Here at Knock Knock English, I teach children from the ages of 2-12 years old. It can be a challenge at times going from a class of 4 year-olds at 3:00pm to a class of 7 year-olds at 4:00pm, to a class of 10 year-olds at 5:00pm. I have to be careful not to talk to the older kids as if they are 3 year-olds, and to remember that the 6 year-olds are only 6! Sometimes after working with preschoolers, you can get unrealistic expectations of how mature the elementary school kids should behave.
It helps me to, between every class, take two minutes to look at the class roster, picture the kids in my mind and recalibrate.
For me personally, I find I have to put the most effort into communicating with 4th-6th grade students (9-12 years old). They are still very much children, but they are really making that push to develop a more mature identity.
This American Life is an outstanding weekly public radio program broadcast out of Chicago. I try to catch the show on podcast every week. A few weeks ago the theme of the show was How To Talk To Kids. The entire hour-long show is very entertaining, but if you're short on time just have a listen to the first 5 minutes or so, in which the host, Ira Glass, talks to some 5th and 6th graders about adults who don't know how to talk to kids.
... kids often feel like they are being talked down to. A 10 year-old doesn't want to be spoken to like an adult, but he or she doesn't want to be spoken to like a 3 year-old either.
..."um, 'How's school?' is like the, um, typical adult question, so you have to answer it like 6,000 times a year. So, like, if they, um, say, 'How's school?' you kind of know they have nothing else to say or they don't know what to say." "Like, adults should know by now that kids don't really like talking about school."
"If you want to talk to kids, kids say, talk about stuff that interest you and them, like you would with anybody. Also, not so much teasing all the time. Also, don't repeat the same things to them every time you see them. "
In my opinion, the most important conversational rule is the same with kids as it is with adults...listen. They'll let you know what they want to talk about.
Rule #2, be genuine. Kids smell a phony quicker than adults.
Rule #3, let comfort build. It's hard to connect with someone who is trying too hard. Everyone has their own pace. Some of my more talkative students now took a while to feel comfortable speaking with me.
I'd love to know if you have any rules to add to the list?