Elementary school students are absolute treasures. They’re so young, they’re learning new things every day – how to interact with the world and with each other, how to take in information and how to be creative and explore.
At the same time, all of this energy means that there are some skills that elementary school teachers need to master that teachers of older students don’t. It’s not the kids’ fault; they’re learning how to be in school and learning what is expected of them.
Below are four of the most important tips for teaching elementary school students, with suggestions for how to implement them in your classroom.
1. Create a schedule
This is perhaps the most important thing that you can do for your students. Students of all ages, but especially elementary school students, need routine. As much as is possible, create a routine and stick with it.
You might not be able to follow exactly the same schedule every day – Mondays might be art day, while Wednesdays and Fridays might be PE day, but even having specific days for specific enrichment classes is helpful.
It might take some trial and error to find out what works for you, but scheduling the day so that Math is always at the same time on the same days, for example, will work wonders for your students.
Once you have your schedule, post it on the wall, in big letters, so that no matter where a child is sitting in the classroom, they’ll be able to read it. You might consider posting it next to the clock so that students can see where they’re at on the day and anticipate the next activity.
2. Get to know your students
Another seemingly obvious tip, but any teacher who has gone through a semester without trying to get to know their students can attest – it’s vital.
Especially at young ages, children are maturing incredibly quickly. Their worlds are broadening and they’re starting to decide what makes them “them” and how that makes them similar or different to others.
Get-to-know-you activities are helpful, not only at the beginning of the school year but throughout, so that students can check in with you and with each other. Additionally, you can meet with students one-on-one or in small groups and learn more about them.
Not only will this help with getting to know them, but it’ll also help you throughout the classroom. You’ll learn which students work well together and which students are friends but shouldn’t sit near each other. You’ll learn that some students are motivated by praise while some students are motivated by rewards, such as a few minutes of extra recess. It can also help you tailor your activities to your student’s lives.
3. Communicate with parents
It can be a fine line to tread between allowing students to have some independence at work and keeping parents up-to-date, but in general, when it comes to young students, you’ll want to keep parents involved. A weekly newsletter can be a great way to keep parents involved up-to-date, and they can contact you for further information if they need it.
Additionally, checking in with parents proactively when there is an issue, whether it be behavioral or academic, can help to stop problems while they’re still small.
Remember, you and the parents are on the same side – you’re both trying to help children grow up to be conscious, caring adults – so keep them up-to-date with what is happening in the classroom.
4. Use positive instead of negative language when correcting behavior
Nobody likes to be reprimanded, but it happens to young children frequently. Without fully-developed brains, they’re not as capable of decision-making or considering consequences as adults are.
Still, though, negative reinforcement can create negative self-image, so using positive language is important.
Positive language empowers the students to consider the actions they need to take in order to act in a satisfactory manner, rather than telling them what not to do. It’s a subtle shift, but one that can have powerful effects.
Positive language sounds something like this:
- “Be prepared for art class” instead of “Don’t forget to bring your project.”
- “Use your indoor voice” instead of “Don’t shout.”
- “Be careful when you’re on the playground” instead of “Don’t run on the asphalt.”
By empowering students to choose the right mode of being, rather than warning them away from the wrong one, you’ll foster positive self-image and growth.