How the Heck Do We Reach 10-14 Year Olds?! Workshop Resources

Session sponsored by GEAR UP Maine.

How the Heck Do You Reach 10-14 Year Olds?Learners in grades 5-8 can seem hard to teach. They are rapidly going through physical, intellectual, and emotional changes, making them developmentally different than elementary students and high school students. What practices will make your life easier by being harmonious with the developmental characteristics of young adolescents? Come to this session to find out!


Reaching 10-14 year olds depends on understanding their developmental characteristics and practices harmonious with those characteristics (cut with the grain, not against it).

Responding to Physical Development (more physical change than anytime except birth to two years):

  • Explain that these changes are natural and common – Respond to questions and provide accurate information
  • Health and science curricula that explain changes – Appropriate instruction in risks of alcohol, drug use, teen pregnancy & sexually transmitted diseases
  • Access to plenty of water and healthy food
  • Opportunities to move
  • Minimize peer competition 

Responding to Intellectual Development (curiousity; wanting to understand their world; growing into abstract thought):

  • Build upon their individual experiences and prior knowledge
  • Focus on experiential, active learning and authentic learning experiences
  • Provide a breadth of activities from concrete, structured experiences to challenging activities 
  • Help students understand how they think
  • Need to interact with their world

Responding to Moral Development (forming attitudes/beliefs; idealistic; beginning to consider other’s rights and feelings):

  • Organize learning activities that foster critical thinking and higher levels of moral reasoning
  • Activities that require consensus building & application of democratic principles
  • Design experiences to examine moral dilemmas and contemplate responses
  • Experiences to examine concepts of fairness, justice, and equity
  • Focus on societal issues such as environment, poverty, or racial discrimination

Responding to Psychological Development (seeking identity and independence; vulnerable; can be moody and restless):

  • Learning experiences that allow for exploration, and experiment with various roles – role-playing, drama, and reading
  • Opportunities for student choice and self-assessment
  • Help build student sense of self-esteem through opportunities to do esteem-able acts
  • Schools provide structures such as teaming and advisory programs
  • Activities to promote atmosphere of friendliness, concern and group cohesiveness and are free from harsh criticism, humiliation, and sarcasm

Responding to Social-Emotional Development (Want to belong to group; experiment with new behaviors; Starting to feel romantic/sexual attraction):

  • Recognize importance of peer relationships and friendship
  • Provide occasions for positive peer interactions, including cooperative learning & collaborative experiences
  • Opportunities for argumentation or debate in academic settings
  • Provide for teaming, service learning, student government, service clubs, etc.


Developmental Characteristics of Young Adolescents:

The Adolescent Brain:

Successful Schools for Young Adolescents:

Mike’s Sites: