The following comprehensive list of study skills for elementary students will help your learners soar academically.
Study skills for elementary students are strategies that facilitate students’ ability to absorb, organize, comprehend, and retain essential information. Mastering a handful of these learning habits is vital for academic success.
Teaching study skills is a game-changer for your students and directly affects how well they manage their learning in/outside of school.
Learning study skills well positively affects standardized test scores, class assessments, group work (such as literature circles), partner work, and of course homework.
What’s the Importance of Teaching Study Skills to Elementary Students?
Some years ago, I did a little experiment.
With all of the information I had gathered about teaching study skills to elementary students, I decided to teach an entire study skills unit to my fourth graders.
We completed about one lesson activity a day for approximately eight weeks.
The students implemented strategies learned ASAP, and some of the study skill techniques overlapped which provided a constant stream of review and practice for the learners.
The results were a success; what a difference it made to teach study skills to my elementary students.
Study skills change the way elementary learners approach, tackle, and learn information.
Grades, class participation, engagement, motivation, and test scores ALL improved.
I believe you can have the same, even better results, with your students.
Related: If you’re preparing your elementary students for state testing, check out our test-prep resources page with ideas and strategies for tackling the big day!
How To Improve Your Elementary Students’ Study Skills
1. Acronyms & Mnemonics
Acronyms and mnemonics are two types of memorization techniques that help students recall word sequences.
Mnemonics help kids remember a list of facts in a particular order. They can be written as songs, phrases, rhymes, phrases, or acronyms.
I’m sure these mnemonics are familiar to you…
My Very Excellent Mother Just Served Us Nine Pizzas (order of planets + Pluto)
Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally (order of operations in math)
On the other hand, acronyms consist of the initials of words in a phrase put together in sequence so that the full name can be remembered more easily.
They are usually written in all CAPS and pronounced as a new word.
Some examples… NASA, FACE (music), MLK, and AKA.
When you teach acronyms, consider using text messaging as examples to help students make connections.
LOL and SMH are two such examples.
2. Active Listening
We all have one or two (or more?) of those students who quietly sit on the carpet during read-aloud time but are pretty much ZONED-OUT!
They’re quiet, and they may be listening.
But are they actively listening?
This is why it’s important to explicitly teach kids what active listening looks like.
With the overload of distractions in our environments today, this study skill is essential for kids.
3. Analyzing Rubrics
Though they take some time to create, rubrics are great assessment tools because they tell students ahead of time how they’ll be assessed.
The beauty in rubrics is that they allow students to review the standards at any time while completing a specific assignment.
Learners continuously measure their performance up against the rubric, adjusting their efforts and productivity as needed.
This indeed is very powerful.
Rubrics serve as great tools for reflecting on one’s efforts and as a result adjusting actions to yield a more favorable outcome.
4. Chunking Tasks
As students move up in grade level, the workload increases.
More work causes overwhelm in some students, especially 4th and 5th graders.
To prepare learners for the even greater workload they’ll face in middle school, it’s essential that we teach how to chunk assignments into digestible parts.
This a study skill that elementary students should absolutely master.
5. Create a Test
When framed from a “I get to be the teacher” standpoint, kids love creating tests for their peers!
When creating a relatively simple assessment from material just learned, students reinforce the concepts to themselves because they’re synthesizing that knowledge to build something purposeful.
6. Designated Space
As a child, my family’s kitchen table served as my designated homework space.
I knew that from the time I arrived from school to about an hour afterwards meant study time.
It was a steady routine.
There were no ifs or buts about it; I got into a study mindset right away, completed my work, and that was that.
In a school setting, the entire classroom space is a designated learning zone. So there’s little challenge there.
However, support parents in setting up those boundaries at home also.
Early in the school year, communicate with parents the benefits of their child having a designated study area at home.
And it doesn’t have to be a formal desk or room.
A sturdy lap desk works incredibly well as I use one to this very day for most of my work.
Just something for children to get into the mindset that a particular space is for work and study.
This helps them to focus, and that space becomes a symbol of productivity.
7. Finding One’s Rhythm
Even after teaching all of these study skills to your elementary learners, it’s still going to take time for each child to find his or her own rhythm.
Our primary job as educators is to introduce students to all of these study techniques and support them as they navigate towards those that fit their unique learning styles.
Flashcards are a mainstay.
They’re useful for reviewing vocabulary terms, math facts, history dates ~ just about anything that needs to be memorized.
Flash cards too boring for your class?
Try digital multiplication tables or quizlet flashcards.
9. Grade Sheets
Let me tell you…
I love grade sheets for grades 4 and up.
Grade sheets keep students accountable for their own work.
Of course as a teacher you’ll keep track of grades, but it’s a powerful thing indeed when students keep track regularly, too!
It does take time for younger students (4th/5th graders) to do the calculations the first few times, but with time, they definitely get it.
Download this student grade sheet to see if a similar type of grade sheet would work well in your classroom.
10. Graphic Organizers
Graphic organizers are staples in most classrooms and pair well with almost any assignment.
They break down essential ideas into smaller chunks so that the information is easier to digest.
11. Group Study
I have a love-hate relationship with group work because there’s always that one individual in the group who doesn’t want to do much of anything.
But when it’s done well, group work is fantastic because the labor is shared which increases productivity.
Plus, kids have ample opportunities to hear others’ thought processes and ideas.
This stretches their schema and exposes them to alternative points of view.
Have students use highlighters with caution because some students tend to highlight EVERYTHING on a page instead of just the essentials.
On the other hand, highlighters are great study tools when you need the main ideas of a selection to “pop out” for elementary students.
As a prerequisite…
Students need a good grasp of how to find the main idea of a piece of text (which takes lots of modeling).
Without proper modeling, a highlighter turns into a fun pen that kids use to showcase every.single.point on the page.
13. Limiting Distractions
Cell phones, TVs, YouTube, the Internet ~ distractions dominate our spaces.
It takes a lot of self-discipline to turn these things off, but there must be times where they aren’t present if students are to get any work done.
Limiting distractions doesn’t mean elimination.
It means just that…limitation.
We see adults all.the.time driving, at the store check-out, at restaurants – all the while on their phones.
So imagine kids…
They see this action all around them and think it’s normal to be tuned into tech 24/7.
But there must be balance.
14. Making Connections
When reading, we subconsciously make connections…
- How does this relate to something that happened in my life?
- Did I read this in another significant text?
- What does this text have to do with the world at large?
Having these three key questions in mind will help students take their reading comprehension and understanding of concepts to the next level.
Mindset is truly an important concept to reflect upon.
None of the study skills for elementary students on this list will work if learners don’t have the appropriate mindset.
There are two types of individuals.
Those who say…
I’m going to be successful at this and do whatever it takes (ethically) to get me there.
And others who say…
Yeah…okay. I’ll do the work when I feel like it or have more time. OR It’s just too hard. I’m done.
Of course we all want those kids who think like the former, but that’s not reality.
That’s when we begin diving deeper into encouragement and mindset exercises specifically designed for kids.
Furthermore, partnering with parents in helping kids develop a positive mindset is a must.
16. Multimedia Strategies
This study skill appears to be in direct contract to limiting distractions, but it’s really not.
Yes, technology is a BIG distraction.
However, exceptions present themselves in all situations.
Technology can be a wonderful addition to the teaching and learning process, but it depends on how one uses it.
Videos, podcasts, and even apps benefit kids in an educational sense when they serve a genuine purpose.
And that’s key.
17. Note Taking
How many people take notes and actually go back and read what they recorded?
Not many, right?
Within the right context, though, note-taking does improve retention of information.
Elementary-aged children don’t need too much note-taking practice since the structure of elementary school is more hands-on, interactive, and group focused.
But there will be times that you want your learners to take notes.
For note-taking to be a beneficial study skill for young learners, it must…
- tie to the gist of what the speaker is saying.
- summarize the main points of the lesson.
- use standard & unique abbreviations
- minimize or eliminate erasures.
Want to help your elementary students learn note-taking but don’t know where to start?
Have them interview staff and/or peers during the first week of school and take note of interviewees’ responses.
This could be part of a building community unit or lesson.
BrainPOP videos also serve as a great resource for practicing note-taking.
Organization streamlines the learning process and reduces waste time.
An organized notebook, desk, backpack, workspace, and assignment also show that one cares about his personal property.
19. Parent Partnerships
It takes parents and teachers working together to help a child reach her full potential.
Yes, teachers can be effective working without parent support, but let’s not fool ourselves into thinking that parent involvement is less important than that of the teacher.
There is no denying the fact that when a parent positively involves herself into her child’s education, the result is generally more fruitful for the child.
So communicate with parents regularly so that they reinforce study skills at home.
20. Post-It Notes
When students need to jot down essential information quickly, sticky notes serve that purpose well.
Check out these simple ideas for using post-it notes to enhance reading comprehension.
21. Problem Solving
As long as the material and subject are grade-appropriate, problem solving is a great skill to practice daily.
How can students use the tools and knowledge they already possess to figure out a math problem?
… to figure out the gist of what the author is saying?
…to reflect and retest a hypothesis from a science experiment?
Problem solving is a life-long skill.
22. Project-Based Learning
Project-based learning is more of an instructional technique, but it’s a great study skill for elementary students because it gives them an opportunity to apply all the skills and strategies they’re learning.
Culminating units are a good time to incorporate project-based learning activities.
During these times, take the opportunity to observe how well students are applying certain study skills.
23. Read, Cover, Remember, Retell
I learned this reading strategy during my first year teaching ESL kids, and I’ve used it ever since because it’s so simple yet effective.
The strategy Read, Cover, Remember, and Retell is helpful to students who struggle to remember the main ideas from a piece of text.
And what I really love about this reading strategy is that you can differentiate with it very easily.
So here’s how the strategy works…
Take a paragraph or any piece of text you’d like the child to read.
After he or she reads the text, he covers it with his hand, thinks about what he just read, and then retells the main points.
If he has trouble retelling, he repeats the process up to 3 times.
After the third unsuccessful attempt, move to an easier text.
This is such a great strategy for improving reading comprehension in all subjects.
Think about using this study skill strategy with math problem solving…
If a child can’t retell the main points of the story problem and determine what issue needs to be solved, then she’s going to have a really hard time solving that word problem.
That may mean the word problem is a bit too hard for her, so have her tackle an easier one first!
24. Reciprocal Teaching
This list of study skills for elementary students wouldn’t be complete without reciprocal teaching.
Reciprocal teaching puts students in the teacher’s seat. They teach a skill or strategy to a partner, small group, or the whole class.
This strategy works well at home, too, for students can teach parents the skills and strategies they’re learning at school.
This in turn helps their parents see how well they’re absorbing information.
Keep this in mind…
- 10% of what they READ
- 20% of what they HEAR
- 30% of what they SEE
- 50% of what they SEE and HEAR
- 70% of what they SAY and WRITE
- 90% of what they DO.
25. Reviewing Work
Check over your work before turning in.
I always said that to students when they worked on class assignments.
Once, after saying this phrase for the 3rd time to a student (who had obviously not looked over his work), I motioned him to sit next to me so that I could see exactly how he reviews his work.
To my surprise, he had NO IDEA what to do.
Unfortunately, I had assumed that he knew what I meant when I said, check over your work.
From that point forward, I explicitly taught my 3rd and 4th graders how to review their work strategically and thoroughly before submitting.
Skimming is looking over a text quickly to get the gist of what it’s all about.
Scanning means you’re looking for a particular piece of information within a text.
In a restaurant, we skim/scan the menu.
Booking airline tickets?
You’ll skim to see the average price of tickets.
Got a message ding on your phone?
You’ll scan or skim the message to see who’s calling and/or what they want.
If you decide to teach only a handful of study skills for elementary students, make skimming/scanning one of them.
As you can see, it’s such a practical skill that’s used daily in various contexts.
And when it comes time for the reading standardized tests, scanning and skimming will definitely come in handy.
27. Stamina/Rest Periods
We’ve all had those students that get squirmy reading or working at their desks for extended periods of time.
It really isn’t natural for kids, even adults, to sit still for too long.
But developing in students healthy amounts of stamina is key to them completing work within an appropriate time frame.
Depending on your grade level, you can do this by having students work in increments of 5 to 10 minutes.
Gradually increase the chunks of time until you’ve reached a maximum of 30-45 minutes before breaking.
28. Teacher Modeling
To ensure that your elementary students’ mastery of these study skills are used most effectively, it’s best to first model to learners how to use each one.
- What does this study skill look like in action?
- How doesn’t it look in action?
- When is the best time to use this particular study skill?
Children need to see these study skills in action multiple times before being expected to apply them on their own.
The more you model these study skills, the more comfortable and competent they’ll become using them.
Eventually, students will start to apply them independently without even realizing it.
That’s the ultimate goal.
29. Text Features
Explicitly teaching text features using fiction and nonfiction books encourages better comprehension.
These elements serve as signals for how students should approach the reading.
- How do you use an index?
- What’s the purpose of a table of contents?
- Why are some terms in a nonfiction text in bold?
- Subheadings have different-sized fonts than main headings. Why?
- What’s the goal of an epilogue/prologue?
Helping students understand these text features and their purpose will no doubt increase understanding of whatever they’re studying.
30. Time Management
For those students who procrastinate with getting assignments done and have a hard time managing time…
Time management is an essential skill that will guide their actions throughout life, not just during school days.
Visualizing means to have a picture or series of images in your head as you read a text.
This supports the reader in “being part” of the action, and as a result, he/she remembers more events from the text.
You can easily teach the study skill of visualizing during literacy block.
See my big list of mentor texts for reading workshop that includes books that help teach mental imagery.
Wrapping Up: Study Skills for Elementary Students
These study skills are game-changers for your elementary students’ learning.
Choose a couple of these study skills to focus on each quarter or month, depending on the needs of your students.
Done consistently and well…your students will soar.
Study skills are almost forgotten instructional techniques in elementary schools today, but it doesn’t have to be that way in your classroom.