- Education and Science
Increase Your Students' Capacity To Think
Help your students reach their full potential.
Adolescence is a time when students are figuring out who they are, in terms of their goals and values. Cognitive development during this time is especially crucial. For children matriculating through middle school, how well they understand new information sets the stage for their academic career and future social growth. Cognitive development is also important because it helps students adapt to their overall environment.
Working on the development of formal operations in middle school students involves increasing their capacity to know the difference between form and content, as well as differentiate between real and unreal. A middle school age child is much more likely to become aware of his own intellectual short comings and begin to experiment with possible ways of making up for them.
Exposing students to different forms of literature like parables, satire and metaphorical stories is a good way to help them distinguish between form and content. Students who can appreciate the differences between fables, that teach life lessons, and satire, that highlights the weaknesses that people or systems share, will rely less on the carrier of a message and focus on what is being taught. For instance, the book "Animal Farm" by George Orwell uses animals to show how good intentions can disintegrate in to power struggles and ultimately disaster. Gulliver's Travels, by Jonathan Swift, is a political satire about the comical extremes of a very human, power hungry emperor. Both make observations about control and government, but in two, contrasting ways, tragedy and comedy.
Cognitive behavioral therapy examines how a child's thoughts and feelings influence actions. Three areas of a child's thoughts can determine his actions, especially surrounding schoolwork: the relationship between the task and self-perception, his emotional response to the task and his confidence in his ability to complete the task. School counselors have an important role in establishing a positive relationship with middle school students to influence their thought process and produce more constructive, healthy behavior.
Learning a foreign language, not opens up a child’s possibilities to establish connections, but it increases their acceptance of the culture that surrounds that language, and consequently, makes them more understanding. Students with early foreign language exposure increase their problem solving and creative capacity, and strangely enough, their math scores improve. This is due to fact the learning a foreign language is essential a cognitive, problem solving activity and not just memorization.
Concrete learning is learning by experience. Children have a better chance of retaining information if they have the opportunity to perform the task they are learning. Middle school students can benefit from exercises that have a physical component to them. For example, students in a social studies class can bring in food and clothing from other cultures, or students studying economics can make ordinary household purchases while following a predetermined budget. Some classes even replicate the conditions of poverty and homelessness to help students make a strong visceral connection to the condition.