Study Skills for Elementary Students: 31 Powerful Techniques

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 for Elementary Students?

Some years ago, I did a little experiment.

With all of the information I had gathered about teaching study skills for 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.

The results were a success; what a difference it made to teach study skills for elementary students.

Study skills change the way elementary learners approach, tackle, and learn information.

Grades, class participation, engagement, motivation, and test scores ALL improved.

You too can have the same, even better results, with your students.

Related: If you’re preparing your elementary students for state testing, check out these test-prep ideas and strategies.

How To Improve Study Skills for Elementary Students

1. Acronyms & Mnemonics

One of the classic study skills for elementary students, acronyms and mnemonics are two types of memorization techniques that help students recall word sequences.

Mnemonics

Mnemonics help kids remember a list of facts in a particular order. They can be written as songs, phrases, rhymes, phrases, or acronyms.

Examples…

My Very Excellent Mother Just Served Us Nine Pizzas (order of planets + Pluto)

Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally (order of operations in math)

Acronyms

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.

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?

Probably not.

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 is one of those study skills for elementary students that is essential.

3. Analyzing Rubrics

Though they take some time to create, rubrics serve as great assessment tools because they tell students ahead of time how they’ll be assessed.

They allow students to review the standards at any time while completing a specific assignment.

This way, learners continuously measure their performance up against the rubric, adjusting their efforts and productivity as needed.

This is very powerful.

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.

Of all the study skills for elementary students, chunking tasks is arguably one of the most powerful.

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

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.

This helps the child to focus, and that space becomes a sign of productivity.

And it doesn’t have to be a formal desk or room. A sturdy lap desk works incredibly well.

7. Finding One’s Rhythm

Even after teaching all of these study skills for elementary students, 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.

8. Flashcards

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

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

When 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.

12. Highlighting

Highlighters serve as 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.

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.

15. Mindset

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.

16. Multimedia Strategies

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.

17. Note Taking

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.

18. Organization

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.

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 these study skills for elementary students 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?
  • reflect and retest a hypothesis from a science experiment?
  • figure out the gist of what the author is saying?

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

This is one of the study skills for elementary students you’ll love to keep in your teaching toolkit.

The strategy Read, Cover, Remember, and Retell is helpful to students who struggle to remember the main ideas from a piece of text.

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.

Consider using this study skill 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. 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…

People remember…

  • 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, this strategy became one of the standard study skills for elementary students that I taught.

26. Scan/Skim

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

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/Parent Modeling

To ensure mastery of these study skills for elementary students, 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.

See list of nonfiction text features and fiction text features.

30. Time Management

Arguably one of the most important study skills for elementary students, time management is an essential skill to master.

For students who procrastinate with getting assignments done and struggle managing time, this study skill will serve as great support.

31. Visualizing

Visualizing means having a picture or series of images in one’s head while reading.

This supports the reader in “being part” of the action, and as a result, he/she remembers more events from the text.

See 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 for elementary students are game-changers for their learning.

Choose a couple of these study skills for elementary students 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.

Happy teaching