20 tips to use right now for teaching elementary school

Your principal wants you to have a good lesson plan, but that’s not all that goes into great teaching.

You’re also in charge of the classroom layout, materials and supplies, and the million-and-one crises needing your immediate attention every day. If you’re like most elementary teachers, you’re also teaching a variety of subjects.

On top of it all, you’ve got to be prepared to keep things fresh and change what you’re doing faster than an elementary can spill glue on the floor.

Try these 20 tested tips:

Room design & layout

  1. Create multiple workstations. Students need to sit at desks, but they also need an inviting reading area with pillows and a carpet, a space for getting out the wiggles, and a place to take a timeout.
  2. Follow the yellow brick road or whatever color of tape you put on the floor. Teach students traffic patterns by showing them where to walk or which areas to avoid, like the teacher’s desk.
  3. Allow room for students to move easily throughout the room; they are less likely to get in each other’s space.
  4. Check for tripping hazards, including backpacks that have straps lying on the floor.


  1. Two words: zip-lock bags. These are great for organizing and protecting everything from Unifix cubes to your bulletin board cutouts. Best of all, they come in all sizes.
  2. Two more words: plastic bins. Nothing is more handy for collecting homework, holding writing instruments, and storing supplies. They’re easy to carry and easy to clean.
  3. Free up valuable classroom space by taking home whatever you don’t need that grading period.
  4. Use inexpensive fabric remnants to cover up ugly storage boxes.

Routines & procedures

  1. It’s not a question of if you’ll need to be absent, but when. Make your substitute folder first.
  2. Remind students of routines with cards containing pictures and descriptions. Use the cards to teach a mini-lesson on sequence.
  3. Label it, especially if you have bilingual students who are learning English vocabulary.
  4. Get help. Every great leader delegates, and you’ll need to the same. Assign students classroom roles, and switch their tasks from week to week.
  5. Teach kids to clean up their messes and spills. Have wipes and paper towels handy.

Classroom management

  1. Praise kids for what they’re doing right. Be specific (“I like how you answered every question on the assignment”) rather than general (“good job”).
  2. Borrow time. If students talk when they aren’t supposed to during your lesson, time their conversation. Borrow back those seconds from their recess time.
  3. If a student reports bullying, follow up immediately.
  4. Be consistent. Your consistency teaches fairness and will earn you respect.


  1. Celebrate the number of the day by writing it as a number, spelling it out, and showing what it looks like using Unifix cubes.
  2. Use hands-on activities that engage and motivate students. If time is an issue, precut foldables.
  3. Take a break from learning. Share a 2-minute video that supplements what you’ve been teaching, play a quick game, or do some stretches.

Tips like these can keep you in control of your class and teaching at your best.

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