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Increase Your Students' Capacity To Think

Updated on August 4, 2011

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.

Middle Childhood Cognitive Development Pt. 1

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    • terryk99 profile imageAUTHOR

      terryk99 

      7 years ago

      Thanks! It's important to know how to connect what you know with what's happening in the rest of the world. And like you said, relate consequences to actions. If kids knew that every subject is really about learning to think, we'd see a big difference socially, across the board.

      Your comments gave me some great ideas about future articles.

    • d.william profile image

      d.william 

      7 years ago from Somewhere in the south

      Excellent hub. These thoughts and concepts should be taught to teachers of grade school students. Somehow children don't seem to learn how to take in information and disseminate it, to be able to rationalize what to do with it, and the consequences of their choices in the use of that disseminated information.

      I am NOT a teacher, and perhaps they are taught these concepts, and if so, they obviously have not learned the use of these concepts in their own minds. It is quite evident with all the current social problems in the world today, that these young people have no idea of what the consequences of their actions are. If they did, they probably would think twice about most of their inappropriate actions.

      I am going back to my hubs and add this article as a link to those that deal with teaching children better skills to deal with what they are taught, more logically and rationally.

    • terryk99 profile imageAUTHOR

      terryk99 

      7 years ago

      Thanks for your comments, I did a little editing that should flesh it out a lot more.

      Big help!

    • VirginiaLynne profile image

      Virginia Kearney 

      7 years ago from United States

      I think your hub really needs some concrete examples to make your points vivid. For instance, give the example of a particular fable and tell how that helps students to develop cognitively.

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