The changes of the early adolescent years bring growing cognitive abilities. Middle schoolers also have 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, 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, narrative 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 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. These developmental changes can lead middle schoolers to have a greater appetite for reading about history and current events as well as more capacity to understand what they are reading and apply it to today.
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; conduct research in many genres; organize large quantities of material; write grammatically correct sentences; and use proper punctuation accurately and artfully.
To support them as readers in History and Social Studies, our tutors teach students the comprehension strategies they need to navigate the challenging texts they are assigned to read, be they books by historians, current events articles, textbooks, or primary source documents. Tutors focus on helping students in sixth, seventh and eighth grade draw conclusions and develop theses about texts; back up their ideas with detailed evidence; and communicate their thinking both orally and in writing. Well-versed in teaching children to recognize, name and extend their own lines of thinking about texts, our master tutors help students in sixth, seventh and eighth grade excel in Social Studies by teaching them how to synthesize information. Tutors also give students strategies for doing well on standardized assessments that require them to write short and extended responses to historical texts, and help them prepare to participate meaningfully in class discussions.
Our tutors love teaching social studies writing to middle school students because they are becoming capable of doing so much more as writers and as thinkers. 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. Our tutors teach students in middle school to organize their pieces and focus their writing by gathering the details they need through research, and they give them tools to find and identify legitimate sources that they can grasp. Tutors pay special attention to teaching students how to revise their writing in Social Studies 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 authoritative and informative.