6 Tips for Making Learning Fun & Exciting for Middle Schoolers

kids in a classroom

Middle school is a pivotal time of growth and transition for students, as they shed the cocoon of childhood and embark on their journey through teenage years on to adulthood. It can be difficult to keep students at this grade level engaged and interested in their studies, since they are often more concerned with personal affairs, friendships, and maybe even budding romances. So how can educators keep these pre-teens curious about learning? Here are our top six tips for making learning fun and exciting for middle schoolers.

Give Them a Voice

Students at the middle school age levels really just want to be heard and feel like someone cares about what they think and say. When students this age don’t feel heard, they tend to become agitated, mouthy, and maybe even rude at times, but this is really because they haven’t figured out how to express their feelings and emotions in healthy, productive ways. It’s important to let students in middle school know that their input matters and that teachers are really listening to their concerns. Implement measures to actively solicit input about new or upcoming tasks and feedback about recently completed tasks. Open class discussions, private one-on-one meetings, surveys, polls, and other methods can be used to give students a voice in their own learning and make them feel more connected to their studies.

Connect Lessons to the Real World

We’ve all learned things in school that we had a hard time relating to the real world, and for middle school-aged students this is a common complaint. They just haven’t formed the reasoning and problem-solving skills necessary to see how theoretical concepts apply in their everyday lives…to be fair, many adults don’t have these skills either. Make the connection easier for students by incorporating examples of how lessons relate to real-world situations. Role play out scenarios and work through real-life problems that can be solved using lesson concepts and materials. This will help students better learn the content, develop higher-level thinking skills, and be excited about what they’re learning.

Reward Them

Everyone, regardless of age, loves to receive recognition, rewards, and prizes for their efforts. Middle schoolers are often very motivated by rewards, even simple things like pens, pencils, erasers, and novelty toys. Set up a prize station in the classroom where students who are being recognized for great performance or behavior can choose from a collection of fun prizes. Students will often compete on who can win the most prizes or try to collect as many of a particular item as possible, which in turn makes classroom work much more engaging and fun!

Consider Different Learning Styles

Some students learn best with lectures, while others may enjoy presentation, and still others may prefer quiet reading. Just like adults, middle schoolers have their own preferences when it comes to learning styles, so teachers need to include various teaching styles into each lesson to bring the message home for as many students as possible and keep the learning environment exciting. Solicit input from each class about their preferences (see #1 above) and then use that input to create more personalized lessons and assignments for the students. Try to avoid the one-size-fits-all mentality that has plagued many school settings and instead cater to the needs and wants of students, then watch as they flourish with deeper understanding of lesson concepts.

Add in Physical Activity

Getting up and out of their seats is so important for students of any age, a claim that multitudes of research back up. These pre-teens often still have lots of pent up energy that they need to release each day, but with an increasingly rigorous academic schedule and less time for electives, they may not even get a daily physical education class. Incorporate physical activity into as many lesson activities as possible to counteract restlessness and boredom in the classroom, making the day much more fun and exciting. Even something as small as having class outside on a nice day can be a great way to help students relax and focus.

Fill in Downtime With Fun Activities

Every classroom has downtime, but it doesn’t have to be boring. Set up work centers with fun activities that require minimal supervision from the teacher. Make sure the activities relate to the current or past lessons (this will require switching the centers up from time to time throughout the year) so that they reinforce concepts being taught. If a student finishes their work early, allow them to choose a work center to fill in that downtime with a fun and useful activity.

Make Learning Fun Everyday

Middle schoolers are going through a trying time of transitioning from child to teenager, so they need a little extra support to develop new reasoning, decision-making, and communication skills. With so many tools and resources now available to educators teaching the middle school grades, there’s no reason for learning to ever be boring again! Keep the classroom engaging for these students by welcoming their input, keeping their day full of activities, getting them up and moving around, and rewarding them when appropriate. By developing content and lessons for them in thoughtful and meaningful ways, teachers can make learning fun and exciting every single day!

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