Children are the most unique type of learners. I’ve learnt that they are the same as well as different in their own way. I didn’t start my teaching year with young learners, so when I did, I had to learn a lot! Because teaching young learners mean you are taking part in shaping part of their personality too. As a Kindergarten teacher, I am also dealing with their parents, so we have to form a perfect triangle between us, teachers, the student and the parents to make sure that the learning process will not only be effective but meaningful too.. And here are some ways that I found work well in my classroom:
First thing first, never say “You’re wrong!” to any attempted answer made by our young learners! I don’t want to be the person who kills their curiosity and voice just because they’re afraid to make a mistake in answering my question. I’d simply smile and ask them to try again or ask for a better answer. Young learners, especially in Indonesia are easily feeling down and would mostly avoid being involved in answering when they feel humilated for their mistake.
I found that my young learners learn best when they are actively involved in the learning process. My students tend not to respond well to learning experiences in which they have to just sit and watch. Good thing that in Montessori type of learning, everyone will have a chance to be active. TPR, or Total Physical Response, is great for young learners. Children love to be active and move around, so if you can add any movement to your class, kids will love it.
Plan a bunch of shorter activities instead of one long one. Each activity should last about five to fifteen minutes maximum. Young children simply can’t pay attention for a longer period. In our school we have a 3 period lesson to get students to reach our goal, It’s better to teach step by step than to just go all the way in a longer time. And young learners learn well with repetition.
It’s good to have a bond with them because young learners learn better through relationships. Don’t be afraid to be on their level! Share the experience with them. You could ask personal questions, but do remember the answers! Don’t forget to keep your promises! If you have promised them that they won’t be much writing task today, then keep your words. As they trust you as a person, they’ll trust you more as their teacher which lead to a better learning process. This is something my former headmaster taught me years ago.
Never afraid to set some rules in the classroom. Discipline could help young learners develop self-control. Discipline also is encouraging, guiding them, and teaching them how to think for themselves. You don’t need to be too stiff though. My rules in class is simple; Always respect whoever is talking in front of the class, be it the teacher or their friends. Classroom management is something every teacher should master, especially when you’re teaching young learners. You certainly don’t want to lose a voice, shouting at them all the time to just sit still, right? Clapping a short rhythm, which the students echo could help. In my class I like to just stand in the middle of our red circle line then shout “ Red line…..” then my students will answer with “blue down/yellow down” (depends on the uniform that day) then sit on the red lines performing half circle. Use tambourine, bell or whatever you can find as a tool to get their attention. It is important for teachers to be consistent in their classroom management. Young learners respond easily to a readily recognizable signal for attention, whereas confusion may occur if signals are continually altering.
Choices are good! When children are given the opportunity to make choices, they have a sense of ownership and responsibility which strengthens the learning experience. I remember last year I worked so hard to get one of my student, Vini to learn to make a choice. Because when she just first joined the class, she tried so hard to fit in that she was afraid to make any choices, which made her a bit difficult to finish her projects since she always wanted to do whatever her friends were doing. But once, I got her to always choose on her own and learnt the fun and consequences in making one, she began to be better in her lesson.
I’ve learnt a lot during my teaching years to young learners. First and for most, I’ve learnt that they are a very loving bunch of students and they aren’t afraid to show it! They’d give you more than you could ever give them. They are also the best copier and certainly can easily be your mini version! You could actually reflect better as a teacher and a person from them, for they would always be an honest reflection to you. And their love is by far the greatest rewards ever! I’ve survived a lot of misfortunes in my life because I can count on my students to put a smile back on my face! And for me, young learners have given me more reasons to be a better teacher and person, for when I see them, I know that I want to do more. My life is better because of them! So let me end this by saying that I dedicate this post to Aliffa, Daniel, Emeral, Keshia, Lavinia , Nadine and Padma : My Joy!