Tips for Teachers Moving to a New Year Group
Teaching a year group you have never taught before, or that you haven’t taught for years, can be a daunting prospect. If you’re used to teaching in upper KS2 and you’re suddenly plunged into Year 1 (or vice versa), the leap can seem immense.
But don’t worry – there are lots of ways you can prepare yourself so that the jump doesn’t seem quite so terrifying! Check out our top transition tips for teachers:
Familiarise yourself with the curriculum
It sounds like an obvious place to start but sitting down to read through the National Curriculum for your new year group will give you a solid understanding of what they are expected to cover and achieve throughout the year, particularly for Maths and English. It’s worth checking out the years before and after too to help put their learning into context.
Before the end of term, ask the teacher currently teaching your new year group if you can have a look through a selection of the children’s books to help you gauge what is achievable and what isn’t for the year group in question. If this isn’t an option, the internet is your next port of call! Google, for example, ‘Year 2 writing examples’ and spend some time familiarising yourself with what you can expect.
Equally, if not more, useful is observing a fellow teacher delivering a lesson to your new year group. You’ll very quickly get a handle on the tone and tactics the teacher uses that are appropriate to the cohort, and it will give you your own ideas on how to manage your new class.
Download some prepared lessons
There is a wealth of lesson planning available online these days. Take advantage of this by downloading some examples to get a feel for what other teachers deliver to your new year group. But a word of warning – anyone can upload resources to sites like TES so be aware that not all the planning you access will be of an appropriate quality. Be discerning and use your teacher gut...you will soon get a good overall picture of the kind of lessons you should be delivering to your new class.
PlanBee has some free sample lessons across a range of subjects to give you a taste of what to expect in your new year group.
There’s only so much general advice we can give so let’s get down to the nitty-gritty and explore some year-specific tips for moving to a new year group:
Tips for Teaching Year 1:
For children, the move up from Reception to Year 1 is a big change and it’s now your job to make that transition as seamless as possible. Check your school’s transition policy. How formal is the learning expected to be in week 1? When does the school expect the children will all be sat at desks for the majority of the lesson? Having this information clear in your mind will help you plan for those crucial first weeks.
If you have no prior EYFS experience, then visit an EYFS class to see what child-initiated learning, adult-led activities and adult-directed activities are. It this isn't possible then ask an EYFS practitioner. If you don't have an EYFS class in your school there are plenty of facebook community groups you can ask. Knowing how children have been learning in Reception will help you understand what their school experience has been like thus far and how you can build on this in Year 1.
Above all, it’s important to remember that some children in Year 1 are only just five years old. Spend time at the beginning of term getting to know your class and making them feel secure and comfortable in their new learning environment. Set clear structures and behaviour expectations in place so that the children know where they stand, and what the consequences will be if they don’t adhere to the rules. Building positive relationships with your class early on, and making these very young children feel secure and confident, will hold you in good stead for the year ahead.
If you’re used to teaching in KS2, you may find that you are in much closer contact with parents in Year 1 than you are used to. School is still new both to the children and their parents, so keeping an open dialogue with parents and carers is important to help everyone feel secure about what is happening at school. Some children (and parents!) still struggle with separation during Year 1; establish routines early on that allow for a smooth transfer in the mornings. And be clear with your boundaries; it can be tricky balancing talking with parents and answering their questions without finding yourself spending hours before and after school deep in conversation. Make sure you set a time cut-off and have some strategies in place for how to end a meeting if needs be.
Tips for Teaching Year 2
Year 2 comes with it the inherent pressure of the dreaded SATs. But don’t worry – it isn’t all revision and cramming! In fact, in a recent survey by PlanBee, less than 10% of teachers agreed that children should revise at all for Year 2 SATs. It’s much better to ensure consistent learning throughout the year.
The best way to prepare for SATs is to start the year as you mean to go on – get a real handle on what the National Curriculum requires and teach it consistently throughout the terms. If you haven’t seen a Year 2 SATs paper before, download some past papers and take some time to look through them at the start of the year so you are clear in your head where the children need to be by the Summer term. With this in mind, you will be able to build their learning up over the year so that SATs will be a seamless extension of what they are already familiar with.
It’s important to set some strategies in place so that children don’t get held up by unnecessary tasks with this age group. If you’re used to children being able to write out a date and learning objective into their book in a matter of minutes, you may be in for a surprise in Year 2! This previously simple task may take some children the whole lesson to achieve. Check your school’s policy but having objectives printed for children to stick in, or dispensing with recording the objective at all, will make sure that children are given sufficient time to achieve their learning objective, rather than just recording it.
On the same note, taking time at the start of the year to teach your Year 2 class how to stick things into their books, reading journals or homework books will save you hours of hassle further down the line.
You will most likely be more involved with parents in KS1 than KS2, and this can sometimes be very time consuming. Try setting efficient communication processes in place – you could send notes home in reading journals, or provide each child with a Home Folder so that any letters or communications don’t get stuffed into the bottom of a book bag. These can be reciprocal – parents can put notes in the Home Folder for anything you need to know to avoid long conversations in the mornings or at home time.
Despite being the big kids of the Infant School, Year 2 children still need plenty of opportunities for play and hands-on learning. Try and plan as many opportunities for these as you can into your timetable.
Tips for Teaching Year 3
It’s very common for children to experience a 'wobble' in Year 3. Some of them, particularly summer babies, can be extremely immature during Year 3, and really struggle with the additional rules, expectations and academic demands of KS2. Be aware of this, and try to accept it. Trying to make very young children 'be' more mature is like holding back the tide! Go with the flow and accept that they will get there - it'll make your life less stressful if you do.
Having said this, Year 3 is still young enough for many of the activities they have enjoyed in KS1. We often hear people asking if Year 3 is too old for children to take home a class teddy at the weekend and record their adventures. The answer is no! Year 3, and even Year 4, children will still enjoy these games of pretend – they are still young children after all. Embedding these play-based activities in Year 3 will help ease the transition from KS1 to KS2 for those children who are finding KS2 more demanding, as will scheduling time for less structured learning activities throughout your weekly timetable.
It’s really important to start off their KS2 journey by setting up clear expectations and behaviour targets to set them in good stead for a more structured way of working. Foster a sense of teamwork and of being one big team. Children will be, developmentally, moving from a more egocentric way of thinking to having more awareness of the feelings and views of others. They need to be taught to empathise, support each other, cooperate and be patient with one another.
Some of the children who are emergent writers simply will not be able to keep up with all the writing in KS2. I'm not talking about writing in their books, which of course they should do themselves, but tasks where improving writing is not the aim. Try to print things like homework instructions and learning objectives to cut down on writing time for these things, and ask your TA (whenever you have one) to write things for the children who struggle.
For children in Year 1, Year 2 and Year 3, our free Reminder Wristwatches are a great way of making sure messages get home!
Tips for Teaching Year 4
By Year 4, children are starting to become more independent and more able to cope with the rigours of life in KS2. Whilst you can by now expect most children to be able to achieve tasks like writing a learning objective and date onto their work, it’s important to remember that some children will still find these tasks a challenge. Prioritise their independent learning time and set support methods in place for those who may find it difficult to achieve everything you have set.
If you’re used to teaching further down the school, you may need to adjust your behaviour management system to make it more age-appropriate. Children in Year 4 are starting to outgrow and resent ‘babyish’ activities, so finding an approach that will encourage and reward positive behaviour is a must. Children at this age enjoy feeling as though they have responsibilities – you may wish to reward positive behaviour with particular jobs around the classroom that you know children enjoy, or build towards a class reward that everyone can enjoy at the end of the week.
Some children in Year 4 will now be able to tackle more meaty, young adult books. Try choosing some class reading books that are longer and more challenging than they have previously been able to enjoy. Fostering a love of reading in your classroom, and reading books to them that will stretch both emergent and confident readers, will help your class in a number of areas in the curriculum. It’s also a great way to offer some calming down-time for those times when their behaviour is on the brink!
From 2020, all children in Year 4 will be required to sit a times tables test so it will be well worth your while to ensure children have plenty of opportunities to practise these regularly, right from the beginning of the year. Whether it’s five minutes first thing in the morning, or a multiplication game at the end of the day, getting children used to learning, practising and embedding their times table knowledge is a must. Check out our FREE Terror Tables, Multiplication Wheels, Multiplication Mazes or Times Tables Cubes to get you started.
Tips for Teaching Year 5
Children in Year 5 are maturing quickly and are able to cope with a higher level of responsibility and academic expectation that children in lower KS2. Along with this often comes a more confident and intractable attitude that can be difficult to deal with if you don’t set clear, firm behaviour expectations in place from the start. Spend time at the start of the year establishing these boundaries and fostering a sense of teamwork and camaraderie in your classroom. Try these teambuilding activities – they’re perfect for the first week of term to get the class working together and building strong relationships.
You should expect children in Year 5 to be able to take much more responsibility for their own organisation and learning; they should be responsible for making sure they have their PE bags, that their school bags have everything they need, that they do their homework on time, that they deliver letters both to and from home. Encouraging children to be solely responsible for these things at this age will help them develop and mature appropriately.
It’s also important to remember that some children in your class will be starting puberty. Not only will this have an affect on their hormones, and thus their behaviour, but it also may have an impact on their sense of self and self-esteem. Having an open dialogue with the children in your class about this, or at the very least letting your class know that they can come to you with any questions they have, is crucial in ensuring that this transition goes as smoothly as possible.
Teaching about the physical changes that take place during puberty is a compulsory part of the National Curriculum. These Changes and Reproduction Science lessons cover everything you need to cover for this tricky topic.
Tips for Teaching Year 6
If you’ve been told that you will be teaching Year 6 for the first time and you’re feeling apprehensive, don’t worry...you’re certainly not alone. With SATs as a primary focus, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and anxious about the coming year. Not to mention, dealing with children who are older and may be more challenging behaviourally. Take things a step at a time though and it will soon fall into place.
Start the year by setting out your expectations and reminding children that they have an added responsibility as Year 6 children to be role models for the rest of the school. Why not see if you can arrange for your class to be reading buddies with a class further down the year, or give them special responsibilities for caring for younger children at break times. Fostering these relationships will help your class understand that they have a duty to younger children and encourage good behaviour.
Year 6 can be an anxious year for the children; many of them are going through puberty, they might be questioning and exploring their sense of self, and may be worried about SATs and the transition to secondary school. Having an environment in which children feel safe talking about their feelings is crucial. One way to instil this is to do a feelings register in the mornings – children answer the register with a number from 1 to 10 to show how they are feeling that day (1 being feeling very low and 10 being feeling on top of the world!). Making other children aware of how their peers are feeling, and encouraging dialogue and support around these feelings, will help to foster a sense of community and openness which is crucial for their mental wellbeing.
And now down to SATs. If you haven’t seen a SATs paper recently, take some time to look through some past papers – you can easily download these from a number of places, including the government website. Having a firm understanding of where the children need to be at the end of the year will help inform your planning in the Autumn and Spring Terms. Teaching to the test might feel like a necessity but try not to let this cloud everything you do in Year 6. If you start the year as you mean to go on with consistent teaching to the National Curriculum objectives for English and Maths, you will cover what you need to cover without having to compromise other areas of the curriculum. The more time you spend carefully planning your curriculum coverage, the easier SATs revision will be.
Whichever year group you are teaching next year, try to remember that within a few days of being with your new class, you will get to know their individual quirks and challenges, and that it is never too late to ask your colleagues (or the class’s previous teacher) for help and advice. Teaching is a community – most of us are more than happy to share our help and advice whenever we can.