What Are Students Like at This Learning Level?

As they negotiate the difficult path into puberty, middle school kids are often at the mercy of their hormones and emotions. Girls can become fixated on body image, while boys experience the deepening of their voices. At the same time, they are in discovery mode, exploring their place in the larger world by expanding peer relationships and examining current events and multicultural issues. The following is a quick look at some of the behaviors you’re likely to encounter with students at this level.

Sixth graders

Sixth graders have energy to spare and can be a bit scattered when it comes to decision making. Clear instruction and encouragement from you can help alleviate some of the self-consciousness and awkwardness they may feel about their relative status within the school community and the larger world. This age group is interested in social issues and current events. Designing theater instruction to include these themes - as well as liberal amounts of humor - will help you engage and activate your students

Seventh graders

Seventh graders begin to test boundaries as they move into puberty. They can be moody, withdrawn, and even openly rebellious. For teachers, the emphasis should be on keeping students motivated and on task while effectively managing the few that may push the limits of "class clown" or disrupt in other ways. Students’ emotions tend to run high, which can be a plus when they are channeled into performance and writing-based activities in healthy ways. Theater training can also be a great way to improve peer dynamics through collaboration.

Eighth graders

Eighth graders are typically full of energy and express it in any way they can - with big gestures, bursts of laughter, and sudden increases in volume. At this age, their abstract-thinking skills are improving. They are less self-conscious about making mistakes. They try hard, and if they fail, they try again. This combination of factors can help them excel in their theater training. Many adult theater artists claim their commitment to the art form began during their final year of middle school.

What Students Can Do at This Level

The learning outcomes below are based on the Scope and Sequence, which builds instruction sequentially across these levels. Keep in mind that students of different ages may be at the same level.
Grade 6 Students Can… Grade 8 Students Can…

develop focus and concentration in order to sustain improvisations, scene work, and performance

collaborate with classmates to create and perform original, improvised scenes


practice playwriting techniques

synthesize research, observation, given circumstances, and acting skills to create characters in formal and informal presentations


examine and discuss introductory levels of the directing process: research, plan and collaborate, audition, cast, block, and direct

compare and demonstrate different acting methods and theories


produce written, verbal, and visual responses to written and/or performed material

use descriptive vocabulary and creative thinking in the critiquing process


describe how theater and related media have reflected and transformed various cultures throughout history

demonstrate a basic knowledge of American theater history, which may include the study of African, Asian, Native and Latin American, and other cultures



The following brief activities can help you engage students.

Grade 6 Design an assignment in which students research and discuss characters in literature from different time periods. They should consider the impact of the particular historical period on the characters’ modes of dress, speech, and social customs.

Grade 7 Ask students to write a one- or two-page monologue that reflects the internal self of a character who is their age but who lives somewhere else. The monologue can take any form; it might be a story, a description of a situation or emotional state, or a rant about a problem. Ask students to focus on creating a strong emotional through-line as they write.

Grade 8 Assign students to review a public, school, or classroom performance or presentation. In their critiques, they should focus specifically on the element of character, describing character traits, emotional arcs, and overall believability.