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12 Top Tips for Working with Upper Elementary Students

Rapport doesn’t grow on trees. It is worked on and honed in, and with these 12 top tips for working with upper elementary students, you’ll be ahead of the game with your new students!

If you are new to working with upper elementary students, then you may need to know that it is different than working with middle schoolers or even younger elementary school students.

They are kind of on an island of their own. They are starting to show signs of independence and can handle a little less structure in small doses. 

They are up to being challenged, but they are still trying to figure out what they’re good at and where they fit in the school ecosystem.

Today, we’ll discuss our 12 tips for working with upper elementary students. 

12 Tips for Working with Upper Elementary Students

#1 | Build Relationships

Take time to get to know each student individually, understanding their interests, strengths, and challenges. Building positive relationships creates a supportive classroom community where students feel valued and respected.

Top Tips for Working with Upper Elementary Students

This will also help as you help students navigate personal relationships throughout the year. If you can figure out what each student values and how they view themselves in different situations (in art class, in sports, in math, in reading…), then you’ll have a much better idea of where their insecurities lie and will be able to help them through the tough times in the year as those moments arise. You’ll also get a better idea of what they need, expect, or can handle in regard to praise or critique.

#2 | Establish Clear Expectations

Don’t let their size distract you. These are still just taller elementary students, and they need clear boundaries, expectations, and procedures.

Set clear and consistent expectations for behavior, academic performance, and classroom routines from the start. Communicate these expectations with students and involve them in creating classroom rules and norms.

We have written many posts about classroom procedures and routines.

Click on the images and links below to read more!

#3 | Create a Positive Classroom Environment

Design a welcoming and inclusive classroom environment that promotes collaboration, creativity, and mutual respect. 

Display student work, inspirational quotes, and visuals that reflect diversity and celebrate achievements.

Find what motivates this specific group of students and incorporate those types of decorations into the classroom or adjust organizational systems to fit individual student needs.

#4 | Differentiate Instruction

Recognize and accommodate the many learning needs and preferences of students by providing differentiated instruction and materials. 

Offer a variety of learning activities, assessments, and instructional strategies to meet individual student needs.

Some students will love working on the computer and others won’t. Some students will love doing the mystery pictures in these close reads, and others will not be interested in lifting a marker for any reason.

Be careful not to cater to students too much. We still want to push them outside their comfort zones, but we should be aware of their preferences and try to give them moments of choice when appropriate.

Save yourself time by picking resources that have built-in differentiation, like these Close Reads with Mystery Pictures!

#5 | Use Active Learning Strategies

Engage students in active learning experiences that promote critical thinking, problem-solving, and inquiry-based learning. 

Incorporate hands-on activities, cooperative learning tasks, and real-world applications to enhance student engagement and understanding.

Don’t be afraid to try something new. Students often surprise their teachers with their resourcefulness, and just because something is hard for them to do at first doesn’t mean that you can’t win them over to that type of activity or project over time.

#6 | Foster Indepedence

Encourage students to take ownership of their learning and develop self-directed learning skills. 

Provide opportunities for independent work, goal-setting, and reflection to foster autonomy and responsibility.

In this post we talk about introducing classroom procedures in a way that encourages independence and whole-group buy-in. Click here to learn more!

Teach Resourcefulness and Independence Through Classroom Procedures
Teach Resourcefulness & Independence Through Classroom Procedures (Blog Post)

#7 | Promote Growth Mindset

Cultivate a growth mindset culture where students understand that intelligence and abilities can be developed through effort and perseverance. 

Encourage students to do hard things with a positive attitude. Build an environment that rewards and celebrates challenges, mistakes, and learning from failure!

#8 | Provide Timely and Specific Feedback

This is one of our top tips for working with upper elementary students. Remember that they still have short attention spans, and they will need feedback immediately after completing a task. 

Offer feedback that is timely, specific, and actionable to support student growth and improvement. 

Use a combination of verbal feedback, written comments, and peer and self-assessment to guide student learning.

Incorporate a variety of self-checking resources into your classroom to help students quickly and accurately assess their skills and progress on the different skills they are practicing.

We have many self-checking resources in the store. Click on the links and images below to learn more!

#9 | Incorporate Technology Thoughtfully

Integrate technology into instruction thoughtfully and purposefully to enhance learning experiences and meet diverse learning needs. 

Technology should not be used as a distraction or to “keep kids busy” in upper elementary as this can have a negative effect on their ability to come up with creative ways to entertain themselves (e.g., drawing, writing, working through puzzles, etc.) 

Instead, digital platforms should be used to help students use tech to enhance learning and provide immediate feedback or gamification of skills they are learning in class.

#10 | Embrace Multimodal Learning

This is just a fancy way of saying add some variety to the types of learning students are doing in your classroom.

Recognize and accommodate different learning styles and preferences by providing multimodal learning experiences. Incorporate visual, auditory, kinesthetic, and tactile elements into instruction to enhance student engagement and understanding.

Check out this post about task card hopscotch to see how you can use simple resources in innovative ways!

Playing Task Card Hopscotch Facebook Image with Chalk Hopscotch outline on concrete background

#11 | Encourage Critical Thinking

Pose open-ended questions, encouraging students to analyze and evaluate information and promoting evidence-based reasoning. 

Encourage students to think on their own before listening to the thoughts of their peers. Remember, these kids are trying to figure out how they feel about different situations but are also highly impacted by their peers. Help them to navigate their own thoughts.

Create opportunities for debate, discussion, and problem-solving to deepen student understanding.

#12 | Emphasize Social-Emotional Learning

Prioritize social-emotional learning by fostering a supportive and empathetic classroom community. 

Teach and model social-emotional skills such as self-awareness, self-regulation, empathy, and relationship-building to promote student well-being and resilience.

Students aren’t always aware of how others might see a situation differently from themselves. They may not even realize how their words impact the other students in the room or how being proactive can actually save them time in the long run.

Spend time each day/week developing these social-emotional and organizational skills.

Top Tips for Working with Upper Elementary Students

These are our top 12 tips for working with upper elementary students, but we could also go on and on. The point is that upper elementary students can be a lot of fun to work with, but it still takes work to help them be successful day in and day out. 

Not every day is going to be a 10, but with these 12 tips, we hope that you’ll have a better idea of how to be proactive in setting up a classroom environment and developing procedures to make your upper elementary students more successful!

Prefer to shop on Tpt? No problem! To get the resources mentioned in this post in our Tpt store, click here.

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