Whether it’s your first-time teaching young learners or your hundredth, finding the perfect approach that works for the students can be overwhelming. They don’t always understand what you’re talking about, no matter how simplistically you explain something. Likewise, young students can be easily distracted and lose focus quickly. Sometimes they are too curious and ask a lot of questions. Other times they are too quiet, and you have no idea what they are thinking.
As a teacher, you must understand that each student has unique skills, abilities, and learning styles. And while you cannot treat all of them the same way, you can develop a few effective strategies to engage your students and better communicate with them. It could be an activity, a game, or a discussion on the topic that works as a “bridge” between the lesson you’re teaching and the student’s interests.
Your goal is to build an environment in which your students are comfortable and engaged with the material. The following strategies can help you create this in your classroom:
Advance your knowledge in curriculum development
Before you start teaching a younger age group, you must understand the curriculum you’re teaching. Knowing how your students are expected to learn and what topics they should be able to comprehend can help you develop creative lessons and activities that connect with their interests and abilities.
You must also be familiar with best instructional practices and have the ability to encourage and inspire diverse learners. From students with learning disabilities to those who are gifted, you’ll need to adjust your teaching style to meet the needs of each student.
The FGCU elementary education offers an online master’s program to help you gain the knowledge and skills needed to become a successful teacher. You can learn how to plan lessons, create meaningful learning experiences, and manage a classroom efficiently.
Use multi-sensory activities
Multi-sensory activities involve more than just visual and verbal information. They use touch, smell, sound, movement, and even taste to help students remember, understand, and recall information. This activity is particularly effective with younger students, who often learn best through hands-on experiences.
How to implement them:
- Incorporate tactile elements such as sandpaper letters, puzzles, and blocks into your lesson plans.
- Use props like puppets and masks to create a more dynamic learning environment.
- Ask students to smell, taste, or listen to something related to the lesson.
- Invite students to get up and move around by acting out a scene or doing a movement activity related to the material.
Today’s students are digital natives and often learn best through technology. You can use technological tools such as interactive whiteboards, virtual field trips, and augmented reality to enliven your lessons. It allows the students to manipulate images and create illustrations rather than just reading about the material. It also helps to make abstract concepts more concrete, which can be especially beneficial when teaching complex topics.
Benefits of using technology in the classroom:
- Increases student engagement and motivation
- Facilitates deep learning
- Enhances collaboration opportunities
- Improves communication with students and parents
- Allows for differentiated instruction
- Offers access to real-world data and information
Give students choices
Young learners often tend to get bored quickly, but not when given a chance to make decisions for themselves. You can plan one day a week where students can choose what they feel like doing or offer a menu of activities they can choose from. It not only helps students enjoy the learning process but also teaches them valuable skills like decision-making and problem-solving.
Some fun activities that students can choose from include:
- Creating a comic strip
- Engineering a bridge out of recycled materials
- Watching a movie related to the lesson
- Building a scene from a book out of Legos
- Playing an educational game online or in person
Create a reward system
Rewards are great motivators for students and help keep them engaged in learning. Rewards can be as small as a sticker or extra playtime or can be more meaningful, like a certificate of accomplishment.
No matter what kind of reward system you choose, make sure it is simple and easy to understand. Be consistent when giving rewards so that students understand the expectations that come with them.
You can set the criteria for a reward based on the completion of an assignment, making progress in a challenging task, or simply showing effort and improvement. Ensure every student has the same opportunity to earn a reward, no matter their starting point.
Incorporate art and music into the classroom
Art and music are the most effective ways to engage and motivate students. Art projects can help stimulate creative thinking, while music is a great way to introduce rhythm and foster group cohesion.
You can either assign art projects related to the subject you’re teaching or create a mini-art lesson that focuses on creativity and self-expression. For music, consider having students sing a song together or let them use musical instruments to make compositions. You can even play some music in the background to set the atmosphere and create a more relaxed learning environment.
Plan group activities
No matter their age or level, every student has this urge to compete and be the best at something. But you need to foster collaboration among the students and help them understand that working together is more effective and sometimes necessary. It is also an excellent way to help students develop a sense of camaraderie and respect for each other’s work.
Group activities such as board games, Lego challenges, treasure hunts, scavenger hunts, and science experiments are excellent ways to get students to work together. Such activities can also help them learn problem-solving skills, communication, and teamwork. These essential life skills will come in handy as they grow up.
Remember to distribute the groups and tasks fairly, ensuring each group has an equal chance of winning.
Young learners are full of energy and enthusiasm. They are eager to learn and want to be challenged. You can help them attain their full potential by providing them with the right environment and opportunities. Using multi-sensory activities, incorporating technology, arts, and music, planning group activities, and creating reward systems are a few ways to engage and motivate young learners.
The key is to create a fair and balanced learning environment where each student has an equal opportunity to succeed. With the right activities and guidance, your students can explore the world around them, develop essential skills, and ultimately achieve success in their educational journey and beyond.