Do Your Students Seem Older?

Have you noticed an age shift in your class now that it’s the middle of the year? It always seemed to me that when we’d come back from February vacation, my students had all grown an inch, seen some new movie that changed the lingo in the room, and were suddenly more mature, for better or worse.

It’s funny—we all acknowledge that there are some pretty profound differences between kindergartners and first graders, or between third graders and fourth graders. Most of us spend the first few weeks of school focused on getting to know our students, and we often come to the conclusion that this year we have an “old” class, or a “young” one. But it’s easy to forget that a group that seems old or young (or normal) at the beginning of the year will change over time. That squirrely bunch of third graders who had a hard time sitting still for more than five minutes in October can suddenly be held captive by The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe for a full half-hour read-aloud session after lunch in March. On the other hand, that mellow group of fifth graders who seemed so relaxed, content and amiable in November might be snipping at each other, forming cliques, and developing crushes now.

And so, as our students change, we need to adjust and adapt. I remember having to reconfigure the layout of my classroom one year when my fifth graders hit growth spurts (seemingly in unison!), and kids started bumping into each other and the furniture all day. Another year, when I was teaching fourth grade, a class that spent the first half of the year struggling with being kind suddenly clicked and mellowed out. We were able to take on some really fun group projects (cooking and movie-making) in April that we couldn’t have handled in October.

What kinds of shifts have you seen in your class this year? How has the tone of your classroom changed as students have reached new developmental milestones? How have you had to adjust as a teacher to meet the new strengths and challenges of the students in your room?

To learn more about physical, social, language, and cognitive growth patterns for children at different ages, check out Yardsticks: Children in the Classroom, Ages 4–14, by Chip Wood. This bestseller has helped thousands of teachers and administrators shape classrooms and schools where all children can succeed.

Mike Anderson is a Responsive Classroom consultant and author of several books, including three in the What Every Teacher Needs to Know series.

Tags: Adolescent Development, Child Development, Middle of the Year