Pre-teen learners are qualitatively different than younger learners. Teachers and parents can significantly enhance the learning of students this age by understanding the cognitive and social characteristics of pre-teen learners. Using the right instructional strategies to maximize the learning advantages and address the learning challenges of pre-teen learners can make all the difference in their success.
Pre-Teen Cognitive Development
By ages 9, 10, and 11, most students are able to analytically process information and think for themselves. Piaget classified students of these ages as being in the “concrete operational stage.” Thinking in concrete terms, these students have difficulty with abstract concepts. Generally speaking, most students share the following characteristics:
- Willing to try new things
- Curious and willing to explore new ideas
- Want immediate gratification
- Desire recognition and praise for achievement
- Like hands-on learn-by-doing activities
- Perform well with many brief learning experiences
- Have quickly changing interests
Pre-Teen Social Development
At these ages, most students are rapidly developing a social awareness and are exploring how they fit into relationships. Generally speaking, most students share the following characteristics:
- Prefer interacting with members of own sex
- Feel comfortable in a structured learning environment
- Seek role models in older children or in media idols
- Demand a system of fairness in the home, in games, and in the classroom
- Want to be liked by friends
- Desire increasing independence–but want and need adult help
Pre-Teen Instructional Strategies
Although less concerned than older students about the labeling that takes place, when a pre-teen is identified as a remedial reader, the teacher still needs to be mindful of student self-perceptions and those of their peers. A few talking points to address with these young learners may prove helpful:
- “All students need help in some areas.”
- “Some students are good at ___________, while others are good at ___________.”
- “This class is not for dumb kids; it’s for kids who just missed out on some reading skills.”
- “You aren’t in this class forever. As soon as you master your missing skills, you are out.”
- “You will learn in this class. I promise.”
Mark Pennington, MA Reading Specialist, is the author of the comprehensive reading intervention curriculum, Teaching Reading Strategies. Designed to significantly increase the reading abilities of students ages eight through adult within one year, the curriculum is decidedly un-canned, is adaptable to various instructional settings, and is simple to use—a perfect choice for Response to Intervention tiered instructional levels. Get multiple choice diagnostic reading assessments , formative assessments, blending and syllabication activities, phonemic awareness, and phonics workshops, comprehension worksheets, multi-level fluency passages recorded at three different reading speeds and accessed on YouTube, 586 flashcards, posters, activities, and games.
Also get the accompanying Sam and Friends Phonics Books. These eight-page decodable take-home books include sight words, word fluency practice, and phonics instruction aligned to the instructional sequence found in Teaching Reading Strategies. Each book is illustrated by master cartoonist, David Rickert. The cartoons, characters, and plots are designed to be appreciated by both older remedial readers and younger beginning readers. The teenage characters are multi-ethnic and the stories reinforce positive values and character development. Your students (and parents) will love these fun, heart-warming, and comical stories about the adventures of Sam and his friends: Tom, Kit, and Deb. Oh, and also that crazy dog, Pug.
Everything teachers need to teach a diagnostically-based reading intervention program for struggling readers at all reading levels is found in this comprehensive curriculum. Ideal for students reading two or more grade levels below current grade level, English-language learners, and Special Education students. Simple directions and well-crafted activities truly make this an almost no-prep curriculum. Works well as a half-year intensive program or full-year program, with or without paraprofessional assistance.