I've long believed that "Good instruction is good instruction," meaning that regardless of the kind of classroom you're in, the qualities of an engaging lesson are the same. Sure, different age groups have different requirements in terms of what is developmentally appropriate content or classroom management (my 10th graders would laugh if I used 3-2-1 to quiet them), but learning is the same for all of us. The maxim about instruction has been cemented for me this spring as I worked in both high school and elementary school.
Elementary teachers seem startled that I still read stories to my sophomores. I use word walls for vocabulary and sentence starters to scaffold writing tasks. We still used beans as counters for some of our graphing tasks. There are dances to do (for DNA), rites of passage to address, and learning stations. I remind teachers that although the content is likely different, kids know how to use these tools and opportunities because elementary teachers did their jobs so well. I just apply them differently. The kindergarten teachers from our recent field trip noted what I'd been telling them all along---my sophs were different from their students only in that the bodies were bigger.
And what have I learned this year after being around younger students for half my working day? Like the elementary teachers viewing my high school charges, it has been reinforced for me that kids are kids. Talking to second graders is not all that different from talking to 11th graders---other than what we talk about. I can use a Venn Diagram or Frayer Model with an intermediate student just as easily as a high school student. Asking good questions---and teaching children to ask good questions---remains an important task. The ability to build a positive relationship with students...to forge personal connections...is vital for every age and grade and content area.
It has been a year of change for me, but I have been glad for the one constant along the way: Teaching is no small thing.