Online Elementary Education Benefits

Elementary and high school education is perhaps the most important part of education in everyone’s life. It lays the foundation for any higher education, and trains the mind to have the aptitude to succeed in a competitive world. It helps the child to indentify the strengths and weaknesses and build on the strength. It also helps every individual to build a successful career in the area of interest. It is therefore necessary that every child gets the elementary and the high school education, much needed to succeed in life.

Sometimes, it is much more desirable for the child to complete this need through online education than attend schools. Geographical location, unavailability of transportation, or any such thing can be the reason for this. Online education might also be the first choice of many parents, due to the flexibilities it offers. Some highlights that child education through online school offers are listed below:

Online elementary education offers more choices to parents and the child than the traditional school setting. It allows the parents to choose a suitable teacher who can pay individual attention to their ward. It also allows the parents and the child to choose the best time to attend the school. Since classroom sessions and home works can be submitted online, the parents and the child can choose the most suitable time of the day to complete this activity.

Every child needs individual attention during the early years of education. This attention from teachers helps the child to obtain a more structured education suitable for individual needs and pace of learning. Online schools guarantee this individual attention to every child, since the instructor communicates exclusively with the child. This cannot happen more often in a traditional school setting.

Identifying the strengths and weaknesses of the child plays an important role in early education. Since online schools can provide undivided attention to the child, it is easier to identify this and help the child strengthen the skills. It is important to strengthen the weak subjects in the early education, so that there are no learning bottlenecks in the future. This is possible only through online education, because traditional schools have a compulsory and uniform curriculum. Online curriculum can be structured in a way suitable for every individual child, so that the curriculum concentrates on weaknesses to improve them.

Since online schools are very flexible, the child can have fun with other extracurricular activities that can improve the soft skills and social abilities. Learning in a less competitive environment, benefits the child to enjoy education without pressures associated with it.

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Elementary Classroom Rules and Management

Elementary classrooms can become better learning environments when teachers have rules, classroom management skills, and a belief that each child can be successful. Rules help create a predictable atmosphere that limit classroom disruptions and encourage children to use self-control. Children need to be taught that it is their responsibility to make appropriate choices and that they will be held accountable for their actions.

Teachers may decide to establish rules or allow their students to assist in formulating them. Teachers who involve their children in the rule making process contend that students are more likely to follow them. One way to involve students in forming rules is to have them brainstorm as a class or in small groups why they come to school and their goals for learning. Then ask them to name rules that will help them achieve their goals. Write their ideas on the board. If a child states a rule negatively, such as, “Don’t come to school late,” ask how it could be stated in a positive way. Below are some examples.
  • Come to school on time.
  • Bring what you need with you.
  • Listen to the teacher.
  • Follow directions.
  • Be kind to others.
  • Use manners.
  • Work hard.
  • Do your best.
  • Keep your hands and feet to yourself.
  • Follow playground rules.

Then assist them in consolidating their list into three to five basic rules, such as:
  • be prepared;
  • be respectful;
  • be productive; and
  • be safe.

After the rules are decided upon, you may want to have the students sign a copy of them and display them. Review and define each one as needed. Students are more likely to follow the rules if they are clearly stated and understood, and if classroom management procedures are in place and followed.

Some examples of procedures or routines that need to be explained, practiced often and followed consistently:
  • what to do upon entering the classroom;
  • what signal will be used to get their attention(see 25 Ways to Obtain Children’s Attention in a School Setting);
  • what to do when a signal is given;
  • what to do when it is group time;
  • what to do if they want to speak;
  • what to do if they need to use the restroom;
  • what to do if they need to sharpen their pencil;
  • what to do when they need help;
  • what to do when they are finished with their work;
  • how to line up;
  • how to walk in the hall;
  • what to do in the cafeteria;
  • what to do if a visitor is in the classroom;
  • what to do if the teacher is not in the room;
  • what to do when the fire alarm rings; and
  • what to do before being dismissed.

In addition, listing the schedule for the day helps children know what to expect.

Here is an example of a teacher’s management plan for individual students:

First infraction: Name on board.

Second: Student writes down the rule that he/she broke.

Third: Student looses ten minutes of recess

Fourth: A parent is called or a note is sent home for the parent to sign and return.

Fifth: The student is sent to the principal.

When deemed appropriate provide choices. For example: if a child does not stay on task and complete his work, you could say, “Do you want to finish it during free time or recess?” Or, if a child is being disruptive, you could say, “Would you like to sit in the “thinking” chair or at your desk with your head down?” (see “Love and Logic Basics”). When given a choice, students tend to feel respected and are more likely to comply. However, allow only a short time for the choice to be made and if the child does not choose, make the choice for him/her. As much as possible, have the consequence directly relate to the offense.

After deciding what rules and management procedures you will use, discuss consequences for broken rules. However, allow yourself some flexibility. Consequences for inappropriate behavior need to focus on helping a child learn from his/her mistakes. At times you may want to meet with a child alone and ask him what you could do to help him make constructive choices. Then listen, share thoughts with your student and develop a plan of action.

An idea for classroom management is to put a word on the board such as “responsibility.” When the class does well, a letter is underlined in red, and when they are off task, the red underline is deleted for one letter. When the whole word is underlined in red, the class earns a privilege such as a theme day or viewing a movie. Having the children brainstorm and vote on ideas of what they would like to receive for their exemplary behavior can foster their desire to follow the rules.

A management plan for group work is to divide the children into teams of four or five students. Review what is expected and give each team points for listening to instructions, being respectful toward each other, completing the assignment, etc. After keeping track of the points for a week, the team with the most points could earn extra recess, lunch with the teacher or free time. Start the point system over again the following week.

Signals that a child or students need to be on task include: staring, frowning, shaking your head, standing close, holding your finger or hand a predetermined way, or placing a child’s name on the board. Making a check on the board may signify a consequence such as the class losing five minutes of recess.

Positive consequences for appropriate behavior or exceptional effort also need to be used to reinforce constructive actions. Examples are: specific verbal recognition (see Effective Praise), certificates, handshakes, high fives, thumbs up, smiles, and earned privileges such as getting to eat with a friend from another class or being the teacher’s assistant. Other acknowledgments could be computer, homework or library passes, or a positive phone call or note sent home to a parent. When an entire class has done exceptionally well on a test or project, provide a fun activity like playing games or having a special snack (see Rewards in the Classroom).

Teachers need to anticipate and deal with problem behaviors before they escalate. When teachers enforce a classroom management plan and rules, as well as build a positive relationship with their students, the children will more likely develop self-discipline and learning will take place.

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Cognitive Development in Elementary School Kids

Every child will have cognitive development, which helps them master certain skills. From infancy, children will learn how to master certain cognitive skills like sitting, walking, talking, and other developmental milestones. The cognitive skills your child learns are directly related to their ability to solve problems. They will be able to perform math equations, read, write, and communicate with adults. Along with cognitive development comes social development, speech and language development, and motor skills development.

Like infants, elementary-aged children encounter developmental milestones. They develop certain skills within a designated time frame as other children their age. The skills they learn are in a sequential manner, meaning they need to understand numbers before they can perform a mathematical equation. Each milestone that your child develops builds upon the previous milestone they achieved. Up until age 8, a child's brain is considered a "super computer" because it is learning new skills at a rapid pace. Once they reach the age of 8, the skills they learn start to level off and it usually is a steady increase of new skills. Developmental charts help doctors predict when children will reach certain milestones. Your child's doctor will be able to discuss the typical time frame for reading skills to develop and improve and they can provide you with tips on how you can help your child's cognitive development.

Every child is different and many encounter milestones at a different age. If your child is a little behind other children their age, spend some extra time working with them. Help them to improve their problem solving abilities by creating problems they encounter with everyday life. Don't push your child too hard, or else you will just be adding to their stress level. Each child develops at their own pace, just because it took them 3 months longer to learn how to walk than other children their ages doesn't mean they will be behind those children with their cognitive development. Your child's doctor will give you a handout with information about the different time blocks when your child should meet certain milestones. If your child can understand numbers, it won't be long before they will be able to perform mathematical equations.
Your child's cognitive development will depend on the environment they live in and their genes. Genes are passed onto your child by you and they act as a blueprint for the different characteristics they posses. Genes determine certain things with children, like if they will be right-handed or left-handed. The environment you raise your child in will also improve or harm their cognitive development. Children that live in poverty often have a harder time with their cognitive development because they are unable to reach their IQ potential due to poor schooling and home life.

Sending your child to school is not enough to help them learn the problem-solving skills they need. You do not need to go buy special toys or video-gaming systems that encourage learning. The best thing you can do for your child is to sit down and learn with them. There are simple every-day activities you can do with your child that will help their cognitive development, here are a few:

* Give your child attention. Raise them in an environment where there is love and respect for one another. Hug your child and let them know how much they mean to you. Children that are loved are less-likely to develop behavioral problems and they typically do better in school.
* Talk to your child often. Play with them, eat dinner with them, and read with them everyday. Create a routine for your child when they are infants and stick to it. Keeping a routine in place will help your child understand boundaries and rules. Children need structure in order to be healthy and feel secure.
* Reading with your children everyday will encourage your child's vocabulary skills. Have your child select books from the library and have them read to you. Encourage them to sound out words they do not understand and help them build upon their reading skills.
* Do not allow your children to play video games or watch a lot of television during the school-week. Limit their exposure to the television and turn it off at least 2 hours before bedtime. Over-exposure to television and entertainment devices is detrimental to your child's cognitive development and it can cause sleep depravation.

Elementary-aged children are curious about the world and they like to learn new things. Give them time and allow them to share the new things they are learning. You can help your child's cognitive development by answering their complex questions about the world. It is normal for older elementary-aged children to question other people's opinions, especially since they are gaining information outside the home. It is important to discuss things with your child on a regular basis. Encourage them to share their ideas and opinions, as this promotes bonding. You need to talk to them about things they may encounter at school, including smoking, drinking, and sexual activity. Keeping open communication with your child at a young age will help them come to you when they have difficult challenges later in life.

Try picking your child up from school and listening to the things they learned at school. Spend some time around the table and actively listen to them. Ask them open-ended questions to promote them to think and talk to you more. Treat your child with respect and do not interrupt them when they are talking. Help them learn how to carry on a developed conversation by asking more questions about the things they are telling you.

Provide them with activities that promote growth year-round. Even though they may not attend school during the summer, they still need to be challenging their mind. Offer activities that promote communication skills and problem-solving skills. Consider enrolling them in summer camps where they can learn new things with their friends or relatives. Always take time to sit down and work on mathematical problems together. Help your child understand how to do a problem and help them think through it so they can perform well in school.

During the summer, go to the library with your child and select some books that are slightly above their competency level. This will encourage them to work harder and it will prepare them for the upcoming school year. Children need a loving, friendly environment to succeed. Constantly encourage them to try hard and praise them for their accomplishments. Elementary-school years are vital years for self-esteem. Telling your child you love them and showing them you support them can make a huge difference in their lives.

Some children have behavioral problems due to part of their cognitive development. These children may have difficulties learning the skills that other children their age are learning. If you suspect your child is behind in their cognitive development, speak to their doctor. You may be able to enroll them in after-school programs that help them with their homework and help them catch up to the rest of the class. Some children will act out with behavioral problems like temper tantrums, anger, violence, withdrawing, and other things. Watch your child's behavior to make sure they are not having behavioral issues.

An easy way to help your child's cognitive development is to challenge them with new mathematical problems and new words. Introducing new vocabulary can help their cognitive development and expand their vocabulary. Many children will actually be able to understand more concepts than they are able to express. By taking the time to teach your child new words, you can help them avoid frustrations that come with being unable to express what they are feeling. Teaching your child new words will also help them become more sophisticated. Elementary-aged children should be able to receive directions and follow them without them being repeated. They should also be able to remember past events and tell them in a logical order. Encourage your child to tell stories and share some of your stories with them.

Attend parent-teacher conferences and talk to your child's teacher about their problem-solving and language skills. Children that have problems with language comprehension normally are at risk for academic difficulties. If your child has problems speaking, take them to a speech-language therapist. They will be able to set goals for your child and help them overcome language barriers. You must also take time to spend with your child and help them work on their speech skills.

Your child's school will recommend your child for different tests if they suspect a learning disability. Some children have hearing problems and that directly impacts their ability to learn. Many children suffer from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, a condition that impairs their ability to pay attention. These children also have a hard time retaining information. You should always take your child to their well-child visits each year and have their doctor test them for their cognitive development. You and your doctor can create a routine for your child that will help them develop properly and learn all the skills they need in order to continue advancing.


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Check Your Brain, Right Brain Dominant or Left Brain

Ravi and Rakesh were friends. But they were complete opposites. Ravi liked the detail in everything: he was excellent in organising, planning and taking care of the nitty-gritty. He was analytical and processed information in a sequential way. He was good at math and spellings as well. Rakesh, on the other hand, was more holistic. He saw the whole and not the parts. He loved the arts, dreamt a lot, was intuitive, emotional, creative, visual, musical, lateral, unorganised and spontaneous.

What made them different was the way their brains were wired. Ravi’s left-brain was dominant and Rakesh’s right.

The part of the brain that controls rational functions, the cerebral cortex, is made up of two halves. These are connected by masses of nerve fibres, which allow 'messages' to pass between them. These halves are commonly called the right brain and left brain, but should more correctly be termed 'hemispheres'. For some reason, our right and left hemispheres control the 'opposite' side of our bodies: so the right hemisphere controls our left side while the left hemisphere controls the right side.

The concept of right brain and left brain thinking developed from the research in the late 1960s of an American psychobiologist Roger W Sperry. He discovered that the human brain has two very different ways of thinking. One (the right brain) is visual and processes information in an intuitive and simultaneous way, looking first at the whole picture then the details. The other (the left brain) is verbal and processes information in an analytical and sequential way, looking first at the pieces then putting them together to get the whole. Sperry was awarded a Nobel Prize in 1981.

If you analyse your personality, you will be able to identify with the Ravis or Rakeshs of the world. Having said that, it is important to know which side of your brain is dominant and what kind of a person you are.

Here’s an easy test to check if you are predominantly right or left-brain. Clasp your hand together and check out which thumb is uppermost. Left-brainers will keep their left thumb up and right-brainers will keep their right.

Learning and thinking processes are enhanced when both sides of the brain participate in a balanced manner. This would mean strengthening the less-dominant hemisphere of your brain. The ancients knew this very well and designed rituals to aid the process. Do you know how? Have you observed how Hindus pray to Lord Ganpati? They cross their hands below the chin and hold their ear lobes (the right earlobe held by the left thumb and index finger, and the left one by the right thumb and index finger), and bend down a couple of times as if asking for forgiveness.

The traditional explanation to this ritual is as mentioned – “asking forgiveness for the sins committed.” But the actual meaning is far deeper. This ritual is a technique to balance the right and left brain hemispheres of the brain. The right ear lobe corresponds to the left brain and the left ear lobe corresponds to the right brain. When the right ear lobe is gently squeezed with the left thumb and left index finger with the thumb outside, it is said to produce the necessary energy connection. This connection causes the left brain and pituitary gland to become energized and activated. Ditto with the other side. For energizing and activating both hemispheres, the left arm must be inside, while the right arm must be outside. In the west, this simple ritual that has been followed for eons in India, is being called Super Brain Yoga.

There is a lot of meaning to many rituals that have been handed down to us by our ancestors. All it needs on our part is to analyse it and understand the true meaning for which it was originally created.


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All About Elementary Education in the United States

Elementary schools exist worldwide as the basic foundational institution in the formal educational structure. Elementary schooling, which prepares children in fundamental skills and knowledge areas, can be defined as the early stages of formal, or organized, education that are prior to secondary school. The age range of pupils who attend elementary schools in the United States is from six to twelve, thirteen, or fourteen, depending on the organizational pattern of the particular state or school district. While a few, mainly small rural, districts, retain the traditional pattern of grades one through eight, a more common pattern is grades one through six. In most school districts as well as in many teacher preparation programs, elementary education is organized into the following levels: primary, which includes kindergarten and grades one, two, and three; intermediate, which includes grades four, five, and six; and upper, which includes grades seven and eight. A commonly found organizational pattern places grades seven and eight, and sometimes grade six and nine, into middle or junior high schools. When the middle school and junior high school pattern is followed, these institutions are usually linked into secondary education, encompassing grades six through twelve.

In comparing elementary schools in the United States with those of other countries, some distinctions in terminology are necessary. In the United States, elementary education refers to children's first formal schooling prior to secondary school. (Although kindergartens, enrolling children at age five, are part of public schools, attendance is not compulsory.) In school systems in many other countries, the term primary covers what in the United States is designated as elementary schooling. In American elementary schools, the term primary refers to the first level, namely kindergarten through grades one, two, and three.

The elementary school curriculum provides work in the educational basics–reading, writing, arithmetic, an introduction to natural and social sciences, health, arts and crafts, and physical education. An important part of elementary schooling is socialization with peers and the creating of an identification of the child with the community and nation.

History of Elementary Education in the United States

The European settlers in the North American colonies, in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, initially recreated the school systems of their homelands. They established a two-track school system in which the lower socioeconomic classes attended primary vernacular schools and upper class males attended separate preparatory schools and colleges. The primary schools–elementary institutions under church control–offered a basic curriculum of reading, writing, arithmetic, and religion.

Colonial period. While many similarities existed in the colonial schools, there were some important differences between New England, the Mid-Atlantic, and the South. The New England colonies of Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New Hampshire, which were settled primarily by Puritans, were characterized by a strong sense of religious and social conformity. Because of their Calvinistic emphasis on reading the Bible and other religious literature, the Puritans quickly established elementary schools. In 1642 the Massachusetts General Court, the colony's legislative body, made parents and guardians responsible for making sure that children were taught reading and religion. In 1647 the General Court enacted the Old Deluder Satan Act, which virtually established elementary education by requiring every town of fifty or more families to appoint a reading and writing teacher. Massachusetts and the other New England colonies developed the town school, a locally controlled, usually coeducational elementary school, attended by pupils ranging in age from six to thirteen or fourteen. The school's curriculum included reading, writing, arithmetic, catechism, and religious hymns. The model of the town school, governed by its local trustees or board, became an important feature of later U.S. elementary schooling.

The Middle Atlantic colonies of New York, New Jersey, Delaware, and Pennsylvania were settled by diverse ethnic and religious groups. In addition to English, Scots, and Scotch-Irish, there were Dutch in New York, Swedes in Delaware, and Germans in Pennsylvania. The Middle Atlantic colonies' religious and language diversity had important educational implications. Elementary schools were usually parochial institutions, supported and governed by the various churches.

In the southern colonies–Maryland, Virginia, the Carolinas, and Georgia–enslaved Africans were used as forced labor on the plantations. Wealthy families employed private teachers or tutors to educate their children. Enslaved Africans were trained to be agricultural workers, field hands, craftspeople, or domestic servants, but they were legally forbidden to learn to read or write. There were some notable exceptions who learned to read secretly.

Early national period. After the establishment of the United States as an independent nation, the earliest U.S. federal legislation relating to education was included in the Northwest Ordinance of 1785. The ordinance divided the Northwest Territory into townships of thirty-six square miles, and each township was subdivided into thirty-six 640-acre sections. Each township's sixteenth section was to be used to support education. Unlike constitutions or basic laws in other nations, the U.S. Constitution, ratified as the law of the land in 1789, did not refer specifically to education. The Tenth Amendment's "reserved powers" clause (which reserved to the states all powers not specifically delegated to the federal government or prohibited to the states by the Constitution) left education as a responsibility of each individual state.

During the early national period, the first half of the nineteenth century, American leaders, such as Thomas Jefferson (1743–1826), argued that the United States needed to develop republican schools that were different from those found in the European monarchies. Jefferson's "Bill for the More General Diffusion of Knowledge," introduced in the Virginia legislature in 1779, would have made the state responsible for providing both girls and boys with a basic elementary education, in a local ward school, at public expense. Although not enacted, Jefferson's bill had an important influence on later developments.

The movement to establish an American version of elementary education was promoted by Noah Webster (1758–1843), who sought to create an American version of the English language and instill an American identity into the young through language instruction. Webster's American Spelling Book and American Dictionary were widely used in schools.

The movement to common or public schools. In the 1830s and 1840s, several Western nations began to develop national elementary or primary school systems that were intended to augment or replace the existing church-controlled institutions. In France, Francois Guizot, the Minister of Education in the regime of Louis Philippe, promoted national elementary schools. In the United States, with its historic tradition of local and state control, the movement to establish public elementary schools was not national but carried on in the various states.

Before public elementary schools were established, attempts were made in the United States to establish various kinds of philanthropic elementary schools, such as the Sunday and monitorial schools. The United Kingdom, a leading industrial nation, also experimented with these approaches to primary education. The Sunday school, developed by Robert Raikes, an English religious leader, sought to provide children with basic literacy and religious instruction on the one day that factories were closed. In both the United States and the United Kingdom, Sunday schools were established in the larger cities.

Monitorialism, also known as mutual instruction, was a popular method of elementary education in the early nineteenth century in the United Kingdom, the United States, and other countries. Two rival English educators, Andrew Bell, an Anglican churchman, and Joseph Lancaster, a Quaker teacher, promoted monitorialism independently. The monitorial method relied heavily on monitors–more advanced pupils, trained by a master teacher–to teach younger children. Monitors aided teachers in conducting classes, taking attendance, and maintaining order. In using this method, the master teacher trained a selected group of older students as monitors in a particular skill, such as adding single-digit numbers or reading simple words. These monitors then taught that particular skill to subgroups of less advanced pupils. Since the monitorial method promised to teach large numbers of pupils basic literacy and numeracy skills, it gained the support of those who wanted to provide basic elementary education at limited costs.

Initially, monitorial schools were popular in the larger American cities such as New York and Philadelphia, where they were typically supported by private philanthropists and occasionally received some public funds. In the early 1840s monitorial schooling experienced a rapid decline and virtually disappeared. By the time that the New York Free School Society, which had operated monitorial schools, turned them over to the public school system in 1853, more than 600,000 children had attended its schools.

The common school. The common school movement refers to the establishment of state elementary school systems in the first half of the nineteenth century. The term common meant that these state-supported public elementary schools, exalted as the school that "educated the children of all the people," were open to children of all socioeconomic classes and ethnic and racial groups. Nevertheless, many children, particularly enslaved African Americans, did not attend.

Not a selective academic institution, the common school sought to develop the literacy and numeracy needed in everyday life and work. Its basic curriculum stressed reading, writing, spelling, arithmetic, history, and geography. Emphasizing American patriotism and Christian piety, it was regarded as the educational agency that would assimilate and Americanize the children of immigrants.

The common school movement in the United States paralleled some trends taking place in western Europe in the first half of the nineteenth century. In the 1830s the British parliament, though not creating a state school system, began to provide grants to educational societies for primary schooling. In France, under Guizot, a primary school system, too, was established during the regime of Louis Philippe. These transnational trends, found in Europe and America, indicated that governments were beginning to take the responsibility for providing some kind of elementary schooling. Unlike in France, which was beginning to create a highly centralized national educational system, U.S. public schools were decentralized. The U.S. Constitution's Tenth Amendment reserved education to each state. The states, in turn, delegated considerable responsibility for providing and maintaining schools to local districts. Even within a particular state, especially on the frontier where many small school districts were created, resources available for schooling varied considerably from district to district.

The common school movement scored its initial successes in New England, particularly in Massachusetts and Connecticut. Massachusetts, in 1826, required every town to elect a school committee to provide and set policy for the local schools. The Massachusetts legislature established the first state board of education in 1837. It named Horace Mann (1796–1859), an eloquent spokesman for common schooling, as its secretary. Mann, as editor of the Common School Journal and a popular orator, gained considerable support for public schools.

Other northern states emulated New England's common school model. As the frontier moved westward and new states joined the Union, they, too, followed the model and passed laws to create public elementary school systems. In the South, with a few exceptions, common schools were rare until the post–Civil War Reconstruction.

A unique feature in the United States was the small one-room school, found in rural areas and small towns across the country. These schools served local school districts, governed by elected boards. Although small one-room village schools existed in other countries, the American ones were local creations rather than impositions of a national government. The American school's immediacy to its people made the local school a trusted institution rather than an alien intruder into small town life. In contrast, the teacher in France might be suspected as an outsider, a representative of the intrusive central government. Similarly, in tsarist Russia, the zemstvo school, established in the villages, was often extraneous to the needs of life in the countryside. The zemstvo teachers often were not accepted by the peasants whose children they tried to teach or were regarded as rivals of the village priest. In America's one-room schools, the elected school board determined the tax levy and hired and supervised the teacher. This pattern of local control contrasted with the visiting school inspectors sent to inspect teachers and schools in France or even with the royal inspectors in the United Kingdom.

The pupils enrolled in the local one-room schools, often ranging in age from five to seventeen, studied a basic curriculum of reading, writing, arithmetic, history, geography, grammar, spelling, and hygiene. They were instructed by the recitation method in which each pupil stood and recited a previously assigned lesson. Group work might include writing exercises, arithmetic problems, and grammar lessons that stressed diagramming sentences. The values of punctuality, honesty, and hard work were given high priority.

African-American and Native American elementary education. The Civil War, Reconstruction, and the Thirteenth Amendment ended slavery in the United States. Although a small number of free blacks had attended elementary school in some northern states before the war, southern slave states had prohibited instruction of African-American children. After the Civil War, the U.S. Congress, in 1865, established the Freedmen's Bureau, which established elementary schools for the children of former slaves. By 1869 more than 114,000 students were attending bureau schools. Many bureau schools functioned until 1872 when the bureau ceased operations.

In the late nineteenth century, the federal government, assisted by well-intentioned but often misguided reformers, sought to "civilize" Native Americans by assimilating them into white society. From 1890 to the 1930s the Bureau of Indian Affairs, in a policy of forced assimilation, relied heavily on boarding schools, many of which contained elementary divisions. Seeking to remove Native American youngsters from their tribal cultures, the students, forbidden to speak their native languages, were forced to use English. The boarding schools stressed a basic curriculum of reading, writing, arithmetic, and vocational training.

Nonpublic elementary schools. In addition to the public elementary school, the United States also has private elementary schools, many of which are church-related. Today, nonpublic schools enroll about 11 percent of the pupils in U.S. schools. Roman Catholic parochial schools, serving the children of a particular parish, represent the largest number of private elementary schools. Evangelical and fundamentalist Christian schools are the fastest growing sector in nonpublic elementary education.

Goals of Elementary Schools

Elementary schools in the United States, as in other countries, have the goals of providing children with fundamental academic skills, basic knowledge, and socialization strategies. They are key institutions in instilling a sense of national identity and citizenship in children.

In the United States, elementary schools prepare children to use language by teaching reading, writing, comprehension, and computation. Elementary schools worldwide devote considerable time and resources to teaching reading, decoding, and comprehending the written and spoken word. The stories and narratives children learn to read are key elements in political and cultural socialization, the forming of civic character, and the shaping of civility and behavior. Throughout the history of American education, the materials used to teach reading exemplified the nation's dominant values. For example, the New England Primer, used in colonial schools, stressed Puritanism's religious and ethical values. Noah Webster's spelling books and readers emphasized American national identity and patriotism. The McGuffey Readers, widely used in late nineteenth century schools, portrayed boys and girls who always told the truth, who worked diligently, and who honored their fathers and mothers and their country. McGuffey values were reinforced by the American flag, which hung at the front of elementary classrooms, flanked by portraits of Presidents Washington and Lincoln. The "Dick and Jane" readers of the 1930s and 1940s depicted the lifestyle and behaviors of the dominant white middle class. Contemporary reading books and materials portray a much more multicultural view of life and society.

The language of instruction in elementary or primary schools is often highly controversial in many countries, especially in multilingual ones. The ability to use the "official" language provides access to secondary and higher education and entry into professions. In such multilanguage nations as India, Canada, and Belgium, protracted controversies have occurred over which language should be the official one. In the United States, the dominant language of instruction in public schools has been English. The children of non-English-speaking immigrants were assimilated into American culture by the imposition of English through the elementary school curriculum. The later entry of bilingual education in the United States was an often controversial educational development, and remains so in the early twenty-first century.

Along with the development of language competencies, elementary education prepares children in the fundamental mathematical skills–in counting, using number systems, measuring, and performing the basic operations of adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing. Further, the foundations of science, social science, health, art, music, and physical education are also taught.

Curriculum and Organization

In the United States at the primary level, the first level of organization, the curriculum is highly generalized into broad areas such as language arts or life sciences. It gradually becomes more specialized at the intermediate and upper grade levels into more specific subjects. Because of the generality of the elementary curriculum, especially at the primary and intermediate levels, there is likely to be a greater emphasis on methods and styles of teaching in elementary schools in the United States than in primary schools in other countries. For example, U.S. teachers, in their professional preparation and classroom practices, are more likely to emphasize the process of learning, inquiry skills, and social participation than teachers in other countries. Instruction in many other countries tends to be more oriented to specific skills and subjects. While elementary or primary classrooms in the United States and in other countries are likely to be self-contained, the American teacher generally has more autonomy and is not concerned with visitations by outside government inspectors.

The typical U.S. elementary school curriculum is organized around broad fields such as language arts, social studies, mathematics, and the sciences. The essential strategy in this approach is to integrate and correlate rather than departmentalize areas of knowledge. Curricular departmentalization often begins earlier in some other countries such as Japan, China, and India than in the United States.

The language arts, a crucial curricular area, includes reading, handwriting, spelling, listening, and speaking. It includes the reading and discussing of stories, biographies, and other forms of children's literature. Here, the U.S. emphasis on reading and writing is replicated in other countries. The methods of teaching language, however, vary. In the United States, the teaching of reading is often controversial. Some teachers and school districts prefer phonics; others use the whole language approach or a combination of several methods such as phonics and guided oral reading.

Social studies, as a component of the U.S. elementary curriculum, represents a fusion and integration of selected elements of history, geography, economics, sociology, and anthropology. It often uses a gradual, step-by-step method of leading children from their immediate home, family, and neighborhood to the larger social and political world. While the U.S. approach to social education has been subject to frequent redefinition and reformulation, its defenders argue that the integration of elements of the various social sciences is a more appropriate way to introduce children to society than a strictly disciplinary approach. Critics, some of them educators from other countries, argue that American students lack the structured knowledge of place that comes from the systematic teaching of geography as a separate discipline or the sense of chronology that comes from the study of history.

Like social studies, science in the elementary curriculum consists of the teaching of selected and integrated concepts and materials from the various natural and physical sciences rather than a focus on the specific sciences. Frequently, science teaching will stress the life and earth sciences by way of field trips, demonstrations, and hands-on experiments. Critics contend that the elementary science curriculum in the United States is too unstructured and does not provide an adequate foundational base of knowledge. Defenders contend, however, that it is more important for students to develop a sense of science as a process and mode of inquiry than to amass scientific facts.

The main part of the elementary curriculum is completed by mathematics, with an emphasis on basic computational skills–addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, measuring, and graphing. The curriculum also includes health concepts and practices, games, safety, music, art, and physical education and fitness, which involves the development of motor skills.

As children in the United States progress from the primary to the intermediate grades, the emphasis on reading continues but changes from stories to more informational narratives. The goal is to develop students' interpretive skills as well as to continue to polish the basic decoding skills related to mechanics and comprehension that were stressed in the primary grades. The broad fields of the curriculum–social studies, mathematics, and science–are pursued but now become more disciplinary.

Depending on the particular organizational pattern being followed, the upper grades–six, seven, and eight–offer a more specialized and differentiated curriculum. Subject matters such as English, literature, social studies, history, natural and physical sciences, and mathematics are taught in a more differentiated way. In addition to the more conventional academic subjects, areas such as vocational, industrial, home arts, career, sex, and drug abuse prevention education appear, especially in the upper grades and in junior high and middle schools.

At the beginning of the twenty-first century, curriculum is being shaped by an emphasis on subject-matter competencies in English, mathematics, and basic sciences. Computer literacy, computerassisted instruction, and other technologies in school programs reflect the nation's transition to a high-tech information society.

The Standards Movement

The standards movement, which gained momentum in the late 1990s, has required more standardized testing in U.S. elementary education. Standards advocates argue that academic achievement can be best assessed by using standardized tests to determine whether students are performing at prescribed levels in key areas such as reading and mathematics. Most of the states have established standards and require testing in these areas. Strongly endorsed by U.S. President George W. Bush, the standards approach was infused into the federal No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. The act requires that, in order to receive Title I funds, states and school districts must develop and conduct annual assessments in reading and mathematics in grades three through eight. Opponents of the standards movement argue that it is based on a narrow definition of education that encourages teachers to teach for the test rather than for the development of the whole child.


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