Seven Things to Do in Elementary Every Day

No two days are alike in any elementary classroom. Students buzz with activity, moving in and out of projects and conversations like busy bees.

But there are ways to include some consistent (but not very time-consuming) activities each day that teach important skills and help establish the tone for work time. Here are my favorites.

1. Recite

This can be as simple as everyone reciting a pledge (like the Pledge of Allegiance) or having one student recite a poem. It can be the very first thing you do each day, as a signal that school time is starting.

2. Sing

I like to follow the recitation with a song. Since the American national anthem has some pretty high notes, I have used “My Country ‘Tis of Thee” successfully for years. But it can be any song, not just a patriotic song. You might want to ask children to suggest a song each day.

3. Write the date

One great way to teach the form and punctuation of writing dates is to have the children write them out every day. On a dry erase board, write the day’s date, like this: Today is Monday, August 31st, 2009.

This simple sentence teaches capitalizing rules (beginning of sentence, days, months), use of commas, end marks (period), ordinal numbers (adding “st” to “31”) and of course orients students to the current day, month, and year.

After it’s written on the dry erase board, have each student copy it down. Older children can write it in cursive. A month or so into the year, older children might want to actually be the ones to write the date on the board for their classmates.

4. Edit a sentence

Next to my small dry erase board for the date, I have a larger one where I write sentences, incorrectly, that the students must edit. While you can find books full of editing sentences at teacher stores, it’s easy enough to think of your own or get them from classroom materials or books.

For 1st grade: Write a short sentence and leave the beginning word un-capitalized and leave off the end mark (period, question mark, or exclamation point).

For 2nd grade: Write a medium-length sentence and include several un-capitalizations (beginning word of sentence, a proper name of some kind). Leave off the end mark and a comma or two. You can also misspell a word or two.

For 3rd grade on up: Anything goes. Leave out quotation marks, capitals, commas, and make any other mistakes you can think of.

The beauty of using a dry erase board for this is that it’s a) easy to change the sentences every day and it’s b) easy to edit.

To edit, ask the children, by grade, what mistakes they see and then have one or two children correct them with a different colored dry erase marker. Use conventional editing symbols – three lines under the missed capitals, add punctuation marks and circle them, circle misspelled words and spell them correctly near the misspelled word.

You don’t want them to erase the mistakes and just write the sentence correctly on the board. They’ll learn far more from seeing the corrected mistakes.

After the sentence is completely edited, have each child write the sentence for their grade level correctly on their paper.

5. A group presentation

While much of the work in Elementary is divided by age group or grade, there are always presentations given to the group. Sister Mary (my trainer) said it this way: “Math and language should be done by level; cultural presentations should be done for everyone.”

Make sure you are doing at least one group presentation every day. Nice ones for the beginning of the year are The First Great Lesson (coming of the universe), Parts of a Plant, the Continent Map, and Land and Water Forms.

Yes, this will be a review for the older students. But I find that each year they notice something new or are ready for a new level of information. As well, this kind of repetition solidifies the information they’ve already received.

6. Silent reading

I am a huge fan of reading of any kind, but I find that not much time is spent in silent reading. When introducing this kind of reading time, make it clear that students can pick their own reading materials as well as choose their own place to sit.

It’s tempting to use this time to straighten or prepare for lessons, but I find it very calming to sit down with the children and read during this time. It’s a great way to model the love of reading to them in a concrete way.

7. Reading aloud

I wish I knew where I had read this (it was years ago) but I remember reading a story of a principal put in charge of an at-risk school where grades and test scores were low. At the end of his first year, the students’ performance had improved dramatically.

Someone asked him what changes he made in the curriculum, and he shocked them when he said he hadn’t made any changes in the curriculum at all. Maybe he hired better teachers? No, he didn’t do that either.

What he did do was institute a 30-minute read aloud time at the end of each school day. He didn’t tell the teachers what to read, just that they had to read aloud to their classes for 30 minutes each day. That was it.

Most of us don’t see the results of reading aloud quite that dramatically, but we do know them to be true. I’ve outlines the benefits of reading aloud to children already, and I hope you’ll be able to implement that in your school time. Even once a week would be a good thing.

Hopefully you’ll find a way to work some of these ideas into your daily routines. Let me know what kind of results you see!

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17 Responses to “Seven Things to Do in Elementary Every Day”

  • Meredith said at September 1st, 2009 at 8:16 am :

    Lori, these are such great ideas! I love the sentence editing too, such a simple idea and yet brilliant :) Have a super year with your sweeties!!

  • Michelle Irinyi said at September 1st, 2009 at 9:47 am :

    I concur completely with what Sister Mary said in regards to presentations; I’ve been doing it this way for years!

    Nice job!

  • Lori Bourne said at September 1st, 2009 at 10:18 am :

    Thanks, ladies! I had fun writing this one. It reminded me of all the great things I love so much about teaching elementary.

  • Psmontessori said at September 1st, 2009 at 3:15 pm :

    I can’t read things like this bc it makes me want to be elementary trained! I simply don’t have the funds right now. One day, one day…

  • Debbie Pelissier said at September 1st, 2009 at 4:04 pm :

    It’s nice to see how many things on the list I already incorporate into my day. It makes me feel successful!

  • Beth Yates said at September 2nd, 2009 at 8:15 pm :

    I feel so much better now. I haven’t gotten all of these in every day, but am working towards this goal. Gotta love Sister Mary – She sure is a busy lady. Hopefully she is taking some well-deserved vacation time!

  • christy said at September 3rd, 2009 at 6:46 am :

    My class is going to get on a Group presentation right away, thanks!

  • Lori Bourne said at September 17th, 2009 at 7:16 am :

    Thanks for your comments, ladies! It’s always nice to know that the things you do without even realizing it are super important. Thanks for stopping by!

  • Evelyn said at October 10th, 2009 at 3:22 pm :

    Hola! soy docente de Nivel inicial, y este año me encuentro cursando el Profesorado de Primaria… y la verdad? me han parecido muy interesantes estas aportaciones!!!

    Siempre me ha gustado la enseñanza desde el metodo montessori, pero aqui en Argentina no es posible conseguir realizar algun curso on-line, y lamentablemente no puedo viajar. Por lo que esta pagina me ha resultado interesante!

  • Julie Purdie said at October 23rd, 2009 at 11:55 am :

    The teacher you probably read about who was a principal and instituted a 30 minute read aloud program was Ron Clark. He now has a school in Atlanta.

  • Lori Bourne said at October 25th, 2009 at 8:04 pm :

    Yes, Julie, thank you! That’s exactly who I was thinking of. Thanks for the reminder!

  • Susan said at December 21st, 2009 at 4:16 pm :

    I have surely enjoyed this, will start this on tomorrow in my childcare setting.
    Thanks!

  • Mylene Sararas said at December 30th, 2009 at 6:39 pm :

    Hey…this is AWESOME…..anything like this for the preschool classroom?

  • Lori Bourne said at December 30th, 2009 at 6:52 pm :

    Hi, Mylene! I don’t have anything like this for preschool, and with good reason. Preschool is more individualized, so you wouldn’t have the whole group doing activities like this. Of course, singing and poetry can be done at any age, so use those in preschool if they work for you.

  • Mylene Sararas said at January 1st, 2010 at 7:26 pm :

    Thanks…my co-workers enjoyed the article.

  • Javamom said at October 16th, 2013 at 10:41 am :

    As I am navigating through the Canadian elementary public school system, and I long for the days when they were enrolled in the Montessori pre-school daycare to return, I returned to your blog. If I’m unable/unwilling at the moment to pull my 3rd and 1st grader out to homeschool (for a variety of reasons) at least I can supplement their education with your help. I have been on your blog on and off for years and never regret a single minute spent reading here. :)

  • Lori Bourne said at October 16th, 2013 at 1:16 pm :

    Hi, Javamom! Thank you so much for your kind comment. I really love to hear that! We worked hard to make our blog a helpful resource, so we’re so glad to hear that it’s helpful!

    Take care,
    Lori