It’s no secret that different teachers have different teaching styles when it comes to teaching different ages of students, sizes of classrooms, classroom technologies, etc. Some teachers prefer singing songs with kindergarteners where one needs to enthusiastically overemphasise their actions. Others prefer focusing on more placid activities with a mature age-group of students.
Regardless of your personal preference, it is always important to have a solid understanding of the main characteristics of teaching different age groups. Why is this? Schools and language centres will almost always determine your teaching schedule and this often includes teaching across a span of different age groups. Even though you may be employed by a primary school specifically (for example), you should always be ready to tackle the various characteristics and challenges of all age groups. A teacher’s ability to do this is often what separates them from the average teacher and establishes themselves as a top-quality teacher.
The three main age groups (i.e. academic levels) which we will elaborate on here are:
Welcome to the most energetic age group out of the three! Primary and high school students can also be highly energetic, however, with kindergarten you will be over-emphasising basic sentences and actions throughout your lessons due to the young age of the students and the way that they receive and retain information. This is often done even while facilitating basic tasks (which for other age groups might already be an established routine e.g. putting up a hand to ask a question, packing belongings away at the end of class, etc). Expect lots of songs, actions, games, videos, nap times, and to be very tired at the conclusion of your first kindergarten class!
Because kindergarteners are just little humans learning to function in the ‘real world’, they need assistance with the various activities which are the building blocks to everyday life. In a classroom scenario, teaching approaches could include wiping and blowing noses, going to the bathroom, learning to say ‘thank you’ politely, standing in a straight line when necessary, etc. These tasks are challenging to accomplish with a large group of students if you are a one-person team. A teaching assistant is there to assist your students with these tasks in order to make the academic goal of your lesson easier to reach.
With kindergarteners, the focus is not on what you teach – but how you teach it! This is because students at this age group have an internal motivation and receive joy from performing games, songs, and activities themselves i.e. there is no alternative goal, just pure enjoyment of the moment. You should adapt your methods of teaching to cater to this internal motivation.
Primary school is an interesting age group to teach after you have taught kindergarten. At this age, students are being exposed to more formal aspects of education such as sitting at proper desks, participating in writing activities/examinations, and having more independence e.g. not needing a teaching assistant to accompany them to the bathroom.
This age can be a challenge for both teacher and student, as it often takes some students time to adjust to the more formal style of education. Students generally now sit at desks for the full duration of the lesson with less time singing songs and playing games and more time spent on writing activities. This can be tough for students to adjust to, especially if their parents are putting more pressure on them to succeed academically. When teaching this age group you will still have a highly energetic class, however, classes are just slightly more catered towards introducing formal education (which students will have for the rest of their education journey in high school, university, etc).
As primary students have gone through a reasonably big jump in the style of education, you will notice that their type of motivation also changes – they become more interested in competition with their classmates. Kindergarten students also understand the concept of winning/losing a game, however, primary students gradually become motivated by doing better academically than their classmates.
In general, high school students tend to intimidate new teachers more so than when one is teaching different age groups. This is often because teachers remember what they were like in high school and also fear being seen in a bad light. The good news is that once you are older, you can acknowledge that adolescent years and tendencies are crucial for a person’s development and you do not need to take what your students say to heart as it often stems from peer pressure. Let’s explore this a bit more.
Although teaching adolescents can be more intimidating, the experience also offers an opportunity to rapidly develop your teaching styles and skills. There is no teacher as powerful as the teacher who is indifferent to their students’ reactions and remains steadfast in their teaching approach and external confidence!
Tying into the previous point, adolescents are subject to a lot more peer pressure and are more mature than younger age groups. They, therefore, have more of an external motivation with what they do in the classroom – they aim to look good in front of their classmates and get high enough marks for university (in many cases).
Whatever your preference of age groups is after reading this blog and in the future, bear in mind that you may change your mind multiple times over your teaching venture as your teaching approaches, skills and preferences will also be changing while you as a teacher (and person) continue to grow!