The Truth About Middle School Classes

The middle school experience brings change and increased responsibility

Girl using laptop
Middle school classes may bring an increase in projects and homework. Brendan O'Sullivan / Getty Images

If your tween is headed off to middle school, he or she might be wondering how difficult the middle school classes will be. It's true, middle school can be more challenging for students than elementary school, and in general, the middle school experience isn't nearly as nurturing. But it's important for students to know that while classes may be more challenging, they may also find them a little bit more interesting.

Before your child begins the middle school journey, it's important he or she understand what to expect the next couple of years. Here's what to expect from the middle school classroom experience. 

The Truth About Middle School Classes

  • In middle school, students take on more responsibility for their coursework. They may have to cover more material in class than they're used to, and they may be required to do more outside of class. Expect your child's homework load to increase in middle school.
  • But on the flipside, your tween may find his or her middle school courses a little more interesting. For example, science class might require more time spent in the lab conducting experiments, or foreign language class may spend a portion of the year learning about ethnic food, music and culture. It's important for parents to point out all the positives about what their child is learning in school, and to point out that now he or she is a big kid, and is preparing for those high school years, which are just around the corner.
  • In addition, your child may be able to choose an elective in middle school. An elective is a class that is not required, but that will still enrich your child's education. Elective classes might include art, chorus, band, or home economics (also referred to as independent living). Choosing an elective can be exciting for your tween. Be sure your child chooses the class that most interests her, even if it's not the class you hoped he or she would pick.
  • Middle school students usually take six courses; English 7, Math 7, History, Science, Physical Education (PE) and an elective. A foreign language might be offered as a 7th required course, or as an elective.

  • One of the things that sets middle school classes apart from elementary school is that students usually have different teachers for different subjects. That means your child might have as many as seven teachers. Learning how to work with more than one teacher can be a challenge for some middle school students, and it's common for students to have complaints about certain teachers, or to dislike them altogether. These situations are helpful in teaching your child how to work with a variety of personalities, and to also prepare him or her for what's ahead in high school and college.

  • Because middle schools are generally larger than elementary school, your tween may worry about finding her classes, or about getting lost, especially on the first day of school. That's why it's important for you and your child to take a tour of the middle school, and to chart your child's daily schedule. You may also ask an older student, such as a sibling or a neighbor, to help your child figure out how the navigate the building between class, and before and after school.

  • Middle school teachers may cover class material quickly, and they don't have the time to make sure students keep up and stay on top of their studies. Be sure you check in with your child periodically, to make sure there aren't any issues that you need to know about. If your child begins falling behind in class, a tutor might be able to help. It's important to make sure your child stays on top of his studies, because it's very easy to fall behind quickly. In addition, it's important for your child to learn good study habits now, so that he'll have them when he starts high school.

  • Middle school classes help your tween fine tune study skills and independent study -- both of which will be needed during the high school years. Help your child learn to take responsibility by helping with homework or projects only when necessary, and by allowing your child to work through problems on his or her own. The more your child depends on his or herself, the more likely he or she will be ready for high school and beyond.

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