It’s interviewing season for teachers and that means choosing which grade level to teach. The high number of vacancies means that teachers who are interviewing can have their choice of what job they want. So which grade should you choose?
Factors to Consider First
One of the first things to consider when choosing a grade level is your interests. Do you enjoy working with younger children, or do you like working with older students? If you love teaching young children, you may want to consider teaching kindergarten or first grade.
On the other hand, if you are someone who enjoys more intellectual challenges, you may want to consider teaching at a higher grade level, such as middle school or high school. These grade levels provide opportunities to work with students who are developing critical thinking skills and exploring complex concepts in depth.
Another factor to consider is your level of skills and experience. Having a background in math, for example, might lend itself better towards middle or high school students where you can help students develop a deeper understanding of concepts. If you like teaching in smaller groups or using project-based learning, these are styles more often used in elementary school.
Think you’ll like teaching kindergarten? This can be a fun but extremely challenging grade level. Teaching kindergarten involves a lot of play-based learning, hands-on activities, and building social-emotional skills. Teachers in kindergarten need to be patient, nurturing, and creative. They must also have strong classroom management skills to keep young learners engaged and focused.
Specific academic lessons in kindergarten may include teaching letter and sound recognition, basic math concepts like counting and sorting, and developing fine motor skills through art and craft activities. Teachers may also spend a lot of time building classroom routines and social-emotional skills, such as learning to share, communicate, and work together.
Kindergarten teachers often start the year getting students used to being in school and working for long hours. This means dealing with emotions and tantrums as students learn cues about everything from how to sit in their chair, how to sharpen a pencil, and how to listen when the teacher gives a lesson. Kindergarten teachers should have lots of patience.
First Grade Considerations
First grade builds on the foundational skills learned in kindergarten, with a stronger focus on reading, writing, and math. Teachers in first grade need to be able to differentiate instruction to meet the needs of a diverse group of learners.
Some specific activities in first grade may include teaching phonics and reading comprehension skills, introducing basic writing skills like sentence structure and punctuation, and developing basic math skills like addition and subtraction. Teachers may also use small-group instruction and collaborative learning to help students build social skills and learn to work together.
First graders will begin to have some independence midway through the school year and often show huge academic gains. This can be very rewarding as a teacher. Keep in mind though that students in first grade will still need a lot of work and patience to get them ready for learning in your classroom at the beginning of the year.
Second Grade Considerations
Second grade builds on the skills learned in first grade, with a greater emphasis on independence, critical thinking, and problem-solving. Teachers in second grade need to be able to challenge students and provide them with opportunities to explore their interests and passions.
Lessons in second grade may include teaching more advanced reading comprehension skills, developing writing skills through narrative, informative, and opinion, and building math skills through addition and subtraction with a focus on place value.
As a current second grade teacher, this is my favorite grade level. I love how they come into school at the beginning of the year being fairly independent. Second grade can also be quite challenging as you can have wider gaps between academic levels. Expect to spend a good part of your day teaching in small groups to help differentiate for your students.
Upper Elementary Considerations
Teaching upper elementary, which includes third, fourth, and fifth grade, involves building on the foundational skills and knowledge developed in earlier grades while preparing students for the transition to middle school. Teachers in upper elementary need to be able to differentiate instruction and challenge students at different levels. I feel this is especially true since COVID has brought us more learning gaps.
Lessons you can expect to teach in upper elementary include teaching more complex reading comprehension skills like analyzing texts and drawing conclusions, developing more advanced writing skills like persuasive and informational writing, and building math skills using fractions, decimals, and geometry. Teachers may also use collaborative learning, project-based learning, and technology to engage and challenge students. Additionally, they may focus on developing research and study skills to prepare students for middle school and beyond.
My colleagues in third grade and up have mentioned hormones greatly affect the emotions of their students. If you are looking to teach in one of these grades, expect students to feel things more deeply. Third grade also begins what I consider “girl drama” as girls begin having best friends that rotate rapidly and leave their other friends upset as quick as recess and then fine by lunch.
Ultimately, the key to choosing the best grade level to teach is to find a balance between your own interests and skills and the needs of the students you will be working with. With careful consideration and research, you can find the grade level that is the best fit for you and your students, and make a positive impact in their lives.
Related Posts: Episode 4: Preparing for a Teaching Interview, Episode 5: The Teaching Interview and Beyond, Episode 63: 5 Reasons Why You Should Teach with a Teaching Portfolio