Teaching young learners requires unique practical approaches that help to promote routine, learning and good behaviour in the classroom. Here are a few tips you can easily implement to boost your teaching of children.
Learn how your students learn
Just like older students, young learners will acquire knowledge through different ways and at different rates. It is important to have a core understanding of what makes the development of young children unique and how this development even varies from child to child.
A good place to start is to think through the activities you have planned. Do all of your students have the elementary skills needed to complete the task? For example, if you want to teach someone to hop, you first must be sure that they can balance on one leg.
Through familiarising yourself with the stage of learning of each student, you can begin to be sure that you are effectively aiding their development.
Promote positive behaviour
A behaviour chart will encourage young learners to work towards a goal. At the same time, a system such as this will remind your students what constitutes acceptable and unacceptable behaviour.
When a young learner does something they have been asked to do, such as tidy away toys, you can put a sticker next to their name. They will feel pleased with the recognition they have received for their efforts, and may eventually learn to do the rewarded behaviour unprompted.
Promoting positive behaviour is also important to implement into the way you speak to young learners. Simply saying "thank you" and "well done" goes a long way to make a child feel good about their achievements.
Introduce new vocabulary with visual aids
Learning a new word or concept can be challenging for young minds as they are still in the process of learning to understand the world itself and to understand language. Learning new words without this context full formed can make them seem abstract and confusing.
Teaching young learners what an item looks like when introducing it will help students recognise it more easily in the future. In addition, fun pictures will make children feel more excited about the word and may see them want to engage with it more. Use of distinct colours also helps to categorise different words in children’s minds.
Until you know your class is confident with using the new vocabulary, bring out the visual aid each time the word comes up in lessons.
Use voices, gestures, mime and facial expressions
Reading stories aloud to a class will be a familiar task if you teach young learners. Not every student will enjoy every book, but there are techniques to ensure you keep learners as engaged as possible and that they are understanding the tale.
Being expressive will keep pupils gripped and familiarise them with the concepts they are being taught. Implementing techniques such as having different voices for each character's dialogue, using gestures and mime and making exaggerated facial expressions greatly improve how the story is conveyed to young learners, by creating suspense, aiding understanding of the narrative and distinguishing characters.
To assess your students' understanding of a story as it goes on, pause to ask the class a question about the narrative, such as "Why do you think the princess did that?" or "What do you think will happen next?".
Repetition is key
Children will not retain all information that is taught to them immediately. With so little life experience, they are still trying to develop their understanding of the world when you are teaching them strange concepts such as maths and literacy, so aspects of their subjects may take a while to sink in.
When you introduce a new concept, it is vital to then refer back to it when building on the knowledge in a following lesson. Good ways to remind students of what they learnt as well as allowing you to grasp the level of their knowledge is to start each lesson with questions. Ask you students "Who remembers what (word) means?" and ask a learner to give a definition. Explain the concept again just to reiterate it with the whole class, of course using simple terms.
You can also ask such questions whenever the word comes up elsewhere in the classroom. Keep doing this for confusing topics the students are required to know until you are confident each young learner understands them.
Young learners may not understand everything that happens in the classroom or why, but established routines provide them with a consistent framework in which to work and behave as well as making them feel safe.
An examples of a routine could be your students lining up outside the classroom at the start of each day. They will soon come to know aspects of the task such as having to stand in a straight line and having to be quiet when you first say hello. A next step is making sure that they know what is expected of them when they have entered the room, whether this is hanging up their coat or sitting on the carpet.
An established routine not only familiarises young learners new to the classroom with what is expected of their behaviour but also minimises any nervousness they may feel about the new and hectic learning environment.