Peer Readers Advisory Program Jana Stelter and Leah Giarritano
Middle School Brain Development Young adolescents are moving from concrete to abstract thinking and to the beginnings of metacognition (the active monitoring and regulation of thinking processes). Problem solving, critical thinking, planning and controlling impulses are just beginning to develop. Brain development at this stage supports kids engaging in strong, intense interests (often short-lived), a preference for interactions with peers and active over passive learning. Information based on interview with neuroscientist, Jay Giedd (Lorain).
Peer Influence “Kids actively want to emulate their peers. During adolescence, they are looking for ways to separate from their families and begin to define themselves as individuals. To that end, they turn to friends for guidance and direction. They tend to mimic their peers behaviors and adopt the same attitudes. Conforming to social norms helps them redefine themselves while earning them acceptance and approval. Fitting in simply feels good.” Valerie Ulene, M.D.
Positive Peer Influence We typically think of peer groups and peer pressure as being a negative influence on adolescent behavior. However, peer groups can have a powerful and positive influence on attitudes, opinions and decisions. Peer groups become important in late elementary years and peak during the eighth or ninth grade. “Children learn to evaluate themselves through the eyes of their peers. They get important feedback on their personal characteristics. They practice and gain social skills and confidence. They learn fairness, cooperation and how to defer personal gratification to group goals.” Val Farmer, Clinical Psychologist
Peer Readers Advisory Compliments young adolescents’ stage of brain development Fosters positive peer influence Encourages active and lively book discussion among friends Increases motivation to read Improves reading skills and interest in books
The Pleasantdale Project Pleasantdale Middle School: Grades 5-8 Cooperative program with English teachers Compiled results for each grade 5th Grade: 74 students polled 6th Grade: 78 students polled 7th Grade: 77 students polled 8th Grade: 76 students
Tools Created Based on Program Results Book displays, by grade, in the library showcasing a rotating display of student recommended books, including a listing of all the book selections for that grade along with the recommender’s name Color-coordinated bookmarks, by grade, with top peer picks A PowerPoint presentation that looped on the monitor in the entranceway of the school with a photo of each child, their book choice and their descriptive explanation for recommending the book Distribution of PowerPoint to English teachers for integration into their curriculum and to facilitate student discussion in class
Outcome Indicators Student Feedback served as our measure of program success It helped me choose a lot of books. I can’t wait to read them. I think you should do this every year. –Olivia I liked looking at everybody’s favorite books. –Will I really enjoyed this PowerPoint because I now know what good books I can read. –Lahari I like it because it is interesting hearing everybody else’s opinions. –Jared I like this PowerPoint. There is nothing that I would add. My book list will help me by keeping me busy in the summer. –Mariah I liked that there were pictures of the people who wrote the review. I also like that you could read about so many good books and whythey aregood. –Maddy
More Student Feedback I liked the PowerPoint because it helped me find books that I would like. The picture was a good idea because I can see the people who recommended it and if they are like me. It helps me find a book. –JT I really like how the PowerPoint has people’s picture on there, and how they have to write something about the book they like. I wish it was more colorful. –Simone I liked this PowerPoint because you can see all the recommendations of books by kids. –Anna I liked this PowerPoint because it was interesting to see what other kids in my grade like reading, even if they aren’t in my class. Also, I liked seeing the pictures of the students because it made the PowerPoint interesting. –Mary
Additional Outcomes High-profile, school-wide program that caught the attention of top administration, including the school board English teachers were pleased with the outcome and utilized the content in class Marked increase in circulation of peer recommended books Adoption of an annual Peer Advisory Program at Pleasantdale Middle School Happy, engaged and connected students!
Bibliography Farmer, Val. Teen peer groups can be a positive influence. INFORUM. August 13, 2010. Web Lorain, Peter. Brain Development in Young Adolescents: Good News for Middle School Teachers. National Education Association. Viewed on October 6, 2012. Web. Ulene, Valerie. A teen’s friends are a powerful influence. Los Angeles Times. April 11, 2011. Web.
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