Seventh-grade students are moving through a critical stage in their development as they become concerned with the changes occurring in their bodies. Accelerated physical development is marked by increases in height, weight, heart size, lung capacity, and muscular strength. The head, hands, and feet of an adolescent attain mature size before the legs, which attain their full length before arms. This uneven muscle and bone development often results in lack of coordination and awkwardness, leading to temporary disruptions or brief regressions in motor skills performance.
Seventh-grade students are beginning the transition from the concrete stage to the abstract stage in their cognitive development. This transition provides the capacity for abstract thinking and metacognition (ability to know what one knows). Students are better able to anticipate future events and to formulate goals to address those situations. They are gaining additional insight into sources of previously unquestioned attitudes, behaviors, and values. Seventh-grade students are capable of demonstrating and analyzing more complex movement patterns and strategies. They possess a greater knowledge of fitness and are capable of creating week-long personal fitness plans designed to improve their current level of health-related physical fitness.
Seventh-grade students are becoming more independent of their parents and increasingly dependent on the approval of their peers. Some students become rebellious toward parents because they want to make decisions for themselves. They like to experience challenges and test their limits. Physical education provides these students with challenging activities in a safe and controlled environment. It is not unusual for students in this age group to display erratic and inconsistent behavior. They are experiencing chemical and hormonal imbalances, which can lead to moodiness, anger, and an acute sensitivity to criticism. However, these students are increasingly able to solve problems and resolve conflicts within a group setting. They are also more likely to express an appreciation for cooperation and fair play as they adhere to group rules. A well-planned physical education program takes into account the importance of the transition from sixth to eighth grade and the rapid physical, social, and emotional changes occurring at this level
Eighth-grade students reflect a wide range of individual differences that are inherent to puberty, including height, weight, skill competency, and maturity. Gender differences are becoming more pronounced as males’ shoulders grow larger than their hips and as females’ hips grow larger than their shoulders. Despite these differences, all students are capable of attaining greater motor achievement and should be encouraged to set realistic personal goals and monitor their own progress.
Eighth-grade students are capable of abstract thinking at this stage of their cognitive development. They can understand and consider several aspects of a problem simultaneously. Skills such as logical thought, deductive reasoning, and systematic planning also emerge during this stage. With these emerging cognitive skills, students successfully engage in modified team sports and learn the complexities of offensive and defensive team strategies. Eighth-grade students also plan alternative activities for their personal fitness plan, so that they are prepared for inclement weather or injury.
Eighth-grade students are searching for their adult identity; their appearance is becoming increasingly important to them. This focus on appearance provides teachers with an opportunity to stress the importance of good health and fitness. Eighth-graders are also able to accept responsibility for their behavior, work cooperatively with a large group, resolve individual and group conflicts, and focus on long-term group goals—all important skills for participating in team activities.