Congratulations, you’re an elementary school teacher! You’ve entered a challenging yet very rewarding career. You create a positive experience for kids every day, serve as a role model, and teach with a passion for helping the next generation navigate through life.
Let's face it: It takes a lot of time and effort to create lesson plans that inspire your students. It goes beyond showing up for class and keeping your kids occupied all day. You have to make your lessons exciting and dynamic because that's what keeps kids interested in school and learning.
But you face dilemmas every year to come up with new ideas for lessons and activities to keep your students engaged in the classroom.
So whether you want to step up your teaching game, get more creative, or need inspiration as a new teacher, take a look at our 10 ideas and tips for teaching elementary school for success.
1. Get the Classroom Ready
When it comes to teaching elementary students, your classroom environment is the most important thing.
Why? It's where you teach. How can you create a dynamic classroom experience if your classroom feels boring? And you can't just throw in random decor, it won't make sense and won’t feel inviting to the students. Here are a few ideas for getting the classroom ready for the first day.
Create an inviting space.
Your goal is to have the students feel comfortable and excited about coming to your classroom five days a week. You need to set a welcoming environment for your students to accomplish this. The best way to get this done is by getting the classroom ready every morning.
Some schools and districts provide classroom decor and supplies for teachers. But you can create some simple classroom decor yourself, or you can start with the basic colorful charts.
Better yet, have your kids help you on the first day of class. Your class will look like a professionally decorated masterpiece in no time with construction paper, streamers, and student artwork made of markers, all held together by stick glue.
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Experiment with classroom layouts
Your classroom layout can make a big difference in how your students interact with each other and learn. Switching the desks around every few weeks gives your students a new perspective on the room and how it looks and feels, so don't be afraid to experiment.
You could even try putting all the desks in a circle one day a week! Changing up the classroom layout can help make fast friends and foster classroom togetherness.
Find some fun posters
You can find great posters on all sorts of topics. Science, English, math, even art, and music posters are available online. Just make sure you hang them up around the room in a way that makes sense.
Set up an appealing classroom reading nook.
Add a reading nook in your classroom with comfortable chairs, a nice rug, and maybe even tent-like shelving. Try some bean bag chairs! (Just don’t turn down the lights, or you’ll have nap time in the reading nook!)
Think about making some inexpensive, easy-to-make DIY reading tents. If you encourage students to read for pleasure during free periods, this area will be popular!
Fill the class library with classic books
Students love to read, and filling the classroom library with classic books may inspire your students to read more. You don't have to buy all the books. You can get many of them from your local library or thrift store. Of course, you can also check them out from the school library, too. Have a theme day once every two weeks that uses a book as the foundation for your lesson plans.
2. Make a Good Impression on the First Day of School
A first impression is everything, especially when you're teaching young elementary students. When you first meet your students, you want them to feel comfortable with you and their surroundings.
Here's how to make a memorable first day.
Creatively introduce yourself
You want to be warm, friendly, and approachable. Introduce yourself, add a name tag. Or make it a fun game by having the students pass a ball around the room, and when the ball stops rolling, whoever is holding it must introduce themselves to the class.
Consider wearing a wacky outfit, bringing a small animal for show and tell, or talking about some fun and unique thing you did when you were your students’ age.
Get to know each other with icebreakers
Icebreakers are fun activities that allow students to connect and adapt to their new surroundings. A good icebreaker activity should be fun and exciting for students. If it's not, kids will probably dislike being forced into talking about themselves.
You can make use of classroom technology for this activity. Play a fun game on the tablets in class, have everyone play their favorite video, or take classroom pictures and have people decorate them on their tablets.
3. Build a Classroom Community
As the teacher, you're responsible for creating the classroom community. You have to make a connection with each student and treat them equally.
Have a classroom code of conduct
This is where you state the rules and expectations for your class and let students know there will be consequences if they don't follow those rules. Asking students to participate in creating this code will make them feel included and important.
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Teaching elementary students to be kind to one another can make a big difference. A simple way to teach empathy is to let the students write a list of things they can do to be kind to others. Make it bigger and better every week, and encourage students to add new items. Make sure to talk about why it’s important for students to help each other
Incorporate social-emotional learning
It's crucial to incorporate social-emotional learning (SEL) into your classroom. SEL is a way of teaching students how to work together and communicate more effectively. It's also a way to make learning fun because it involves giving students opportunities to practice communication, problem-solving, stress management, and empathy through creating team projects and games.
4. Managing Your Classroom
When you are teaching elementary students, your classroom management showcases your organizational skills while teaching 25 to 30 students. You must manage your students effectively and efficiently while still getting the lessons across.
Post your students' morning routine
Your students will know what to expect every day when they walk into your classroom. This will help you save time and not have to go over the same things every day. It also helps your students be more independent and self-sufficient, as they can take control of their learning.
Consider posting the daily routine on your classroom’s interactive whiteboard every morning to reinforce it. Or talk about how the schedule will be different today. You can easily take down the schedule with a simple swipe on your tablet.
Take bullying issues seriously
Bullying is one of the significant challenges facing elementary school teachers and students today. Fortunately, you can help prevent it.
One thing you can do is establish a no-tolerance policy for all types of bullying in your classroom. If you see bullying or hear about it, take action, even if it's not something that directly involves your students.
Make your lessons about bullying relatable and age-appropriate to your classroom. Bullying for kindergartners will be different for sixth graders.
Give students specific jobs or responsibilities around the room. This will help them be productive and feel like they're contributing to their learning environment. Rotate the tasks every day so that, by the end of the week, each student gets to participate in every task on the list.
5. Be Consistent
Make sure you consistently enforce discipline in your classroom. If there are specific rules in place, like raising their hand before speaking out loud or not talking during tests, make sure you enforce them every time. If you let a rule slide once, it will be harder to implement it later. (And, as you can tell, the kids learn quickly when exploiting this.)
6. Praise Your Kids for What They Do Right
Always, always, always be positive. Your students look up to you. They may have stress happening at home, and school is a refuge from that. Having a positive attitude and praising your students can go a long way toward building their self-esteem and turning them into great teens and young adults.
Whether they got a 100% on their math test or quieted down during lunch, point out their achievements and congratulate them for doing so.
A positive attitude can go a long way towards building confidence in your students and giving them the strength to face the next day.
7. Use Technology to Save Time In The Classroom
You can always make your classroom more efficient. Automate lesson planning to easily move from one lesson to the next throughout your day. Use online classroom tools to save time, Thousands of teachers use the free Text Blaze snippet tool to automate their lesson planning.
8. Introduce Hands-On Activities to Motivate Students
If you're teaching young learners, you know how important it is to keep them motivated. Hands-on activities and games can be the perfect way to get the kids excited about learning. Tactile learning is one of the best ways to foster long-term memory retention.
This list of activities can be adapted for use with different subjects, including reading, writing, math, and science.
Number Hunt: Get the kids up and moving as they search for number cards hidden around the classroom. Once they find a number card, they have to do whatever math task is written (count by twos or draw three tens). This can also be adapted to practice regular spelling or sight words. Each student will need a clipboard and a pencil (even though those are now old-fashioned, kinda).
Mystery Pictures: With mystery pictures, students follow a secret code to color specific shapes in certain colors and reveal a fun surprise at the end! The result is often a cute picture that students are proud of, making for excellent classroom decor! Kids love coloring pictures and getting creative, so why not make it educational as well.
Touch Lab: Hide things in paper bags, and have each student come up and touch each item in the bag. Have them guess what they felt, a simple way to teach young students with sensory learning techniques.
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9. Make Plans for When You Are Away
When teachers have days off, they have a substitute fill in for them. Having well-thought-out and clear lesson plans help the sub and your kids. If you did your job, no one will prank the sub.
10. Get Them Up and Active
Want to get your students moving? Use a kinesthetic approach. Young kids need to move around and think about what they're learning from a new perspective.
It is best to get them out of their chairs and let them explore their interests with hands-on activities. For example, you could read a book to your class and then take the students to the playground to recreate story elements.
To Wrap Up
Elementary school teachers have a lot on their plate, making it difficult to get everything done. By planning and organizing ahead, you can still make sure your class is learning, having a good time, and growing as individuals.
Utilize your technology wisely to save time and make your classroom more enjoyable. You and your students will thank you, and you might get an apple or two as an emoji every week.
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