Welcome to this installment of Entering Through Their Door & Knowing the Age Group You Teach, a series 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 meet learners where they are and move them to the next step in their journey. In our previous installments, we looked at early childhood and primary grades. In this post, we explore the development of children in the intermediate grades (4–6), or ages 9–11. These children are between early childhood and adolescence. In other words, they are “tweens.” It is a wonderful time for them but can also be a very sensitive time. At this age, boys and girls are developing at different rates, with the girls approaching puberty faster than the boys in general.
Children at this age:
- are less literal and less fantasy-oriented than they were in primary grades.
- are experiencing rapid cognitive growth.
- are highly influenced by their peers.
- are into “hero worship.”
- are in the last years of childhood innocence.
- tend to be rabid readers.
- are more aware of adult issues and current events.
- tend to be idealistic, concerned about fairness, and eager to be of help to others.
- want to please their parents and enjoy family time but are also growing in independence.
- are capable of reflecting for slightly longer periods of time.
- are becoming more susceptible to peer pressure.
- are more prone to bullying.
- are becoming obsessed with self-identity and self-image.
With that as a background, consider using the following activities and methodologies that work well with children in intermediate grades:
- reading (aloud or independently)
- hands-on/physical activities
- creative expression, crafts, and dioramas that tell stories
- technology and digital activities
- Bible stories and lives of saints
- guided reflections of about 7–8 minutes
- music and singing
- group work or cooperative learning
- learning stations
- family activities
- structure and clear limits
- frequent and prompt feedback and continual assessment
- establishing routines
- use of props
- practical applications
Of course, nowadays, many children in this age group come to us for sacramental preparation. For children in this situation (“out-of-sequence”), be sure not to place them with second graders preparing for First Communion! They have advanced well beyond the types of approaches that work best for second graders, and children interpret it as a demotion. That’s why we at Loyola Press have developed resources such as God’s Gift: Intermediate and Bridges to Faith in order to meet these children where they are. Be sure to take a look.
Finally, here is a link to a number of posts on Catechist’s Journey related to teaching children in intermediate grades. In addition to what I provided above, what other characteristics would you add to describe children in intermediate grades? What other activities or methodologies work best with this age group?