Independent Activities for Elementary School

Instructor: Clio Stearns

Clio has taught education courses at the college level and has a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction.

Helping students work toward independence is a big part of your job as an elementary school teacher. This lesson offers you some activities that your students can work on independently.

The Importance of Independence

As an elementary school teacher, you have many responsibilities for helping your students master academic skills and knowledge. At the same time, you're helping them grow and develop as whole person. One aspect of this growth has to do with developing independence. Students who are able to work, create things, and learn independently are well-equipped to be lifelong thinkers and learners.

The best way to move students toward independence is giving them activities they can reliably work on independently! A side benefit of independent activities is that they can free you up to work with small groups or individual children. The activities in this lesson help elementary school students develop their independence.

Literacy Activities

This section offers activities specifically oriented toward literacy alongside independence.

Recommend a Book

Ask your students to develop a habit of writing reviews or recommendations about books after they've read them. Whether your students are reading picture books or chapter books, their recommendations should offer brief summaries, things they liked or didn't like about the book, and suggestions about what kind of audience might especially appreciate the book. Have a place in the room where students can post the reviews they've written for others to read.

Reflective Journaling

It's a great idea to get your students in the habit of writing reflectively in journals about different learning experiences they have. Develop a list of questions they can always write in response to, such as:

  • What did you learn from this activity?
  • What would you do differently if you did this activity again?
  • What aspects of this activity did you especially like, and why?
  • Who would you recommend this activity to, and why?

Students can write their answers and other reflective thoughts independently in a journal and look back at their entries over time.

Picture Book Writing

Most elementary school students have some experience thinking of themselves as an author, and they also often love to draw. Have your students work independently over time to develop their own plans for picture books, then have them work gradually on the story and illustrations. Since it's a creative activity, they'll be able to be independent and not worry too much about getting it right.

Math Activities

These activities are independent ways students can develop their skills in different branches of mathematics.

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