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 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. 

Study Skills for Elementary Students

1. Acronyms & Mnemonics

Acronyms and mnemonics are two types of memorization techniques that help students recall word sequences.

Mnemonics

Mnemonics help students 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

You may have a few students who quietly sit on the carpet during the 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 students what active listening looks like.

With the overload of distractions in our environments today, this is one of those study skills 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.

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.

5. Create a Test

When framed from an “I get to be the teacher” standpoint, students love designing tests for their peers.

When making a quiz from material just learned, students reinforce the concepts to themselves because they’re synthesizing that knowledge to create something purposeful.

6. Designated Space

Support parents in setting up boundaries at home.

Early in the school year, communicate with parents about 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 study skills to 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 toward those that fit their unique learning styles.

8. Flashcards

Flashcards are a mainstay.

They’re useful for reviewing vocabulary terms, math facts, history dates ~ and just about anything that needs to be memorized.

If you find flashcards too boring for your class, try digital multiplication tables or Quizlet flashcards.

motivational notes for students for test prep

9. Grade Sheets

Grade sheets keep students accountable for their own work.

As the teacher, you’ll of course keep track of grades, but it’s a powerful thing 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.

10. Graphic Organizers

Graphic organizers are staples in most classrooms and pair well with almost any assignment.

They break 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, students 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 for reinforcing the main ideas of a selection.

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 students use to showcase every single point on a page.

13. Limiting Distractions

Cell phones, TVs, YouTube, and the Internet ~ distractions dominate our spaces.

It takes a lot of self-discipline to turn these things off, but there must be times when 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 these study skills will work effectively if students 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.

Incorporating growth mindset activities is a good idea.

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 students 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 when you want students to take notes.

Good notes…

  • tie to the gist of what the speaker is saying,
  • summarize the main points of the lesson,
  • use standard plus unique abbreviations, and
  • minimize 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, taking note of the 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 personal property.

19. Parent Partnerships

It takes parents and teachers working together to help students reach their full potential.

There is no denying the fact that when a parent positively involves herself in 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

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

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

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 student 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, a 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 it in.

I always said that to students as 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.

Explicitly teaching students how to review their work before submitting is underrated.

Rushing through work often leads to careless mistakes while simply being human means innocent errors are inevitable.

Prompt students to spend some time after completing an assignment looking for errors that they may have overlooked.

Also, ask them to evaluate their handwriting for legibility.

These habits will help to improve their work.

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, you skim/scan the menu.

When booking airline tickets, you skim to see the average price of tickets.

Upon hearing a sound signal on your phone, you 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.

Scanning and skimming definitely come in handy during standardized tests.

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 the grade level, consider 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 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 purposes will no doubt increase their understanding of whatever they’re studying.

See the 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 ability to master.

For students who procrastinate with getting assignments done and struggle to manage time, acquiring this study skill will greatly benefit them.

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 the list of mentor texts for reading workshop which includes books that help teach mental imagery.

Final Thoughts

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.