Best Practices: Connecting with a Grade K-5 Audience
The grade K-5 audience ranges from five to twelve years old. These are some of the most formative years of a child’s education. The best way for elementary students to learn new information is to connect it to their own experiences, while also interacting with peers. Opportunities that allow younger students to move, handle materials, and interact with peers encourage stimulation and will help overall focus. Enthusiasm is key. When you are excited about your topic, the students will be as well.
There are many ways to connect with your K-5 audience in interactive, meaningful, and enjoyable ways.
- Pick a theme or topic to focus on. When thinking about potential topics to share with a classroom, think about ways to share topics related to your host country and your service. Examples of topics include: Lives of children, popular children’s songs, stories, or games, environment (weather, climate, and animal life), food (both new and similar foods) festivals or celebrations, or other interesting facts about your host country!
- Showcase objects and artifacts. Hands-on approaches are one of the most effective methods of information sharing for the K-5 age group. Tangible objects and artifacts can be a great way to engage students. They spark curiosity, and provide hands-on learning opportunities. Select artifacts that represent your Peace Corps experience. They might be things that you used in daily life, that were created by people in your country, or that have special significance to you. Think about what would be most interesting to students about these objects. Why did you bring them home? Do you still use them? What would you like students to understand about your experience that the objects can help them understand? Think about including modern objects from your country as well as traditional ones.
- Share photographs. Photographs, videos, and visuals are also a great way to engage students and give them a visual aspect of your story. Images will help children understand what life is life in your host country. Photos help you tell your story. It also helps children to pose questions and inquire about life in your host country by giving them an exciting new visual aspect. As you tell your story and show your pictures to the students, ask them to imagine they are in the photos and make observations of their senses. Students could imagine a conversation taking place, write captions for photos, or draw another picture they think would fit in the set.
- Turn your experience into stories. Stories can provide an excellent learning opportunity for students. You could tell a folktale or story that was frequently told in your community, or read a picture book or story that takes place in your host country. Stories help younger children tap into their imagination and creativity. Stories can also help children make an emotional connection to people in a distant country, they also enhance the appreciation of other cultures, regions, and environments.
- Relate objects and experiences to U.S. student's life. Finding connections between your host country and the lives of U.S. students will go a long way in ensuring the lesson learned really sticks with the students. Students are more likely to understand and remember key ideas from the lesson when they connect it to something they are already familiar with.
Contributed by the National Peace Corps Association (NPCA). Author: Angene Wilson