Elementary School Grades
- If you only remember one thing: Make them move their bodies!
1st graders are little bundles of energy just waiting to explode into whatever you tell them to do. Keep in mind that they want to be active -- they want to run and play and be silly. Successful lessons for 1st graders tend to be high energy. It is also important to remember that kids of this age group don't get tired gradually, they become exhausted all of a sudden. As you are moving through a 1st grade lesson, make sure to take the time every ten minutes or so to calm them down and restore order to the classroom.
- If you only remember one thing: Let them move their bodies!
Something wonderful happens between 1st grade and 2nd grade. The kids grow up. As an adult, looking into the eyes of 2nd graders, you can see that they have learned the idea of taking responsibility for themselves. The problem is that they don't quite know how to do so as a group yet. A successful way to overcome this problem is to be very personable by picking out a few students to talk to. Second graders wear name tags and because they haven't learned kanji yet, their names are written in hiragana (family name first, given name second). If you can learn the names of 4 or 5 students over the course of the lesson and interact with them on an individual basis, the rest of the students will follow the example of these students. 2nd graders still love to be active, so make sure your lessons involve a lot of active components! Also, remember, that the 2nd grade is still a transition year, so in some schools they may behave more like 1st graders, while in other schools they may behave more like 3rd graders.
- If you only remember one thing: Show them how to create something!
3rd Graders are just starting to learn how to function independently as a class. This is a difficult year academically for the students because it is the first time they are treated as full members of the school. For example, 1st Graders and 2nd Graders are usually given a little bit of slack when they enter and exit the teachers room, and all the teachers encourage them to master the greetings that they are supposed to say as they pass through the door. In the 3rd Grade, it is expected that the students have mastered these skills and the teachers are a little bit stricter. Basically, this means that they have learned to take responsibility for themselves in a group. The good thing about this is that it is easier to teach classes using creative activites in addition to active activities; they still want to run around and be silly, but they want to make beautiful things and they appreciate beautiful things. This means you should bring shiny objects that you can somehow use to teach English. 3rd Graders will eat it up. The downside to 3rd Graders increased capacity to take responsibility for themselves in a group is that they become a little bit more self-conscious and shy. Whereas 2nd Graders have no problem being singled out, and in fact love it, some 3rd graders WILL have a problem being singled out and will NOT love it.
- If you only remember one thing: Play your best games with them!
In 4th grade, students suddenly love games with rules. They are fascinated by the rules of games. 1st graders will play English janken with you and they couldn't care less whether they are following the rules of the game or not, they just want to interact with you. As of 4th grade, the students want to play the games in the correct way and a lot of the students will want to win. Its fun because you can do more complicated activities in addition to simple creative and active activities. Its important to keep in mind that 4th graders are becoming more self-conscious and shy. The split is about half and half at this point, with half the class hoping that you won't single them out, while the other half of the class longs for you to call on them. Of course, this varies from school to school, but you will see whether or not students want to be called on in their eyes.
- If you only remember one thing: Make them enjoy "new" sounds in English!
The enthusiasm that 4th graders feel for games with rules tends to increase in the 5th grade and in the 5th grade, the students tend to be interested if you demonstrate some of the basic mechanics of the English language. They are ready to learn the Roman alphabet, simple sentences structures, etc. 5th graders aren't ready to tackle the nitty-gritty mechanics of English grammar, though; that starts in junior high school.
- If you only remember one thing: Teach them to enjoy using a foreign language to communicate!
6th graders are (usually) ready to tackle any challenge you throw at them, assuming that they have the prerequisite knowledge to succeed. Always keep in mind that the primary goal of the elementary school English curriculum is to learn the joy of communicating - they enjoy pattern practice, so long as you don't do it in the soulless, lifeless manner of an English grammar vending machine. If you can incorporate pattern practice into interesting activities, 6th graders will succeed where 5th graders won't.
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