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Understanding the Mind of a Middle School Student— Or, is this thing on??? Friday, March 26, 2010 MS Faculty Meeting.

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Presentation on theme: "Understanding the Mind of a Middle School Student— Or, is this thing on??? Friday, March 26, 2010 MS Faculty Meeting."— Presentation transcript:

1 Understanding the Mind of a Middle School Student— Or, is this thing on??? Friday, March 26, 2010 MS Faculty Meeting

2 A Few Stereotypes of Middle-School Students Middle school students would rather do a hands-on activity than listen to a lecture or read a book. Friends are extremely important. Middle school students change their minds, hobbies, and interests frequently, but not without great gusto! Middle school students seem to forget concepts they’ve learned in class in a matter of a few weeks, but they can certainly remember a recent embarrassing or stressful moment. In fact, they feel these moments deeply and will probably remember some of these moments for the rest of their lives. Do you agree with these stereotypes?

3 Changes in the Prefrontal Cortex Major changes in the brain occur during the period between childhood and adulthood. The biggest change takes place in the brain’s prefrontal cortex. This area of the brain is important, because it is responsible for such skills as “setting priorities, organizing plans and ideas, forming strategies, controlling impulses, and allocating attention” (The Adolescent Brain—A Work in Progress). It is usually the last part of the brain to fully mature.

4 A Neuron Cell

5 “The most surprising thing has been how much the teen brain is changing. By age six, the brain is already 95 percent of its adult size. But the gray matter, or thinking part of the brain, continues to thicken throughout childhood as the brain cells get extra connections, much like a tree growing extra branches, twigs and roots. In the frontal part of the brain, the part of the brain involved in judgment, organization, planning, strategizing -- those very skills that teens get better and better at -- this process of thickening of the gray matter peaks at about age 11 in girls and age 12 in boys, roughly about the same time as puberty.” “After that peak, the gray matter thins as the excess connections are eliminated or pruned. So much of our research is focusing on trying to understand what influences or guides the building-up stage when the gray matter is growing extra branches and connections and what guides the thinning or pruning phase when the excess connections are eliminated.” ~From an Interview with Jay Giedd, PBS Frontline, 2002.

6 What factors can affect the development of the PFC? Environmental Stimuli Nutrition Bacterial or Viral Infections Parents, Teachers, Friends “…if an animal were to grow up in a visually rich, but silent environment, neuroscientists would expect to find a high level of complexity in the circuits of visual areas of the brain while the auditory areas of the brain would have simple or even abnormally reduced circuit complexity.”

7 As a middle school teacher, how can you promote the growth of new connections in the brain?

8 With an underdeveloped PFC, how do middle school students process emotional information? Middle school students rely heavily on the amygdala to process emotional information. The amygdala is located in the central hemisphere. It is often referred as our “lizard brain,” because it is known for our most primal of feelings: fear and rage. Neuroscientists believe middle school students’ overreliance on the amygdala causes them to act on impulses. They have not fully developed the skill of logical reasoning, so their behaviors may seem irrational to adults.

9 Can you think of any anecdotal examples of middle school students behaving irrationally when they meet a challenge?

10 What implications might this have for a middle school student’s emotional well-being?

11 How should teachers react to a middle school student’s irrational or impulsive behavior?

12 The Corpus Callosum Connects the left and right hemispheres of the brain. Responsible for creativity and problem solving. During adolescence, the fibers within the brain tissue of the corpus callosum thicken. Middle school students begin to process information more efficiently, and they are able to think at a higher, more abstract level. They can see creative solutions to difficult problems.

13 How can you encourage a middle school students’ development of the corpus collosum?

14 Impact on Short Term Memory With all that is going on in the middle school student’s developing brain, there’s got to be some limitations for students performance in the classroom. – Middle school students retain information first in the short term memory. – If new information is learned, and the previous information has not yet been transferred to the long term memory, then the previous or new information will not be retained. National Education Association: – “A middle school student can generally retain from 5 to 7 bits of information at one time, so teachers should not try to cram too much information into one lesson.” – “The more engaged and "rich" the new information, the more likely it is that the new information will be retained. ” – Stories help students learn and retain information, especially stories that include all the five senses or are dramatic in content or the storytelling.

15 How, then, should an educator approach teaching? How much and what type of information should we expect them to know?

16 Works Cited Caskey, M. M., & Anfara, V. A., Jr. (2007). Research summary: Young adolescents’ developmental characteristics. Retrieved March 25, 2010, from DevelopmentalCharacteristics/tabid/1414/Default.aspxwww.nmsa.org/Research/ResearchSummaries/ Horch, Hadley W., & Wilson, Lucinda M. (2002). Implications of Brain Research for Teaching Young Adolescents. Middle School Journal, 34 (1), Retrieved March 25, 2010, from 2/Article10/tabid/418/Default.aspx 2/Article10/tabid/418/Default.aspx Lorain, Peter. "Brain Development in Young Adolescents" (2002). National Education Association. Retrieved on March 25, 2010, from Weinberger, M.D., Daniel R, et al. (2005). "The Adolescent Brain: A Work in Progress.” National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy. Retrieved March 25, 2010, from


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