Teaching a Junior Class for the First Time
by Katherine Reilly, Author | Teacher Trainer
Originally published by ELT NEWS, July 2022
It’s their first day of school, as your new pupils rush to their seats in anticipation of what they are going to do. Some are timider than the rest, while others literally have no clue as to the logic of their presence there. You can see the curiosity on their faces as to why they should attend yet another learning environment. The boldest of the bunch would eventually engage in small talk, or in some cases, fiddle with the items so eloquently displayed around them. Before long, the group is acquainted to its surroundings and that’s when you enter the classroom. Dead silence prevails and that awkward feeling of apprehension starts to sink in. You can literally feel the anticipation building up as their tiny eyes pierce through you. Careful what you do next; it will determine the outcome of the entire school year. You smile, introduce yourself, ask your students’ names and engage in a game.
Wait! A game? What about organizing their notebooks? How about their new books? You have to explain the difference between the ‘pupil’s book’ and the ‘workbook’! Shouldn’t we be getting down to business from the get go? There’s no time to waste by playing games. If we kick off the new school year in such a fashion, aren’t we going to fall behind? Take a deep breath and try not to panic. As a teacher, your priority is to forge a bond with these young learners and foster their feelings of entertainment. For years now, experts have advocated the implementation of gaming into the learning environment as it offers both social and educational elements which will act as a catalyst to personal development. It’s no surprise that at this tender age, children look upon every interaction as a game, which is the way it should be; thus, their mindset is not flawed.
We are all aware of the fact that teaching junior classes requires unconditional dedication as regards the lesson’s preparation and execution. Conducting said lessons is physically and mentally consuming as you never catch your breath. Although invigorating, both parties can be overwhelmed by the demands of the learning level. Simply entering the classroom with the logic of delivering a lesson strictly based on theory and application won’t do, especially on the day of the first lesson. Children are usually restless. Their desire for interaction and their thirst for knowledge must be quenched. Thus, it falls upon our shoulders to give them what they want. But how can you prepare yourself for such an undertaking and what is the best approach to implement not only during the first lesson, but throughout the entire school year? Have no fear despairing colleague. Things are way simpler and more entertaining than you might realize.
It’s no secret that ELT has made marvelous strides during the past few decades. Publishers and experts alike have diagnosed and applied teaching formulas which successfully cater to the learning vessel – that of junior levels. Of course, we are referring to teaching formulas which promote learning through entertainment. The question though that pops to mind more often than not is where to start compiling materials for such a lesson. Look no further than those provided by the publishers of your pupils’ books. It’s baffling to say the least that there are many educators who out of fear or ignorance, have never examined the accompanying materials provided. Teacher’s books, online supplemental material, training courses, all of which are provided for free, can enlighten your perspective of engagement in the teaching environment. Crafts, quizzes, songs, videos, audio stimulation and let’s not forget the most important element of all; strategic approaches to keeping your young learners’ minds occupied. Admittedly, we always want and should add our personal touch to the lesson, but why not also incorporate tried and effective techniques to it? Not to mention the time we save in doing so as our schedules are somewhat burdened with everyday concerns and obligations, sometimes rendering it impossible to prepare something original and entertaining for your kids to enjoy.
The bottom line is, ELT at such a young age must incorporate elements of gaming and entertainment throughout the lesson. Otherwise, tedious repetition of grammar structures and vocabulary sets will not only be counterproductive, but will also alienate the students attending your class. Being an educator is so much more than delivering a flawless lesson. It’s about igniting their desire to learn while also enjoying doing so.
Once the young learner recognizes your intentions of delivering the lesson in an entertaining fashion, he will adapt accordingly, investing himself in it, while disregarding any notions of doubt and feelings of fear that may have consumed him upon first sight. Perhaps the most significant takeaway is your own personal feelings of satisfaction, as you experience their appreciation and respect. Children are grateful when witnessing their teachers’ dedication and reciprocate with love and devotion. Can you think of any better incentive to teaching than that? Probably not.