As an education professional who has taught children from elementary age up to high school, Cameron Gonzalez is perfectly placed to discuss the challenges of teaching across different age ranges. Through years of experience, she has learned to recognize how important it is to be able to relate to students on their level and to understand what is happening in their world at any one time.
When providing instruction for new teachers, Cameron made sure to emphasize how vital it is to have engagement with the age group that they were working with and to keep lessons exciting and, above all, relevant to their experience.
Working In Elementary Schools
“When working with elementary students, it’s important to recognize that they are energetic, but they are capable of focusing on their lessons too,” Cameron says. “When children reach this age, they are starting to learn how to think independently and this is a skill that needs to be fostered and honed at this stage of their school career.”
Role-playing is especially effective at this age, and playing games in which students can role-play at putting themselves in adult situations is an easy and fun way for them to learn. Math can be taught by role-playing at shopkeeping, for example.
When lesson planning for elementary students, the key is to balance brain work with energy. Having some high-energy classroom activities is important, but splitting the room up into teams adds more competitiveness that children of this age thrive on. Adding some quiz and puzzle activities into the mix allows individuals to shine and demonstrate their skills.
Most importantly, although children at this age may act as if they know everything, they’re still very young, so all classroom activities should be fun and light-hearted. Remember that they will be more successful learners if they have fun while they learn.
Teaching Middle Schoolers
Although middle schoolers are older than elementary children, they still thrive on many of the same things that younger children do in the classroom. They love being praised. They love having fun. Most importantly, they like their teachers to share their own relevant experiences with them so that they can develop a relationship and understanding.
When middle school educators get to know their students’ likes, dislikes and talents, connections are created that enable them to push their students on to bigger and better things. “Routine is a vital element in any middle school classroom,” says Cameron. “However, spontaneity at times is equally important. The key is to get the balance right.”
Cameron believes that having a strong and clear lesson plan is always important, but in the middle school classroom, having flexibility and the ability to throw in distraction to bring them back to the task in hand is essential.
Teaching High School Students
“Although some educators worry about teaching older students there is no cause for concern,” Cameron says. “Teaching older students isn’t easy and comes with plenty of challenges, but it’s also extremely rewarding.” She believes that the key to success with this age group is to understand the world of the teenager.
Not only are they going through a lot of change in their bodies but they’re also developing and changing in their lives. It is also at this stage in their school careers that they begin to worry about how others view them, so it’s especially important to make activities confidence-boosting and comfortable.
The best lesson plans to be created for high schoolers are relatable. Students need to get to know each other and their teacher before they feel comfortable in the classroom, so the first few lessons need to be fun and engaging, fostering a sense of community and helping them to become confident to express themselves.
Finding out as much as possible about each student is the best way to get to understand and know the world in which they live, and finding common interests between students and their educators is important. Once teachers know the interests that their students have, they can make lessons relevant and engaging, structuring learning around topics that they have particular interests in.
“Most importantly,” Cameron Gonzales says, “patience is key, no matter which age group you’re working with. Fun is also very important. Whether you teach high school or first grade, you’ll discover that children of all ages just want to enjoy themselves and they’ll do better in the classroom if they’re engaged with their learning and having fun while they learn new skills and gain new knowledge. Although teaching any age group presents plenty of challenges, it’s an extremely rewarding profession, and when you get it right as an educator you have the best job in the world!”