Thinking & Learning

Reading, Writing, and Discussing Complex Topics

Elementary school is all about the building blocks of learning—reading, writing, and math. Middle school is where your kid really starts to put those building blocks to use. They’ll be asked to consider multiple points of view, ask bigger and tougher questions, and think more deeply about complex issues in the world, from climate change to immigration to technology.

Your kid’s world is getting bigger. While you’re busy both mourning and celebrating that fact, they’re growing and moving forward. In school, the discussions are getting deeper and the assignments are getting tougher. Your middle schooler is likely to start adding some important critical thinking and learning tools to their toolbox during these years.

Here’s what you can expect them to do:


Consider the big stuff. Your tween is already exposed to plenty of complex issues just by being out and about in the world (and, probably, by having access to the internet). Increasingly, they’ll be asked to wrestle with the big stuff in school, both in class discussions and in their writing. They’ll be tasked with understanding multiple points of view, including (hopefully) those that differ from their own. And they’ll read a greater variety of texts and be asked to draw connections between their lives and large-scale issues (for example, how their individual actions impact the environment, or how a high-profile event in the news relates to their own experience).


Move beyond “good vs. bad” thinking. In the earlier years, kids tend to have a pretty black and white view of things: good or bad, fair or unfair. Now they’ll begin to grapple with more gray areas. They’ll often be asked to consider multiple sides of an argument, how personal circumstances influence one’s point of view, and what happens when big questions don’t have a single right answer.


Make more complex arguments orally and in writing. Rather than just expressing an opinion, your middle schooler is going to be expected to use evidence to support their position, and explain that position both in writing and in group discussions. They’ll also have to look at the other side, too, and consider evidence or perspectives that might challenge their thinking.


Understand how to put their ideas in their own words. As your child is tasked with incorporating more evidence into their written work, they might be tempted to draw straight from other people’s work, especially as they do research using the internet. Cutting and pasting is easy, but figuring out how to develop their own ideas and put those thoughts in their own words is harder. In middle school, they’ll be citing sources appropriately. They’ll learn to use quotes and incorporate others’ points of view, while giving fair credit to their sources.

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