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:
1. Willing to try new things
2. Curious and willing to explore new ideas
3. Want immediate gratification
4. Desire recognition and praise for achievement
5. Like hands-on learn-by-doing activities
6. Perform well with many brief learning experiences
7. 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:
1. Prefer interacting with members of own sex
2. Feel comfortable in a structured learning environment
3. Seek role models in older children or in media idols
4. Demand a system of fairness in the home, in games, and in the classroom
5. Want to be liked by friends
6. 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 may be 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."