Whether teachers are entering their first year in the classroom, or they are classroom veterans, educators are always searching for new ways to improve the learning experience for students. From dealing with behavior issues to enhancing existing lesson plans, here are some effective strategies for teaching elementary school students.
Take Small Steps and Ask Questions
It takes more than a love for learning and teaching children to be an effective educator. Along with passion and dedication, specific skills and familiarity with proven classroom practices are also needed to motivate students and increase their learning potential. By learning new strategies and teaching methods, educators can promote learning and actively stimulate children’s natural thirst for knowledge.
The impact of an effective elementary school teacher can remain with a child for the rest of his or her life. Quality grade-school teachers often set the expectations for their students’ outlook on the education system as a whole. This is what makes effective teaching strategies so important at this early age. Sparking the student’s interest at a young age is an absolutely critical part of their learning development. A teacher who can make learning not only fun, but engaging and memorable, will help establish the value of education in the mind of the student.
Great teachers can help make the material more memorable by taking small steps. It’s known that the place in our brains where we process the most information is quite small. When we’re asked to learn too much at one time, we can get overwhelmed. For a child’s developing memory, a teaching strategy called “chunking” has proven to be most effective. Chunking refers to teaching in small steps while checking for understanding along the way. Be sure to ask many questions and talk about the answers with students.
In order for the chunking method to be effective, teachers need to ask a lot of questions. They should ask their students to explain how they got their answers to promote vocal problem solving. Asking a student to think out loud while solving a problem helps the teacher identify key areas where a student needs more help.
Carefully Manage the Seating Chart
Children’s social relationships are extremely important throughout grade school. At this age, children are more likely to build friendships and learn how to work in groups. Often, teachers will select groups based on shared interests and abilities. But it’s important for children to develop an understanding of themselves as learners and to be able to increase their awareness of their own thinking, a process psychologists call metacognition. This makes the classroom seating chart a vital piece of the learning puzzle.
Teachers should use a variety of factors to carefully plan seating charts. When considering special needs students, in particular those with behavior issues, selecting neighbors who will be positive role models is often the best strategy.
Children want to fit in and are not always sure what the best way to blend into the class is. Seating them near students who will model appropriate actions can help them understand simple tasks such as note-taking, being on the right page while following along in a book, or even raising their hand and waiting to be called upon. Switch up the seating chart frequently to expose the students to different learning styles and note which method works best for each student.
Establish Expectations on Behavior Early in the School Year
Every teacher will have at least one challenging student throughout the year, and for some teachers, teaching such a child can be a daily struggle. It’s important to work with every student and create a plan for accepted behavior in the classroom. Some ideas can include:
- Use a paper star or coin token to drop on the student’s desk when they are working productively, which can be redeemed for a cool prize or tasty treat at a later time.
- Create a special pass or card to hand to the student when an immediate timeout to cool down is needed.
- Identify a different item to place on the student’s desk when they are not working appropriately, as a subtle private reminder that will not draw more attention to them. A red chip to indicate “STOP” is a great example.
By identifying behavior cues early in the school year, teachers can better manage students who are not motivated or who are distracting others from learning to their full potential. Be sure to work with such students and use various strategies to maintain control and showcase the benefits of education to steer the child toward a positive change.
Be a Leader in Education
The online Master of Arts in Educational Leadership offered by Queens University of Charlotte is designed for educators who want to become school administrators and make a significant change in the lives of young students. This program offers instruction on how to identify and use natural leadership skills to improve teacher and student performance, and how to design a plan for improvement.
The program works toward nurturing students’ professional and personal growth. The dedicated faculty members provide guidance and support through small class sizes and mentorship. Students in the program can also learn from fellow students, who are colleagues with similar experiences and the same desire to make a difference in children's lives through education.