Elementary education, beginning from Kindergarten through sixth grade, provides children with a foundation of facts and skills. It focuses on developing not only study skills, but also social, physical, and character building skills. Elementary school should be a fun-filled, child-centered, and safe place for children to learn.
As far as the “curriculum” of an elementary program, that is fairly standard: mathematics, writing and grammar, science, social studies, physical education, reading, art, and music.
The question shouldn’t be “what should elementary students learn?”, but, “what is an effective elementary school like?”
Effective elementary schools use curricula and teaching methods that help students foster a sense of independence; accommodate for different styles of learning; provide numerous opportunities for community and parent involvement; provide opportunities and resources for students to receive help after school; employ teachers, administrators and other staff that help students achieve their best.
Qualities of effective elementary schools
Strong elementary programs are effective for the following reasons:
- Schools have strong and effective instructional leadership
- Teachers have time and energy to handle instructional issues; plan lessons and assessments; revise methodologies.
- School staff develop a collective sense of responsibility.
- Teachers receive adequate training and are given opportunities to collaborate knowledge.
- School administrators offer support to teachers during difficult times during the academic year (i.e. test periods, parent-teacher conferences, etc.)
- Schools build relationships with the parents and surrounding community.
- Parents are given a voice in certain policies and areas of school management.
- The teachers and school administrators build a positive school-home relationship via monthly newsletters, parent-teacher conferences, telephone calls, parent-student activity nights, etc.
- Community business and local programs work with school administrators to plan learning opportunities outside of the classroom (i.e. field trips, volunteer programs, etc.)
- Schools employ dedicated, caring, and effective teachers.
- The teachers have a strong knowledge of learning styles and use instructional methods that reflect that understanding.
- Teachers inform the students of the objectives for each lesson.
- Teachers are predictable, using the same routine and structured format.
- They keep students on task and manage classroom behavior effectively.
- Use positive reinforcement when students do not perform up to the expectations.
- Schools use a strong approach to teaching literacy.
- Teachers place a strong emphasis on reading, both silently and aloud.
- Teachers manage time and lessons effectively to allow for students to read.
- Instructional methods for reading stress balance between whole-language acquisition, phonics, and making meaning from texts.
- Teachers redouble efforts to help students understand the target language and content if students fail to grasp it the first time.
- Schools work with parents to encourage children to read at home, and begin summer reading programs.
- The elementary curriculum is comprehensive and builds upon prior knowledge.
- The content is targeted to state and national standards of achievement.
- It provides for assessment and evaluation.
- It challenges students to think critically and learn to find information for themselves.
- Allows students to be successful in the classroom and helps them apply their skills outside of school.
It helps children prepare for the middle and high school levels of education.
It also help children develop connections with others and builds self-esteem.