kindergarten through eighth grade bodies and have twins in seventh grade- I can't escape middle school brains!   This post contains some articles and information I have discovered that are helpful for those who deal with middle school children, whether at work or at home!

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Fascinating Brain Facts

  • A typical brain consumes up to one-third of all the water we ingest.  Studies indicate that discipline issues typically increase in the afternoons when students may be dehydrated
  • Middle school students need at least 10 hours of sleep a night although most children get less (somebody tell my son!)
  • The prefrontal cortex in the brain isn't developed fully until the age of 18 or in some cases the early 20's.  Male brains typically mature slower than female brains.  This area of the brain processes planning, reasoning, anticipating consequences, sustaining attention and making decisions
  • Connections and pathways in the brain are "pruned" or hardwired daily between the ages of 10-16.  It's entirely possible that a connection a child has today may be gone tomorrow.  If we expose students at this age to the arts, sports or strong academics these things become hardwired in the brain.  Likewise, if children spend all of their time with TV and video games on the couch these, too, become hardwired
  • Around the same age the brain prunes more than 20% of all previously built connections
  • A middle school brain can typically retain 5-7 pieces of information at one time, with the average attention span being 10 to 12 minutes
  • The "emotional" side of the brain does not develop at the same rate as the "intellectual" side of the brain so it's possible for students that are extremely intelligent to be extremely immature
  • These immature emotional brains make it easy for students to misread adult expressions and see meanness or anger where none was intended

Help Build these Brains! 
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Following "R" tips for classroom teachers of middle school brains from Mining the Middle School Mind:

Ready:  pre-exposure to materials can help students (think pre-tests)

Reorder: the brain benefits from structure in teaching (think concept maps)

Reflection: our brains need downtime where there is no new learning to process

Relevance: connections 'stick' longer when we can relate them to students' lives and rationalize why the learning is necessary

Revise:  it's just as important to teach kids the skills they need to learn the information as it is to teach the information itself

Reflexes:  research proves that movement gets the blood and oxygen flowing to the brain- even as simple as hand gestures or 'stand up and stretch' breaks

Reteach:  teachers should be using a variety of teaching methods to hit all brains

Read All About It 

A quick look into the middle school brain

Brains, Brains, Brains!  How the Mind of a Middle Schooler Works

Sign up for Edutopia (free) and download the pdf: Six Tips for Brain-Based Learning

An article on brain development in young adolescents

Five Facts about development of the middle school brain


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