Best Practices: Connecting with a 6th-8th Grade Audience
The 6th-8th grade audience age ranges between 10-14 years old. These students are curious, energetic, and idealistic. Like most students, middle school students learn new information best when it can be connected to their own experiences and interact with fellow peers. 6th-8th graders are moving from concrete to abstract thinking especially when solving “real world” problems. Here are tips to help you connect with this age group.
- Pick a theme or a topic to focus on. Think about ways to share topics related to your host country and service. Examples include: lives of children and adolescents in your host country (typical school day, work and play, families), ecology of your host country and local environmental concerns, family relationships, a cultural difference to which you had to adjust, your job or area of service, how your service changed your perspective on something, or your volunteer experience from when you were younger (how this encouraged you to consider Peace Corps). Be specific and go into the topic in-depth.
- Showcase objects and artifacts. Hands-on approaches are one of the most effective methods of information sharing for the 6th-8th grade age group. Bringing in a variety of objects from your host country for students to analyze is a technique that provides students with the opportunity to ‘put a face to a name,’ so to speak. Artifacts might be things that you used in daily life, that were hand-made by the people in your host country, or that have a special significance to you. These can also include clothing typical in your host country, music from your host country, and photographs or videos taken in your host country.
- Use engaging activities. Instead of simply bringing objects in to share with the class, organize activities to engage students, allowing them to come up with questions regarding the object. Check out the educator resources page on the Peace Corps website for fun activities.
- Turn your experience into stories. Stories can provide an excellent learning opportunity for students. You could tell a folktale or story that was frequently told in your community, or read a story that takes place in your host country. Stories help learners tap into their imagination and creativity and help students make an emotional connection to people in a distant country. They also enhance the appreciation of other cultures, regions, and environments.
- Relate objects and experiences to U.S. student's life. Finding connections between your host country and the lives of U.S. students will go a long way in ensuring the lesson learned really sticks with the students. Students are more likely to understand and remember key ideas from the lesson when they connect it to something they are already familiar with.