Today we continue our series, Entering Through Their Door & Knowing the Age Group You Teach, in which we look at the developmental stages of our learners. St. Ignatius of Loyola said that, when teaching or speaking to a group, it is always best to “enter through their door, but be sure to leave through your door.” His advice is that we need to take learners where they are and move them to the next step in their journey. In our previous installments, we looked at early childhood, primary grades, intermediate grades, and junior high. In this post, we explore the development of young people of high-school age (grades 9–12), or ages 14–18. These young people are in the midst of adolescence, a time of rapid growth, excitement, confusion, and often turbulence.
In general, young people at this age:
- are moving from concrete to abstract thinking.
- are developing the capacity to be self-reflective.
- are experimenting and exploring, in search of identity.
- are influenced by peers and by popular culture.
- fluctuate between a demand for independence and a need for guidance.
- experience mood swings as well as swings from restlessness to fatigue to increased energy.
- have a developing sexual awareness.
- are preoccupied with changes in body size and shape.
- are eager for change and impatient with the pace of it.
- often perceive their own problems, feelings, and experiences as being unique to themselves.
- often lack impulse control and make decisions based on feelings rather than a rational thought process.
With that background in mind, consider using the following activities and methodologies, which work well with young people of high-school age:
- graphics and other visual learning techniques
- technology, AV, and digital resources
- guided reflections of 12–15 minutes
- case studies, simulations, and role-playing
- think-pair-share and other small group/peer/collaborative learning techniques
- supervised “clinical” practice/field work
- mini-lectures combined with small group discussions
- Q & A / Socratic method
- individual research
- contemporary music
- educational games such as Name That Tune, Pictionary, or charades
I began my career teaching high-school students, and I continue to believe that this is an absolutely crucial time for adults to play a significant role in their lives, especially in their faith development. While it is challenging, it is extremely rewarding and most-needed! Most of all, it takes great patience and compassion.
In addition to what I provided above, what other characteristics would you add to describe young people of high-school age? What other activities or methodologies work best with this age group?
Explore Scripture with young people using Six Weeks with the Bible for Teens.