In the first five years of life, a child has gone through rapid development in physical, cognitive, and social/emotional characteristics. Around the time these children start kindergarten, their growth has slowed down. However, it is still vital for the kindergarten teacher to know how their students have developed and what they can do to further develop their students as a whole. According to “Educating Children in Nursery Schools and Kindergartens” by Lillian L. Gore, by the age of 5 children are learning how to relate to others in a positive manner.
This skill forms the basis of all human relations (16). In general, kindergarten-aged children are beginning to develop their own self image and their likes and interests through sensory and other experiences (Gore 16). To a kindergarten-aged child, the world is big and mysterious. The combination of physical, cognitive, and social/emotional development allow these children to explore and begin imposing basic order and control over their environments (Gore 16). Overall, these experiences allow children to understand and appreciate the world around them.
When the teacher looks at the overall development of their kindergarten students, the physical, cognitive, and social/emotional aspects are relatively similar across each child. That is to say that each child experiences relatively the same development in all three areas. Physically, a kindergartener has two distinct developmental characteristics. #1 is the individual characteristics such as rate of growth, body build, and eye color (Gore 17). The teacher should respect each child’s unique characteristics and teach others to respect them as well.
#2 is each kindergartener has a wide output of energy (Gore 17). A kindergarten teacher should expect their students to be fully active one day and inactive the next. Similarly, the activities the children participate in receive different levels of energy from day to day (Gore 17). Cognitive development in kindergarten in vital for a child to understand and experience all that school and the world have to offer. In Gore’s book, she notes two important cognitive developments that a kindergarten child experiences. #1 is the development of hand-eye coordination (Gore 17).
At this stage, children are developing awareness for everything that needs both hands and eyes in order to function properly. As the teacher, you should be aware of the students and their surroundings. Particularly on the playground, the teacher should know the students inability to judge speeds and distances properly (Gore 17). To aid in the development of proper hand-eye coordination, the teacher should incorporate hand-eye coordination lessons and activities into the daily schedule. The second important cognitive development in kindergarteners is that they want to grow and learn (Gore 19).
Kindergarten is a stepping stone into what school will be like for the rest of their lives, and the fact that each student wants to grow and learn makes the teacher’s job easier because the students are intrinsically motivated. To further their enjoyment of learning it is important for the teacher to provide conditions for each student to explore, discover, and feed their sense of wonder at their own pace (Gore 19). Teachers should also allow students to think and solve problems at their own pace as well (Gore 19).
By letting each student work at his or her own pace, the student feeds their desire to grow and learn and also learns that they are capable of many things. One of the most important developments that kindergarten children make is social and emotional developments. Both these developments aid children in forming friendships, relationships and emotional maturity as their lives continue. Two social developments are highlighted in Gore’s book. #1 is that children will fluctuate their patterns of social growth and they may regress at times (Gore18).
This is a natural process that children go through and navigating it can be tricky. As a teacher, we should encourage children to proceed in and out of groups at will (Gore 18). This will allow children to experience many different people and form many friendships. As teachers we should also encourage students to relate an experience with one group of students to experiences with another group (Gore 18). This will allow each student to mentally process each experience and decide which experiences they prefer to have, which in turn leads to them having friends of similar beliefs and interests.
Above all, kindergarten children learn how to cooperate with others when they choose which group of students to associate with. The second social characteristic that kindergarten children develop is their preference of children of the same sex as playmates and friends (Gore 18). As a teacher we should support this development and help each child learn appropriate sex role with their peers. In addition, kindergarten teachers should also encourage children of the opposite sex to interact.
When it comes to emotional characteristics of development, the #1 characteristic is that children in kindergarten are learning how to accept and give affection (Gore 18). This developmental characteristic is vitally important because if children do not learn how to give and accept affection, then all their relationships with others will be short-lived. We as teachers can help foster this important characteristic by providing warm relationships for emotional growth in the classroom and individually with your students (Gore 18).
In addition to the developmental characteristics, a kindergarten teacher must also be aware of how they arrange their classroom. Utilizing space and organizing the classroom to best suit the needs of the students allows each kindergartener to maximize their use of the classroom. In Doris Fromberg’s book “The Full-day Kindergarten”, it is important to know both the teacher’s and the student’s views on four elements relating to classroom organization. Those four elements are; “Choice: what the students will be doing. Space: where the students will be engaged.
Pacing: when the students will be participating. Social Activity: how and with whom the students will interact” (Fromberg 62). These elements are also applicable to what the students are doing in a kindergarten classroom and what activities they participate in. By understanding when and where to implement these four elements, the classroom experience will be enhanced for all the kindergarten students. In a kindergarten classroom, the students are capable of making choices that are relevant to the school-day procedure (Fromberg 62).
When a kindergarten student, or any other person, chooses what to do, their attention is higher to that activity than if they had not chosen. However, this is not to say that kindergarten students enter into an “anything goes” classroom (Fromberg 62). The teacher has preselected and screened everything that is already in the classroom to ensure that it is safe and educationally-sound. The teacher also screens the materials that students bring from home on the same criteria (Fromberg 62).
By ensuring that all materials in the classroom are on the same level and that the children decide what they want to do, they will establish a routine of making independent choices knowing that what they choose will spark their interests and be educationally appropriate. The space and organization of the classroom is an important concept to consider when in a kindergarten classroom. Kindergarten students enjoy moving around and being independent, but also need a sense of stability and security.
How the classroom space is organized reflects four characteristics about the teacher and the classroom in general: 1) How independent the students are expected to be. 2) How responsible the students are expected to be. 3) Relays what activities are valued in the classroom. 4) How students will spend their time in the classroom (Fromberg 64). When organizing the classroom, it is important to keep materials where they will be used and in limited-use sections. By creating a section of the room only for writing, or art, or reading, children will be more focused on that activity or feel part of a small group (Fromberg 64).
Limited-use sections also help the students answer the question, “What will I do next? ” (Fromberg 64) For example, a child that is finished at the writing center will know that there is nothing more they can accomplish at this center; they decide that they want to work on their art project and move to the appropriate section. By utilizing limited-use sections, the students are minimizing procrastination and are maximizing their ability to select their own choices. By using these elements, Fromberg describes a properly organized kindergarten classroom.
In a kindergarten classroom, all materials are stored where they will be used; books are in the reading areas, writing supplies are in the writing area, and art supplies are in the art area. The students work in the areas where the materials are stored. This not only keeps them focused on their tasks, but also eliminates the possibility of misplacing materials. These active work areas should be located away from student desks or other areas where students are meant to concentrate and reflect (Fromberg 64). In addition, the teacher should always organize their classroom where they and the students are visible to each other at all times.
This not only allows the teacher to monitor behavior, but it also allow students to see what model behavior looks like. In addition to the organization of the room, there also needs to be proper time management as well. Proper time management can help reduce the issues that arise in those students who have ADHD or other unpredictable behavior patterns (Fromberg 66). In a full day kindergarten classroom, it is beneficial to have a whole-class planning session in the morning and afternoon, with a small gathering before lunch or around 11:00 AM according to Fromberg (66).
Kindergarten instructors have found it helpful to provide at least two long activity blocks of 30 minutes or more each day (Fromberg 66). In this time, the students will be engaging with the different sections of the room; art, writing, reading, etc. at their own choice and pace. From having this time to select which activity to do and how long to do it for, the students are inspired to make long-range plans and increase their sense of control over their environment (Fromberg 66). Within the kindergarten environment, the lessons and activities should emphasize academic content but also personal relationships and social behaviors.
While kindergarten does prepare students to “do school” and everything that comes with it, I believe that lessons and activities that stress proper relationship techniques and social behaviors are just as important. For example, kindergarteners may not realize what they say sometimes and although they find nothing wrong with it, the teacher or others students will. Having several lessons on how to talk to other students in a nice and polite way will not only benefit the students in class, but they can take that knowledge and apply it to other situations as well, such as talking to adults.
Lessons that demonstrate proper social behaviors and etiquette will also benefit kindergarteners. For example, how to stay quiet and listen while another person is talking or how to solve conflicts in a respectful manner will again not only benefit the students in the classroom, but also prepare them for the world as they grow older. Finally, classroom management is very important in a kindergarten class. A teacher could have a perfectly organized room and excellent lessons, but if they cannot manage their students they will never get a chance to utilize their room or lessons.
Firstly, the kindergarten teacher should make a set of class rules for the school year. In addition to their professional opinion, the teacher should ask the students themselves what rules should be followed during the school year. This serves two purposes: 1. it reinforces the element that children are capable of making relevant choices pertaining to school and 2. It allows the students to feel that they have a say in how the classroom is to be run. By having this sense of control, the students are more likely to follow the rules and provide less argument when disruptions arise.
Secondly, student behavior accountability should be established. In her article “Classroom Management”, Jody Camp describes her accountability system. She has four circles displayed in her room, each a different color and face. All the students have a clothes pin with their name on it. Every morning each student starts on the green smiley face. If a student breaks one classroom rule, they move their clothes pin to the yellow face. The yellow face is a warning for the student to start acting correctly. In addition to that, the student loses 5 minutes of recess.
If the student breaks another rule, they move to the red face, which means the student needs to stop and think about what they are doing. The student also misses an entire recess. The last face in Jody Camp’s management system is the blue sad face. This means that the student needs to go to the principal’s office (Classroom Management). By implementing these or similar classroom management techniques, any teacher will be successful and be able to focus the majority of their time on educating the minds of America.
As a student moves through elementary school and into middle school many changes occur so fast that they may, to the frustration of teachers and parents, act like kindergarteners once more. However, it is important to realize and understand the developmental characteristics of middle school students so they still have a positive educational experience. Similar to kindergarten students, middle school students have their own unique set of physical, cognitive, and social/emotional characteristics. Physically, middle school students are in transition between their childhood bodies and their adult bodies.
This leads to three main physical characteristics. Susan Robinson, Guidance Counselor at Southern Columbia School District in Catawissa, PA, nicely lays out physical characteristics of middle school students (5th-8th grade) on her webpage. The first physical characteristic is large muscle development (5th Grade Characteristics). In boys, this means that their arm and leg muscles are becoming more defined, as well as their abdomens. In girls, muscle development leads to growth spurts and gaining weight.
The second physical characteristic is the desire to be outdoors and physically challenged (5th Grade Characteristics). It is at this time that both boys and girls become very interested in sports and physical activity. This characteristic can also lead to a decline in school performance because the students are more interested in playing outside than doing homework. The third physical characteristic is that they become restless and in constant motion (6th Grade Characteristics). The need to move and be active can also lead to declining performance because the students won’t be as focused.
This can also lead to more discipline because the students can’t stay in one place for extended periods of time. Cognitively, middle school students are now open to more abstract and logical reasoning than ever before. The first cognitive characteristic is that 5th grade students have is an increased memory and ability to abstract (5th Grade Characteristics). The increase in memory potential allows the students to remember more academic information, but also helps them remember social activities like birthday parties and phone numbers.
The second cognitive characteristic is the affinity for logical reasoning and problems solving (5th Grade Characteristics). 5th and 6th grade students are now using more of their brain in every aspect of life which allows them to solve and reason more than ever before. Similar to how kindergarten students like to impose control on their environments, middle school students enjoy the feeling of being able to solve a problem or think logically with classmates and teachers. The third cognitive characteristic of middle school students is their increased concentration in all aspects of school (5th Grade Characteristics).
With the increase of concentration students are able to read, focus on homework, and participate in activities for longer periods of time. This cognitive gain can help balance out the need for movement during physical development. Middle school is the time when every student starts to define who they are and who they want to be. Socially and emotionally, each middle school student is becoming more mature as they grow older and it is important to know what developmental characteristics these students face. When a student is in 5th grade they are more socially and emotionally sound than 6th graders.
The first developmental characteristic of 5th graders is that they are generally content with themselves and others (5th Grade Characteristics). At this stage they are in a state of equilibrium in terms of social and emotional growth. This is not to say that 5th graders are void of anger. When this age group gets angry, they tend to get angrier faster than usual but they also are faster to forgive (5th Grade Characteristics). The second characteristic of 5th graders is that they work well in groups and enjoy team-oriented activities such as sports and clubs (5th Grade Characteristics).
Because they are generally content, it boosts 5th graders abilities to work cooperatively. This age group would benefit greatly from pods in the classroom and team-oriented competition. Lastly, 5th graders are mostly truthful and are developing a larger sense of right and wrong (5th Grade Characteristics). At this age, students want to be taken seriously because they feel that they have valuable opinions. They realize that they can’t lie and be taken seriously so they tell the truth. Also, as they are telling the truth more, they are expanding their sense of right and wrong.
It is at this point when crucial right/wrong situations should be explained to the students such as drugs and alcohol. When a child hits 6th grade, they change once again and sometimes not for the better. There are three main characteristics of 6th graders from Susan Robinson’s website. The first is that 6th graders become more moody and sensitive (6th Grade Characteristics). 6th graders are starting to hit puberty and this messes with their normal selves. The hormones set off mood swings and sensitivity towards almost any situation.
It is important to know this because it could be the cause of many problems with your students. The second characteristic is that 6th graders are becoming more autonomous and with that comes more opposition to rules and punishments (6th Grade Characteristics). As they get older, the students begin to realize that they are held to higher standards but still try to get around those expectations. This inevitably leads to confrontations between teacher and student(s) and the student(s) will test your patience at this age. The third characteristic is more positive.
As the students age and grow during 6th grade, they will start to take on an adult personality (6th Grade Characteristics). They will lessen their oppositional behavior and become more respectful and dutiful in school work and social activities. While their bodies are going through a massive amount of change in a short period of time, it is important to layout the classroom, lessons, and management techniques to keep up with these middle school learners. First off, it is important to keep the students in groups when at their desks.
This helps the students remain social with others and it helps the students to keep working in teams. As they are older, each student should be given their own desk. This allows the student to become more independent and it allows for individuality to show through if they are permitted to decorate their desk. Similar to the kindergarten room, there should be sections of the room where students can go to complete different assignments. Especially at this time, the movement will allow these students to relieve some tension from their growing bodies.
Overall, the classroom at the middle school level starts to become similar to that of high school and college classrooms, but should still represent a sense of home and security for 5th and 6th graders. The lessons and activities that these students participate in should also be developmentally appropriate. At this stage of life, the students are beginning to think and reason logically. Therefore, lessons in math and science can enhance the individual student’s ability to think and reason logically. In addition to logic and reasoning, social skills are key to a healthy development.
In 5th and 6th grade, it is important to teach and model proper social etiquette and behaviors. One way to accomplish this is to have the students sit in pods when at their desks. This serves two purposes: 1) it allows each student to work in close proximity to other students and 2) it allows students to practice proper social behavior on a daily basis. Lastly, students at this age are going through major physical changes and it is important to keep that in mind when designing lessons and activities. When possible, incorporate some form of physical movement into your lesson plans.
This will allow the students to move their bodies and retain focus in school. If you simply let the students sit at their seats all day, they will become restless very quickly and will lose focus and interest in what you are trying to teach them. Similar to the kindergarten classroom, without successful classroom management techniques, the teacher will struggle to maintain focus and interest in their lessons. With this age group, routines are essential to having successful classroom management. As noted by many teachers, routines help the students to know what is coming next in the school day and how to proceed from one task to the next.
With a regular routine, students won’t need to be told to take out their reading materials or their math books; they will already know what is coming. By establishing successful routines, the teacher can minimize distractions and maximize learning time. Another management technique that I remember from 6th grade was the use of a money management system. My teacher, Diane Dale, set up a management system that revolved around the use of a weekly “allowance” for each student.
Each student started the week with a predetermined amount of “money”, i. e.$100. Actions in class had either a positive or negative effect on the student’s allowance. For example, if one student got a perfect on their math test, they may get $25 added to their account. If another student starts a fight on the playground, besides the consequences of the principal, they may lose $75. At the end of each week the students with the 3 highest allowances got to pick a prize from the “Class Treasure Chest”. To my recollection, this system worked well in our class and I plan on modifying this management system to create my own.
All in all, as an elementary teacher it is important to know and be able to work with students from all age groups. By understanding the characteristics of the students in your class, you will be able to maximize the effectiveness of your lessons because they are aimed to work with their developmental characteristics, not as a substitute. In addition, to knowing developmental characteristics, a teacher should also institute effective classroom management techniques and proper lesson plans that will maximize the learning experience for each student. Works Cited Gore, Lillian L. , and Rose Koury.
Educating Children in Nursery School and Kindergartens. Washington: U. S. Dept. of Health, Education, and Welfare, Office of Education, 1964. Print. Wills, Clarence Dechent, and Lucile Lindburg. Kindergarten for Today’s Children. Chicago: Follett Educational Corporation, 1967. Print. Fromberg, Doris. The Full-Day Kindergarten. 1995. eBook. Camp, Jody. http://www. atozteacherstuff. com/Tips/Classroom_Management/Managing_Behavior/index. shtml Robinson, Susan. http://www. scasd. us/ms/RobinsonPage/grade5. htm White, George. Incoming 6th Graders. http://www. ringwoodschools. org/files/ryerson/parent_orientation_booklet. pdf.
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