When I taught second grade, my previous students would always ask me if I would ever change grade levels. I would tell them no, because second graders were the only kids in the school shorter than me. Fifth graders are too tall! Totally not the reason, but they got a kick out of it.
Fast forward a few years and I’m being bumped up to fifth grade. I was super excited to take on a new challenge, but, to tell you the truth, I was also slightly panicked. Most of my teaching experience was with students under the age of 7 and now they were going to put me with big 10-year olds??
As it turns out, there was no need for panic. I quickly fell into step with my older students and loved fifth grade! There were, however, a few things that I wish someone had told me before I made the leap.
1. Expectations are Expected
Students need to know your expectations right away and you need to STICK to them. That is crucial with older kids.
2. Routines Still Matter!
Along with expectations, routines are just as important. Even though they are older, they still need to have a consistent schedule so that they know what to expect. Practice the routines often, especially after long breaks. Your classroom will run so much smoother!
3. Less Prep, More Grades
There is less prep as you go higher in grade levels since students can sustain themselves with projects that take longer time. It does take more time to grade work, though. 5th grade personal narratives are a lot more in-depth than 2nd grade ones!
4. Picture Books Please!
Quality picture books are just as important in upper grades, if not more so. They are perfect for teaching reading and writing concepts, as well as social studies and science.
5. More Independence, More Responsibility
Big kids have a lot more independence (but still need that routine!), so be sure to give them space to demonstrate it. Give them more responsibility – my students love to re-arrange the classroom library! This gives them more ownership over the classroom, as well.
6. Time to Talk
Older students love to talk and they are great at having discussions, so let them! Allow for more student conversation and less teacher talking. Your role is to keep them on task and keep the discussion moving in the right direction. Give them time to work with partners and in groups, as well as a whole class.
7. Stuck on Stickers
Big kids still love stickers! I made the mistake of giving my stickers away to fellow second grade teachers before I moved. Then, there was that one time that I put some on my fifth graders’ work and they were so excited! Thank goodness for the Target Dollar Spot.
8. Circle of Trust
For the most part, little kids automatically love their teachers. Older students are a little more wary. Setting routines and expectations and sticking to them will help build that trust. Have fun. Get to know your students – likes, dislikes, hobbies and show interest in them. Remember the things that are important to each child. Be fair – big kids are more aware of this.
9. Spring Fever
In the upper grades, spring fever sure hits hard! This is especially true if it’s their last year in elementary school. This is a great opportunity to review routines.. It might also be a good time to start talking with your students about expectations about middle school (and easing their fears a little bit). Switching up your normal activities to increase engagement helps too!
10. Don’t Forget the Fun!
They are still kids! Give them chances to play games, do crafts, get them up and moving.
If you’ve moved up recently, what would you add to the list? If you are about to move up, good luck!
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