Elementary school teachers teach kindergarten through fifth or sixth grades, depending on your district.
Elementary school teachers teach kindergarten through fifth or sixth grades, depending on your district.

The United States requires that all teachers working in public elementary schools have four-year college degrees that cover a minimum of 24 credit hours of elementary education coursework, in addition to active teaching certification. The requirements for certification as a teacher vary from state to state. Whether you complete your licensing through a degree in elementary education or through a teaching program independent of your major, there are a few classes you are expected to take.

Methods of Teaching

A class covering methods of teaching is a core requirement for any prospective teacher who is considering specialization in a particular subject. The class focuses on the creation of lesson plans that are most effective in that area. A methods of teaching course in elementary school science, for example, would outline the curriculum covered in elementary level chemistry, astronomy and biology, and would provide instruction focusing on demonstrations and hands-on learning. A methods of teaching course in English, on the other hand, might illustrate the advantages of teaching through lecture or collaboration.

Educational Psychology

A course in educational psychology provides future elementary school educators with the tools necessary to understand how their students learn. Coursework focuses on psychological concepts and the theories involved in the learning process. After establishing a basic understanding of how the majority of elementary-aged students learn, the class will typically turn its focus toward strategies for dealing with educational psychologies outside of the described norm, preparing future teachers for a more diverse student body. Educational psychology typically focuses on the application of psychology, rather than the strict science. As one example, many young teachers think that modeling appropriate behavior around students is simply common sense. However, “modeling” is a component of social cognitive theory and can also be used as an effective deterrent to classroom bullying.

Cognition and Assessment

Classes that focuses on cognition and assessment help future instructors build on their understanding of educational psychology by providing a framework for grading. Since all students process information differently, no two students should be assessed identically. Future instructors learn about a variety of assessment techniques, including portfolios, demonstrations and standardized tests. The class focuses on how these assessment styles can be applied to the classroom, giving students of different cognitive backgrounds a fair and equal standard to be graded against.

Student Teaching

Student teaching is among the more practical aspects of a teacher’s college education. Through this course, elementary education majors are able to gain experience in the classroom while under the supervision of public school personnel. Students typically begin the class toward the end of the their educational training, regardless of program. Student teaching is a significant time investment, and prospective teachers should be aware that they’ll be expected to spend between four and seven hours on campus each school day.