The changes of the early adolescent years bring growing cognitive abilities. They also carry developmental needs that are particular to sixth, seventh and eighth graders and distinct from the needs of students during elementary and high school.
In middle school, the teaching of reading and writing often splits into two branches. Children are expected to develop high-level writing dexterity and reading comprehension skills not only in English/Language Arts, but also in content areas such as History, Social Studies, Government and even Science. Many middle schools combine English and Social Studies, referring to this blended approach as Humanities. Students may be assigned to write literary essays, informational non-fiction and creative projects for the English component of Humanities, and research-based nonfiction for its Social Studies component, and to read widely in both areas.
Middle school students can handle texts that are more sophisticated in form and content than those they read in elementary school. They develop new interests, and because they are especially keen at this age to seem knowledgeable to the people around them, look to learn more about those interests through reading. Some of their interests are personal, reflecting the transformation they are experiencing individually and socially, and others are external, pertaining to events and issues in their community and beyond. The reading young teens do is both a mirror that helps them see with more clarity the changes they are going through, and a window through which they can explore a world that suddenly seems both more interesting and more complicated than they had realized.
Just as they are maturing as people, in fits and starts, so too do middle schoolers mature as writers. Though maturation takes place for different children at different junctures during this three-year period, at some point during their middle school experience students undergo impressive growth in their ability to navigate the writing process with more independence; use author’s craft purposefully in many complicated genres; conduct research and organize large quantities of material; support a thesis with evidence; write grammatically correct sentences; and use proper punctuation accurately and artfully.
To support them as readers, our tutors teach middle school Humanities students the comprehension strategies they need to navigate the challenging texts they are assigned to read. Tutors focus on helping students in sixth, seventh and eighth grade develop their own ideas about the texts; support these ideas with details from the texts; and communicate their thinking both orally and in writing. Our master tutors help middle schoolers excel at reading fiction – such as novels, plays and short stories – with the goal of analyzing for theme; and at reading non-fiction – such as history books, articles and primary source documents — with the goal of synthesizing information. They are well-versed in teaching children to recognize, name and extend their own lines of thinking about texts. Tutors give students strategies for doing well on standardized assessments that require them to write short and extended responses to literary and expository texts, and help them prepare to participate meaningfully in class discussions about assigned texts.
Our tutors love teaching writing to middle school students because they are becoming capable of doing so more as writers. Expert at meeting the challenge of helping students improve their skills in writing with greater depth and at greater length, our tutors also help children feel in command of and enjoy the writing process. They help students successfully complete writing assignments in every subject, and, for students especially drawn to writing, help them stretch themselves in specialized courses of study and writing projects.
Our tutors teach students in middle school to organize their pieces and focus their writing by gathering the details they need, often through research. They pay special attention to teaching students how to revise their writing so that it meets grade-level standards. They show students well-written mentor (or model) texts to help them envision how to structure their writing effectively and write with precision. Diagnosing what each child’s writing lacks in terms of conventions, they provide the instruction students need in spelling, grammar and punctuation. Through tutoring sessions, middle school children learn how to make their pieces evocative and authoritative, and how to infuse their writing with voice.