Students in 7th grade are in the midst of significant changes.

Whereas the major differences in the transition from elementary school to middle school are predominantly external – a change in building, a change in class structure, and a different group of faces seen on a daily basis, many of the changes that occur in the seventh grade are instead internal. Understanding these developments and how they relate to academic performance is thus important for maximizing student success.

In the academic space, students being challenged to grow in understanding and problem solving

Strive for a deeper understanding of science.

Instead of just memorizing facts, students learn to collect data, use the scientific method, and apply this information to compose reports and ask questions.

Express complex meanings through writing.

In English, students will be increasingly expected to tackle vocabulary, reading and writing content of greater difficulty and depth.

Stay ahead of the curve in math classes.

Doing well in math early prepares a student to learn the building blocks that are the foundation for all the math they will do in high school.

A particularly valuable use of time during seventh grade is to begin to practice study and time management skills.

In the academic space, students are being exposed to many concepts that build upon earlier fundamental skills, but also provide building blocks for the concepts that they will encounter in 8th grade and in high school.

Beyond just skill building, it is important to consider how academic performance at this time begins to position students on the particular academic track they will follow once they enter high school. With each year that a student gets closer to 9th grade, this track becomes more and more determined, and this academic pathway has a significant influence on the overall rigor that will be present on the academic transcript colleges will receive at the end of high school. Current academic choices and performance do have long term impacts on students. While middle school curriculum can somewhat vary across the nation, there are general content areas to which most students will be exposed during 7th grade.

Beyond academics, seventh grade is a time when many students express increased interest in activities outside of the classroom.

Whether this be a musical instrument, an additional sport, or involvement in student government, students may begin to experience the type of pressures on their time that will become much more prominent later in middle school and beyond. In addition, the physical and social changes that students are experiencing during this time can reflect themselves in a student’s motivation towards academics and his or her overall disposition. It is important to find ways to keep students engaged their schoolwork as any regression can have long term repercussions in the opportunities that they will have in high school and college.

Opportunities for Growth

A Students

The academic achievement that these 7th grade students have demonstrated through elementary school and into middle school should continue to be a focus at this point in time. As a student progresses further into middle school, the performance of each subsequent year has a greater impact on the potential academic track on which they will find themselves come 9th grade. Thus, any downward trend in grade performance at this point in time can undermine the work that students have previously done.

Students in 7th grade with high academic achievement will face increased challenges to maintaining these standards as they confront additional pressures outside of the classroom. This is a time when students begin to struggle to maintain previous performance because they are not well equipped to handle these concurrent additional academic and social challenges. It is thus essential for students to cultivate the study habits that will provide them with the ability to maximize the time they spent on academics. This work will also have a significant impact as a student continues to proceed through grade levels.

A component of students confronting these dual social and academic challenges is to develop a motivation and a mindset that inspires sustained achievement. It is important to emphasize the concrete, objective reasons why continued work in the academic space will have a significant impact in the future.

B Students

Students in 7th grade who have cultivated the skills and aptitude to receive B grades to this part of middle school can still identify ways to develop the confidence and skill mastery needed to increase their academic achievement. While the rate of academic growth generally seen in middle school students is not as significant as that of earlier grades, it is still possible for students to make the transition from a “B Student” to an “A student” with less effort than what will be required later in their academic careers. Work tailored to areas of weakness in combination with individualized support can thus pay particular dividends.

This academic work should occur in combination with an emphasis on developing student mindset, particularly in the area of confidence. The multi-faceted pressures students face at this point of their adolescence can cause an erosion in the confidence needed to believe that they can take the final step to the top of the score scale.

C or Below Students

At this point in time, students in 7th grade who are receiving predominantly C grades or below have the opportunity to make significant academic improvement before they fully internalize the idea they that are a “C Student” or a “D Student.”

An important part of this process is to develop a growth mindset in these students – A desire not only to see the academic and study skill work needed to ascend to higher grade strata as a challenge, but as an opportunity to put themselves in a position to academically succeed in the future in a way that they have not prior to this point in time.

As seventh graders, students still have a mental plasticity that allows them to learn and implement academic and non-academic concepts at a quicker rate than later age groups. This reality can be leveraged when working to set these students on a pathway to academic achievement.

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