Entering Through Their Door & Knowing the Age Group You Teach: Junior High

group of young people

Welcome to another 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 means that we need to take learners where they are and move them to the next step in their journey. In our previous articles, we looked at early childhoodprimary grades, and intermediate grades. In this post, we explore the development of young people in junior high (grades 7–8), or ages 12–14. These young people are entering adolescence and, as we well know, this can be a turbulent, yet wonderful time.

In general, young people at this age:

  • experience rapid growth and profound change.
  • can be awkward socially and physically.
  • can be inconsistent, moody, and jumpy.
  • need support, guidance, attention, and assurance.
  • are capable of abstract thought and critical thinking.
  • are beginning to discern gifts, talents, and even vocation.
  • are easily bored and distracted.
  • are hungry for active learning experiences.
  • begin to reject childhood notions of faith.
  • face more complex moral issues and decisions.
  • want guidance and yet push back against authority.
  • tend to “push the envelope.”
  • are increasingly paradoxical, for instance, wanting freedom but needing and craving structure.
  • respond well to being treated as adults.

With that as a background, consider using the following activities and methodologies that work well with young people in junior high:

  • contemporary music
  • technology and digital resources
  • ball toss for reading a text
  • wall signs to gather under to prompt discussions (Yes/No or I agree. /I disagree. /I’m in the middle.)
  • icebreaker activities
  • props and visuals
  • mature (“age-appropriate”) crafts
  • guided reflections of perhaps 10–12 minutes
  • current events
  • jigsaw activities
  • small-group activities
  • service activities

Junior high often corresponds with Confirmation preparation for many young people—a great time to focus on the call to discipleship and to invite young people to deepen their prayer lives and engage in doing service for others. Here is a link to a number of posts on Catechist’s Journey related to teaching young people in junior high.

In addition to what I provided above, what other characteristics would you add to describe young people in junior high? What other activities or methodologies work best with this age group?

About Joe Paprocki 2375 Articles
Joe Paprocki, DMin, is National Consultant for Faith Formation at Loyola Press, where, in addition to his traveling/speaking responsibilities, he works on the development team for faith formation curriculum resources including Finding God: Our Response to God’s Gifts and God’s Gift: Reconciliation and Eucharist. Joe has more than 35 years of experience in ministry and has presented keynotes, presentations, and workshops in more than 100 dioceses in North America. Joe is a frequent presenter at national conferences including the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress, the Mid-Atlantic Congress, and the National Conference for Catechetical Leadership. He is the author of numerous books, including the best seller The Catechist’s Toolbox, A Church on the Move, Under the Influence of Jesus, and Called to Be Catholic—a bilingual, foundational supplemental program that helps young people know their faith and grow in their relationship with God. Joe is also the series editor for the Effective Catechetical Leader and blogs about his experiences in faith formation at www.catechistsjourney.com.

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