Solomon Au Yeung is an EFL teacher from Hong Kong. He teaches English to predominantly junior primary students.
Listening to the students more often and having them explain to you what ideas and thoughts they have in their minds can help build up a closer relationship with your students. KS1 children are still very young and full of energy: by asking them to present their ideas with ourselves and other students listening to them, we are showing them the importance of active listening.
2 Focus on variation in a lesson
Integrate various activities into the lesson so as to capture students' attention and to enhance their learning motivation. It can be boring for really young learners when the lessons are done in entirely one-way; students want other alternatives and want to see new elements in a lesson. Use different activities: singing songs for example is a good way to engage students and to help them build up their vocabulary if they are related to the theme of the lesson, and changes the way the teacher interacts with the students.
Encourage students to use their own methods of communication to speak up and share their opinions with the whole class. This can be in the form of speech, paintings, body gestures etc. Slowly build up the confidence of the students to present their ideas to the class. By doing so, the teacher is already catering for the learner diversity and is building up a platform which welcomes different learning modes of the students.
4 Draw examples from real-life
Always try to relate the main topic/theme of the unit to real life, because for KS1 students in particular it is hard to imagine something that they have not experienced before. It is better for teachers to draw from real life the topics and experiences that their students will have come across and are familiar with. This can be supported by using pictures and real objects to demonstrate what you are talking about. For example, if I am teaching words about fruit, I find it a lot more effective to show pictures or even the real fruits for the students to not only see but also feel.
5 Know your students
It is very important to understand the strengths and weaknesses of each student and what type of learner they are, i.e. visual, auditory, kinaesthetic etc. Knowing this information is essential to the design and arrangement of the lesson. For instance, I may include more physical games when I see a large group of (potentially) kinaesthetic learners in class: I might ask the students to design certain postures when the whole class is working on a song based on a particular theme.
6 Give them (and yourself) a break
It's hard for young students to pay full attention for such a long time from the first period till the last, this is especially true when the students have to take the lesson in a completely unfamiliar language environment. It's not realistic to simply push ourselves as well as the students beyond the margin just because we want to rush and finish the syllabus within the given timeframe. Give the students and ourselves a short break, perhaps around 5 minutes in a 40- minute session.
7 Formative assessments over summative assessments
Do not put all your emphasis on the summative assessments that normally take place at the end of every semester. They are but one of the ways to measure the academic ability/performance of our students. There are many other ways we can monitor the progress of our students throughout the semester, for instance enquiry-based group projects, presentation, in-class writing etc. One easy method I use is to ask students to sum up what I have mentioned in the lesson by writing a few words/phrases or answering my questions, then I record their scores and check their progress across the semester.
8 Assessment for Learning, instead of Assessment of Learning
In order to motivate students to learn, the learning process itself should not just end at each point of assessment, but go beyond that. We as teachers have to design and evaluate students' performances in a way that can help students reflect and improve by showing which aspects they are good at and which they need to further work on, allowing them to continue progressing.
9 Don't label. Be fair
Don't label certain kids as 'naughty' or the 'bad apples' of the class. The children are very sensitive and they could sense and feel how you treat each student. Don't treat students differently, although I know that there must be some who you think are more adorable and attentive in class, but the reality is that it's those that don't really pay attention and always play around that need your help the most. Try to strike a balance and be fair to everyone in class, because all of them are your students.
10 Set achievable goals for each student
Students like to see their own progress, as do their parents. As teachers, we should set some achievable goals for our students so that it's possible for them to get the mission done. This could be as simple as setting a reasonable target of knowing a certain number of key words by the end of a week, then having the students cross-check and revise on their own. The students like this because as far as I have seen, young learners like challenges and if teachers can tailor-design a target for each student, then the challenges can also function as an assessment for learning on a formative basis.
If you teach KS1 students, take a look at ETpedia Young Learners. It contains 500 ideas for teaching, managing and engaging young learners, including some suggestions from Solomon.