Tips for Teaching Young Children

How do we teach in a way that hooks into a child’s natural desire to learn?

Children are naturally curious. They explore, experiment, touch, ask questions, and are motivated to learn. To them it’s all play, and they don’t need adults praising them for their efforts.

Wondering how you can help children succeed? Consider the following characteristics of how they learn to help you teach in ways that improve their ability to make sense of new concepts.

1. Young children learn when subject areas are integrated

Offer children thematic units rich with content and they will be interested and motivated, especially if you can bring real things to touch and explore that relate to the theme.

Basic literacy and math concepts can be taught and reviewed as the theme content is shared. A “winter” theme offers many opportunities to teach the letter W, to count and record the number of mittens on snowmen constructed in an art lesson, or to create patterns for paper scarfs.

A child learning about the life cycle of a butterfly may act it out with creative movement and poetry, paint the process with a large paper and paint, illustrate and label the stages in science and literacy lessons and listen to related stories and songs. Avoid pursuing a theme if the children have lost interest. Ask yourself if you are presenting enough “real objects”. New themes get everyone motivated and enthusiastic.

2. Children learn in lots of different ways

Visual learners watch closely when you demonstrate an activity and like to draw and play with shapes and puzzles. Auditory learners understand ideas and concepts because they remember information they have heard, follow spoken directions well and remember songs easily.

Although all children learn through touch, some learn best combining touch and movement (tactile/kinetic learners). Some children like structure while others learn more easily in an unstructured environment.

If you want busy, happy and on task children, give them a variety of lessons that meet the needs of different learning styles.

3. Children often do not have the vocabulary to express themselves

Inexperienced teachers sometimes misinterpret a child’s unwillingness to participate as stubbornness or bad behavior when in reality, the child may lack the skills to explain himself. Use reflective listening to help children communicate why they are upset.

Sometimes children work well in groups, learning to share and develop ideas. At other times they just need to be alone with ample time to figure things out for themselves.

Do not expect perfection. Relax and have fun with your students!

4. Children progress when concepts are taught in a structured, step-by-step way

When concepts are presented in a structured step-by-step process with each step building on previous knowledge, children learn with less effort.

For example, expecting a young child to understand the concept of a food chain without previous experiences with, and vocabulary about, chains and links is assuming too much.

5. Children’s abilities to observe and process information develop at varying rates

Some four-year old children have superb small motor coordination and draw and cut beautifully, but have delayed speech patterns. Other children may be verbally eloquent but be physically uncoordinated or be at a scribbling stage in drawing.

Just as children develop physically at different rates, they also progress academically, socially, emotionally, and artistically at varying speeds. Effective teaching happens when teachers remember that learning is developmental.

Offer open-ended activities to meet the developmental stages of all students. An open-ended activity involves children at a wide range of developmental levels. Children are less frustrated working at their own level and they do not have to compare their results to a set of identical worksheets.

6. Children learn best when given things, objects, and stuff to explore

When teaching young children, always use concrete materials, as children need sensory experiences when learning new ideas and concepts.

Take advantage of the many educational learning materials available to teach geometry, number sense, pattern skills, symmetry, classification and other math concepts.

Use science materials like magnets, light paddles, scales, weights, and collections of birds’ nests, as well as book character toys and puppets to enhance literacy.

7. Children need instruction, practice and time to learn new skills and concepts

A child doesn’t learn to ride a bike by only looking at the bike and exploring its properties, he/she also needs time to practice and guided instruction.

Practicing concepts and skills does not need to be dull and repetitive. Do not automatically think “worksheet” when you think of skills practice. There are lots of ways to practice skills using puzzles, games, diagrams, art and more.

8. Children won’t learn if they are over tired, hungry, upset or worried

Be flexible and understanding with young children. Check to see if kids are hungry. It’s easier to let a child eat part of her lunch early, than attempt to make a hungry child concentrate on a task.

Sometimes a child needs to be left alone and creating a small retreat space in the classroom can help students who are too overwhelmed by home or other circumstances to cope with their peers or teacher.

9. Motivated children pay attention

Young children are generally motivated to learn about everything. Unless they have often been made fun of when investigating or presenting their knowledge, they have a strong desire to find out and share information.

Reinforce thinking processes rather than praising the child. Saying “That’s an interesting way you sorted your blocks. Tell me what you were thinking” rather than, “Samuel is so smart” will focus the children’s attention on exploring the blocks. Making too much fuss of any one child can result in a competitive atmosphere.

10. Children learn by teaching others

When children have an opportunity to communicate their new knowledge to adults or other children it helps solidify concepts. Some children need extra time to find the correct words to explain what they are thinking so patience is necessary.

To help children share their knowledge, use descriptive words as they play or work and they will copy your vocabulary.

11. Children Need to be Active

If children have been sitting still too long, they will let you know it’s time to move. Even the best, well planned, interesting lessons fail if the children need a break.

Take plenty of movement breaks, go for walks around the school, march around the classroom or jump up and down! You will have more alert and focused students.

Summary

As children experience your love and acceptance and realize that you are willing to help them, they relax and learn. Keep a sense of enthusiasm, wonder and curiosity about the world around you, and your students will imitate your behavior. Your classroom may be one of the few places where their opinions and ideas are valued.

A Young Teacher’s Guide To Using Textbooks As Teaching/Learning Tools

At the outset, let me say that teaching from a textbook is a ‘no-no’. It would almost always give the impression to students that you don’t know your ‘stuff’ or you are not confident. Here, you need to remember that you will always know or understand more than the vast majority of your students with the topic you are teaching. There will occasionally be gifted students in your class who will understand it all. Use them as tutors/mentors for fellow students. They will often express difficult ideas in ways better understood by their classmates.

However, since textbooks can be expensive, it is important that they be used often and effectively. A good textbook can be a real asset to you as well as for the student. The author was, most likely, a teacher who has written the book on the basis of their own experience.

A good textbook is an essential tool in learning, helping with consolidation and practice of skills. Therefore, take a great deal of time researching various choices to find the one that best suits your needs. A bad choice becomes an expensive mistake.

The writer spent most of his career teaching Mathematics where a textbook is essential. During his years as Head of Mathematics, he introduced several new syllabuses into his school. Consequently, he and his staff needed to research carefully to find the best available textbooks. Sometimes it took up to two years to test out the available text books. His experience in using textbooks and selecting new ones provided the information for this article.

A good textbook is a:

• Reference guide;

• Source of the basics to learn and/or practice;

• Source of rules or procedures to be learnt;

• Source of exercises used to consolidate new learning and ideas on how to practice new skills; (These need to be carefully graded to allow students enough practice to consolidate the basics and then allow them easy movement forward to the more challenging tasks.)

• Source of revision exercises;

• Source of worked examples; and

• As a backup when you teach new and challenging topics.

It should contain the following:

• Chapter summary of ideas to be remembered;

• Chapter review/test;

• Answers;

• Easy to understand diagrams, graphs, pictures and other illustrations; and

• It may also contain a suggested work program as a guide to the time you need to spend on each topic.

Teach your students how to use the textbook effectively as it can be an efficient learning tool at home. Spend a lesson looking at the following list of sections in the textbook, explaining how to use each part.

(a) Contents page

(b) Index

(c) Explanations of new work

(d) Worked examples

(e) Learning work

(f) Exercises to do

(g) Skill practice

(h) Chapter review

(I) Chapter test/diagnosis

(j) Problem solving

(k) Extension work

(l) BOB, back of book – answers

Work Program and Your Textbook

Give students a work outline to go with the textbook. In it, detail the basic exercises the students need to do to gain an understanding of the subject. This is the minimum requirement only. However, specify what needs to be done to extend this understanding to gain the best marks possible.

Some final advice:

Insist that students have their textbook with them every day in class. If you know that you will definitely not be using it next lesson, tell the class not to bring it. (Students appreciate not having to carry heavy books unnecessarily.) However, don’t forget to remind the class to bring it to the next lesson. You need to be careful with this process in lower level classes especially in junior high school classes.

When you know that you will use a textbook in a lesson, insist it remains closed until you have finished the teaching part of the lesson unless you plan to refer to it as part of your teaching strategy. It is important to write the number/s of the page/s you intend to use on the board. Then, don’t start referring to what the students must do until you are sure everyone is on the same page. This is also true when you set work from a textbook for the students to do.

Some teachers, particularly, in lower high school classes with less able students, have extra textbooks with them or photocopies of the relevant pages to ensure all students will be able to do the planned work.

In the end, your text must be:

• Teaching tool;

• Teaching aid; and a

• Learning tool

A Young Teacher’s Guide To Homework In Mathematics In High School

Most of what appears below was the advice that I wrote for teachers who taught Mathematics in my department when I was its head. It appeared in my department’s handbook.

Homework was an accepted part of what we did as Mathematics teachers for all classes except those with special needs students.

How And When To Set Homework

• It should be set daily or after each lesson.

• Write the assigned homework on the board.

• Ensure the students write it in their school diaries at the end of the lesson. In junior classes, you may stand at the door checking the homework is written in their diary as they leave.

• Discuss how long the work should take and any necessary advice.

• Lastly, early in the school year, teach your students how to use their textbook to help them do their homework.

What Homework Should You Set?

For students to achieve their full potential in Mathematics at high school, homework must be done on a regular basis. Homework, based on current class work, is meant to be an extension of the lesson and is needed for the re-enforcement of concepts.

In high schools, homework in Mathematics may consist of:

• Written exercises set for practice of skills and concepts. These are based on classwork.

• Learning work, e.g. rules, vocabulary and theorems.

• Assessment tasks – these usually count towards Semester reports.

What About Students Who Don’t Do Their Homework?

Teachers should record in their diaries the names of defaulters. Parents must be advised when a pattern of missing homework becomes evident.

Teachers should develop a process for dealing with homework defaulters.

What If Students Can’t Do Their Homework?

As most homework is based on the work done in class that day, this is not usually a problem for most students. However, if a student has difficulty in beginning homework, teach these strategies:

• The student should look for a similar problem in the work done in class. This is usually all that is needed to jog the memory.

• The student should look for an example in the textbook prior to the exercise. Each different type is usually done in full with an explanation.

• If students still have difficulty, they should see their teacher the next day BEFORE CLASS and arrange a time for individual help. Most teachers are available for a “homework help” time at lunch time or before and after school. Your teacher will tell you when he/she is available.

What If A Student Tells His/Her Parents That They Never Have Homework?

Often, there are complaints from parents who tell us that their students never have homework. This is clearly not the case! If a student has no written homework, (which is unlikely) then we would suggest that the parents set one of the following to be done:

• Ask the student to write a summary of the rules for the current unit and to work an example of each type of problem. The textbook will be useful here. Look for chapter summaries.

• Look at the student’s exercise book and find an exercise that caused difficulty. Set this exercise to be done.

• In each textbook, there are chapters on basic skills. Students can do any of the exercises from this chapter.

• Often there are chapter reviews and practice tests. These can be done.

The Review Process

Homework should, wherever possible, be reviewed during the next lesson for the greatest impact on learning to occur. This learning may, in fact, be the basis of the next lesson. A full description of a review practice can be found in the Article “Reviewing Homework in High School Classes” to be found on this website.

Even though there is a continuing debate as to the merits of homework, the advice here will help the young Mathematics teacher deal with homework successfully.