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| Volume 62 | Number 7
Table of Contents
Carol Ann Tomlinson and Kristina Doubet
Four high school teachers engage their students with curriculums that are relevant to their students' lives and get to know each of their students as individuals. Snapshots of four effective high school classrooms show that teachers can reach adolescents—by creating classrooms in which students discover one another's gifts, by connecting with students, by creating a sense of urgency and excitement about learning, by putting inquiry at the root of instruction, by celebrating students' lives and their successes, and by creating a learning environment in which everybody feels safe, competent, and valued.
Robert W. Blum
Educators and school health professionals have increasingly pointed to school connectedness as an important factor that, when present, reduces the likelihood that adolescents will engage in health-compromising behaviors and increases the likelihood of academic success. The Wingspread Declaration on School Connections represents a synthesis of key research on the topic and provides a set of core principles—such as avoiding tracking, setting high academic standards, creating small learning environments, and identifying student advisors—to help schools become more connected places for their students.
Lisa F. Price
New findings in adolescent development and neuroscience show that adolescent turmoil results from a complex interplay of body chemistry, brain development, and cognitive growth. Boys who enter puberty at an earlier age can experience higher self-esteem, greater popularity, and some advances in cognitive capabilities, but they may also be more likely to engage in risk-taking behavior. Girls often have more problems associated with earlier entry into puberty and are more likely to engage in such risk-taking behaviors as earlier sexual intercourse. Evidence now suggests that pubertal maturation—rather than hormones—causes adolescents to be dramatic, erratic, intense, and risk-prone. Neurobiological factors—such as an inability to completely regulate and refrain from certain activities, an absence of fully integrated communication within the brain, and a less developed prefrontal cortex—also limit adolescents' capacities to inhibit their impulses. Educators can help guide adolescents into healthy adulthood through mentoring, understanding the implications of early onset of puberty, providing a firm and caring classroom structure, and collaborating with peers to problem solve.
New findings in adolescent development and neuroscience show that adolescent turmoil results from a complex interplay of body chemistry, brain development, and cognitive growth. Boys who enter puberty at an earlier age can experience higher self-esteem, greater popularity, and some advances in cognitive capabilities, but they may also be more likely to engage in risk-taking behavior. Girls often have more problems associated with earlier entry into puberty and are more likely to engage in such risk-taking behaviors as earlier sexual intercourse. Evidence now suggests that pubertal maturation—rather than hormones—causes adolescents to be dramatic, erratic, intense, and risk-prone.
Neurobiological factors—such as an inability to completely regulate and refrain from certain activities, an absence of fully integrated communication within the brain, and a less developed prefrontal cortex—also limit adolescents' capacities to inhibit their impulses. Educators can help guide adolescents into healthy adulthood through mentoring, understanding the implications of early onset of puberty, providing a firm and caring classroom structure, and collaborating with peers to problem solve.
Table of Contents
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Adolescents' brains are undergoing a myriad of changes, resulting in such conditions as chronic fatigue, emotional highs and lows, social pressures, insecurity, poor nutrition, romantic crushes, and low impulse control. This article follows a typical adolescent through her day and suggests how teachers can accommodate the needs of adolescent learners.
Denise Clark Pope and Richard Simon
Many high school students who appear to be excelling academically may actually be “doing school”—cutting corners and manipulating the system to get top grades and get into a prestigious university without engaging in meaningful learning. These students memorize facts and figures just long enough to ace the exams and then move on to the next task. They are overwhelmed with school and home responsibilities, and they live in a constant state of stress. In this article, researcher Denise Clark Pope and principal Richard Simon describe an ongoing effort by Simon's secondary school to change the conditions that create stress for these high-performing students. Drawing from the school's experience, as well as a university-led initiative that involved 15 other schools, the authors offer a range of strategies to create a healthier, more meaningful definition of success for adolescent students.
Drawing on the research of Mary Carskadon, Wolfe discusses two factors that contribute to adolescents getting too little sleep. As children become teens, a change in their “circadian rhythym” causes them to become sleepy later at night than in childhood, and less alert in the morning. Teenagers need more sleep to function at their best, ideally 9 hours and 15 minutes. Sleep deprivation has serious consequences for learning. A school district-wide change to later high school start times in Edina, Minnesota, showed improvement in students' academic performance and motivation.
Awareness of the changes taking place in adolescents' brains—especially the overactivity of areas related to emotion and the rapid laying down and hardwiring of neural connections—should influence the way we design school structures, a middle school principal writes. River School in Napa, California, is designed to give teenagers a safe place to make choices, connect curriculum to their personal lives, and take responsibility within the school. Student discipline centers on a process that guides students to reflect on their mistakes and make amends. River School meets students' needs to be listened to and taken seriously (through weekly “listening groups”) and to contribute to the group (through mentoring, mediation, and other community-building tasks students are assigned and held accountable for). Inlay discusses the work of Rudolf Dreikurs, Richard DuFour, and H. Scott Glen as foundational to the River School's philosophy.
Renard describes how interactive communication tools favored by today's adolescents—namely instant messaging and webblogs—can spur students into learning activities like writing, Internet research, critical thinking, and group dialoguing. She argues that today's adolescent students—the “Digital Immediate Gratification generation”—are more comfortable receiving and exchanging information quickly over the Internet than using slower, traditional methods like books and teacher-directed assignments. Renard briefly tells how instant messaging and weblogs (blogs) work, gives statistics on teenagers' use of each, and provides suggestions and resources for using these tools in classrooms.
Young people are spending increasing amounts of time playing video, computer, and online games. Educators can learn much from the holding power of such games, writes Jenkins. Students who give up on difficult homework assignments will stay up until dawn trying to master the next level of a challenging game. An analysis of electronic games gives clues to the qualities that make them intrinsically motivating. These games have rules and goals; they provide immediate feedback; and they are interactive. They lower the threat of failure, encouraging exploration and experimentation. They are also designed to keep players at a threshold where their skills are challenged but they do not feel overwhelmed. The author describes two computer simulation games that apply these qualities to make social studies content more engaging.
The author interviews students to hear what they think about their middle school experience. Stress, good teachers, and a network of friends are at the top of their list of concerns. Teachers can help guide students through these challenging years by teaching them to prioritize their school, family, and social commitments; by holding high expectations for all students and providing the necessary support; and by recognizing the important role that friends play in their lives by facilitating those connections in the classroom.
Nancy B. Mizelle
Young adolescents look forward to moving from middle school to high school with both excitement and apprehension. Unfortunately, many students falter as they make this transition to the larger, more impersonal, more competitive high school environment. According to Mizelle, research identifies two factors that can help to ensure a smooth transition and put students on the road to high school success: (1) a challenging and supportive instructional program throughout middle school; and (2) a comprehensive program of transition activities to give students information, involve parents, provide social support, and bring middle school and high school educators together. The article offers examples of schools that have developed and implemented these components of successful transition.
When David Barker became principal of the 2,200-student body, ethnically diverse Maine East High School in 1999, he inherited a 37 percent failure rate and apathy toward school activities among the school's freshmen. Led by school social worker Joan Lampert, the school spent two years creating a Freshman Advisory program. Trained sophomores, juniors, and seniors mentor groups of freshmen in weekly advisory sessions. With guidance from advisory teachers, these upperclass mentors lead lessons and activities that help their younger peers connect to school and learn academic and social survival skills. Mentors help monitor freshmen's academic performance, hold them accountable for homework, and urge them to use school resources and participate in activities. Failure rates of Maine East's first-year students have declined significantly since the program began. Both freshmen and mentors report that participating in the advisory helps them cope with stress and become more responsible.
Terry Grier and Kent D. Peterson
Adolescents come to school with a broad array of abilities, challenges, and goals. Recognizing this diversity, Guilford County Schools in North Carolina has developed a mixture of programs to meet the needs of different high school students. Programs described in this article include an after-school tutoring program for low-achieving students; a Tech Girls Camp to encourage female students to take technology courses, four middle college high schools for students who have shown academic promise at some time but have run into serious academic problems; an early college high school for students who need acceleration; the Cool to Be Smart program to encourage more students to take advanced courses; and Academic All-Star Camp to help high-achieving students prepare for SAT exams.
Angela L. Vaughan
When traditional instruction perpetuates low student achievement in a freshman Algebra I course, the teacher opts for a new structure that emphasizes student autonomy. As they pace their learning, students master concepts sequentially, improve their time management skills, practice decision making, and become responsible for their own learning. The teacher establishes coursework objectives for the class and creates a calendar that shows what students need to cover and by when. Students can choose which resources to use, what kinds of assessments to complete, and when they wish to take the test. As a result of this new classroom structure, 73 percent of students who had failed math in previous years earned passing grades.
When faced with a class of rowdy adolescents reading on a remedial level, the author dropped the standard curriculum in favor of a creative strategy to make literature come alive. By drawing students into Boccaccio, Shakespeare, and Chaucer, and helping students make connections between their personal struggles and ancient writings, he saw their reading improve and their behavior turn around. His methods enabled the mastery of an Italian opera by a group of skeptical teenagers in a special education English class.
Louie F. Rodriguez
Rodriguez, a mathematics teacher at Community Academy alternative public high school in Boston, expands on the importance of nurturing respectful relationships in a setting where many students hold negative associations of school and teachers. Most of Community Academy's students were expelled from traditional public schools and ordered to attend the alternative school, some by the juvenile courts. Rodriguez believes it is essential to relate to each student before engaging that student instructionally—and to continually connect with and affirm each student. He provides vivid examples of teacher-student dialogues and classroom situations that show how respectful relationships lead to learning.
Marlene Darwin and Steve Fleischman
W. James Popham
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