Elementary Education

The Elements of Elementary Education

What, traditionally, are the fundamental “Three R’s?” of elementary education? Reading, Riting, and Rithmatic! Spelling obviously wasn’t one of those fundamentals. But the old-fashioned subject matter of elementary education is still very much alive in today’s scholastic world.

Consider the definition of the word “element.” According to the Encarta Dictionary, an element is a basic building-block upon which higher constructs are built. In the study of chemistry, hydrogen and oxygen are elements; basic chemicals that, when combined, form water. As it is in chemistry, so is it in the educational system. Elementary education, then, consists of the basic building-blocks upon which concepts of higher education are built. For example, it’s highly unlikely that you will successfully complete upper-level college course work and earn your Ph.D. if you never learned to read and write. Since our country’s educational system consists of grade levels, elementary school, or grade school, is the academic setting where a child learns the basics from which all other academic pursuits derive; reading printed material, writing using the American alphabet – printed and cursive - and simple arithmetic such as addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. A student will be unable to achieve success in studying algebra unless he/she can do simple arithmetic.

What Else Does Elementary School Encompass?

In addition to the traditional, all-important “Three R’s,” elementary education children also learn the basic skills of simple science, music, art, speech, and physical education. They learn, for example, the names of the creatures that dominated the earth for millions of years – the dinosaurs. They learn common, well-known songs like the national anthem and folk songs with just a bit of simple classical music that might spark their interest and cause them, as adolescents, to seek additional musical education by learning to play a musical instrument. In art classes, elementary education children are taught to identify the primary colors, and how these colors are mixed to create all the beautiful colors that are pervasive in our lovely world. Drawing, weaving, ceramics, and painting stimulates a child’s creative instincts. In elementary speech classes, children learn grammar, parts of speech e.g. nouns, verbs and adjectives, as well as simple theater and public speaking. Elementary school physical education not only provides activities that keep children active and motivated, but also teaches basic fitness, teamwork, and just plain fun in games of all sorts. Organized sports such as track and field events, slow-pitch softball and roller skating teach children about competition, self-discipline, and good sportsmanship.

In addition to academic elements, children in grades in an elementary education are also taught many valuable social skills that help them mature as each year passes. Concepts like helping others, sharing, taking turns, and good manners are essential elementary school components. Older children may act as tutors to first-graders struggling with spelling or addition. Art supplies are willingly shared among the class; selfishness is discouraged. Taking turns teaches patience and good comportment. Learning to speak with respect to elders and other students helps socialize children and increase their ability to “get along” in society. Sportsmanship helps elementary school students to strive for their “personal best,” yet teaches that jealousy and winning at any cost won’t serve them well when they reach adulthood.

Elementary education is the first step in a child’s academic and social life. Having one, but not the other, limits children in many ways; intelligence and academic success without socially appropriate interpersonal skills results in isolation and poor self-esteem. Similarly, it’s helpful for children to learn at an early age that social adeptness and popularity won’t help them, as adults, to succeed in employment settings where academic knowledge is a prerequisite. It is in elementary school that children begin to develop into well-rounded and contributing members of our society.

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