Junior School - limited attention span
To be effective as teachers, we need to take into account the stage our students are at in regard to their physical, cognitive social and emotional development. Each developmental stage has its own unique set of characteristics that define the way the students interact and learn. Teachers may need to keep a structured approach to teaching junior school students and be aware of characteristics such as limited attention spans and students inability to grasp abstract ideas at this age. Because of these shorter attention spans, consideration needs to be taken when making decisions around types of tasks, length of tasks and cognitive ability levels required for tasks. A balance needs to be made between concentrating and having periods of active learning with a rhythm switching between both. There are polarised ends of the scale where a percentage of children have a high maturity level and need to be challenged and catered for otherwise boredom can become a problem.
Effective teachers plan for an appropriate mix of learning opportunities to take account of students’ characteristics, for example, duration of attention on certain tasks, fatigue, and time spent seated. To optimize the flow and pace of a lesson, teachers may employ different kinds of activity such as to interspace periods of passivity where students are sitting, listening and concentrating, with periods of more active engagement, McGee C & Fraser F, (2008) p.109.
This age group need to keep active and engage in fun hands-on or action orientated tasks or there is a risk of quickly losing concentration and interest. They may also need extra guidance around general safety issues. Some more characteristics of this age group and areas that require awareness may also include,
· junior students need to enjoy repetitive practice and revision to learn and maintain efficient basic motor skills
· they understand language better than they speak
· enjoy “hands on” activities which help them to understand more complex abstract concepts
· sometimes they have trouble seeing the connection between an activity and what they are learning.
- limited "on-task" concentration spans
- lack of "social interaction" skills such as sharing and taking turns
Characteristics of junior school students highlighted by previous education students at the University of Canterbury, School of Education, (2014).
Activities such as singing, drawing and object or pattern constructing are great for this age group. From the observations I have made during my school visits, I have noticed that the junior students really enjoyed repetition and ordered sequence. The teachers I spoke with said they liked to repeat certain challenging games daily and continue the activities over a couple of weeks before changing as it gives the students an opportunity to grasp the task and become competent and confident before moving on to the next activity. The teachers used clap and verbal chants to gain the attention of students and redirect them when they veered off task. They also had special status roles for students in class, such as - “star for the day”. This child would sit in a special seat and would take position at the front of the line when it was formed. The children relished this status and this was evident in the way the teacher used it throughout the day as a behavioural reinforcement tool.
I will have to learn a range of skills and activities to keep children attentive, engaged and on task at this level. Gathering ideas from experienced teachers would be a good starting point. I will have to understand and allow for a considerable range in the developmental stages of children in say a year 1 class.
Middle School - happily accepts leadership though may wish to participate in setting the rules.
At this level, teachers are able to give students more responsibility around decision making and self management. The students are aware of their role as individuals in the group although how they affect and influence each other needs to be monitored. Concepts around appropriate behavior and positive reinforcement need to be reinforced. There should be less general safety issues as students at this age are able to more readily identify possible risks.
I noticed in this age group, the boys enjoyed competition and play fighting with each other. They wanted to use their energy in creative ways. They were able to organize themselves into teams and had a good sense of what was deemed fair or unfair.
They were very eager to set rules and use their own interpretations of instructions to make decisions. They may test the teachers boundaries at times and be untruthful. It was believed a number of students in one of the classes I was observing, didn’t want to go swimming so they deliberately forgot or hid their swimming wear over a number of weeks. The teacher believed they were simply avoiding the swimming activities and testing her boundaries so she felt she had to take action by calling certain parents and addressing the issue with their knowledge and support.
With this age group, I would want to use their new level of independence and energy to maximise and enhance an active and engaged learning environment. Also I would want to utilize their ability to collaborate and work as a team. This would have to be balanced with boundaries and periods of focus as well. All children require firm boundaries and guidelines and deserve to be aware of them to avoid deemed misbehaviour.
A responsive teacher will `read` their students and provide active periods interspersed with more passive ones to sustain students` interest and concentration. McGee C & Fraser F, (2008) p.109.
I will have to think of activities to engage the students at this age group and have a range of advanced behaviour management strategies. We must also give children the opportunity to use their own voices and explore ideas and higher order thought processes.
Senior School – is increasingly capable of making decisions and taking leadership roles
This age group enjoys responsibility and most are capable of self-management of tasks and independent decision making. This age group is generally able to use abstract ideas regarding the world around them and may enjoy applying this in creative writing and imagery. As teachers we need to challenge this age group to use prepositional thinking, calling on prior knowledge and experiences and encouraging higher order cognitive thinking in problem solving. Also they ..
-can relate one or more parts of a proposition or situation to another part to arrive at a solution to a problem.
- able to use hyperthetical-deductive reasoning
- becoming more socially aware of their status in a group
- have a longer span of "on-task" focus and concentration
- the students were capable of managing their own groups socially and responsibly with little input from the teachers
- they were able to start a task with minimal extra explanation or reassurance from the teacher
- they were aware of others with disabilities and capable of supporting these classmates with care and compassion
I will need to challenge the students to use higher order cognitive thinking with the use of open ended questions and enquiry based learning. I will have to encourage the students to think critically and collaboratively on a range of topics and issues. Good preparation will be vital.