Growth and Development - Middle grades teachers demonstrate a comprehensive knowledge of the cognitive, physical, social, emotional, and moral characteristics, needs, and interests of young adolescents to create healthy, respectful, supportive, and challenging learning environments for all.
Brain research provides us with so much understanding of the methods behind young adolescent learning. I've learned that learning happens in two ways: (1) learning can happen through repetition. For young adolescents who do not have fully developed brains, some lessons can only be learned through this path; and (2) learning happens through emotions. The stronger the emotion, the more likely you are to find a connection and meaning from the experience.
I have also started thinking about how much information a brain can hold at any given time in their working memory, and how young adolescents have a much smaller working space available on their "work table" due to all of the difficulties in processing the social and emotional things happening during a typical middle school day. The environment has a huge role in determining if the brain can take in new information. Therefore, a learning environment needs to cut out as many distractions as possible in order to clear out space for new working memory. In short, students need to feel that the learning space is safe, and teachers and peers are respectful and supportive.
There are lots of tips that we as teachers need to keep in mind as we teach. For example, novelty is good at getting kids attention. Movement enhances learning. We should not be talking at students for more than 12-15 minutes at a time. Students learn best by doing. Students learn best if they can relate content to their own prior experiences. Reflection is a key to establishing a link between content and emotion.
I think this list could be endless, and the difficulty for me going forward is to try to create curriculum that best practices all of these new ideas and concepts.