First grade can be an exciting time for children. However, it can also be extremely frustrating.
Kindergarten and first grade are vastly different from each other. Some children seem to settle in very easily, but for a few others, a new structured routine can be frustrating and confusing. Here are 5 ways in which teachers can help children settle more easily into the rigours of formal schooling.
1. Relax the rules for the first few months – Schools usually have structured periods of 40 to 45 minutes and school days
which last from 5 hours to 8 hours. For a former kindergartener who is used to only two or three hours of structured work, sitting still for two to three hours at a stretch will feel like a torturous exercise. You could give children breaks of 5 to 10 minutes, where they can move around the classroom as much as they want. As they gradually get used to longer hours of schooling, you can phase this out.
2. Refresh the concepts of kindergarten – There is a gap of two or three months between kindergarten ending and first grade beginning. Though it may seem wasteful, it would not hurt to go over the concepts of kindergarten like numbers, alphabets, shapes etc. This not only strengthens the basics that a child has learnt but it also reassures that first grade is not something insurmountable.
3. Try to each fundamental concept through physical activities – Children seem to learn best when learning is combined with activity. For
example, you can teach them addition and subtraction through utilizing physical objects (like building blocks or pencil boxes for example) or the children themselves instead of putting sums up on the board. Of course it is
going to be chaotic and messy, but it will also be fun and it will encourage them to learn.
4. Encourage opinions and praise them for sharing opinions – Children in first grade are at a critical stage wherein they are learning to hold longer conversations, utilizing bigger words and learning to form opinions. When they speak up in class or have something to share, encourage them and praise them for sharing their ideas and opinions. Positive encouragement and praise will motivate a child to participate more in class.
5. Allow for some tears and tantrums – By first grade, most children would have learnt that tears and tantrums are not acceptable in public spaces such as school. However, once in a while, especially during the first few months, make allowances for tears and tantrums. After the emotional outburst, talk to them calmly and ask them if they would like to talk to you outside the class. More often than not, the tears and tantrums are a way to expression frustration at not being able to do something or understand something. And usually emotional outbursts in first graders tend to subside by themselves.
First grade can be a trying time not just for students, but also for teachers because dealing with difficult children is certainly not easy. So in addition to helping your students acclimatize, also reward yourself and praise yourself!