Career Education - Learn about all careers, career pay salary, job outlook

What Kindergarten and Elementary School Teachers Do

Kindergarten and elementary school teachers prepare younger students for future schooling by teaching them the basics of subjects such as math and reading.


Kindergarten and elementary school teachers typically do the following:

Kindergarten and elementary school teachers act as facilitators or coaches to help students learn and apply important concepts. Many teachers use a hands-on approach, including props, to help students understand abstract concepts, solve problems, and develop critical thinking skills.

For example, they may show students how to do a science experiment and then have the students do the experiment. They may have students work together to learn how to collaborate to solve problems.

Kindergarten and elementary school teachers generally teach kindergarten through fourth or fifth grade. However, in some schools elementary school teachers may teach sixth, seventh, and eighth grade.

Kindergarten and elementary school teachers most often teach students many subjects, such as reading, science, and social studies, which students learn throughout the day.

Some teachers, particularly those who teach young students, may teach a multilevel class that includes children who would traditionally be in different grades. They may have the same group of students for several years.

Kindergarten and elementary school students spend most of their day in one classroom. Teachers may escort students to assemblies; to classes taught by other teachers, such as art or music; or to recess. While students are away from the classroom, teachers plan lessons, grade assignments, or meet with other teachers and staff.

In some schools with older students, teachers work in teams. These teachers often specialize in teaching one of two pairs of specialties, either English and social studies or math and science. Generally, students spend half their time with one teacher and half their time with the other.

Some kindergarten and elementary school teachers teach special classes, such as art, music, and physical education.

Some schools employ teachers of English as a second language (ESL) or English for speakers of other languages (ESOL). Both of these types of teachers work exclusively with students who are learning English, often referred to as English language learners (ELLs). The teachers work with students individually or in groups to help them improve their English skills and to help them with assignments they got in other classes.

Students with learning disabilities or emotional or behavioral disorders are often taught in traditional classes. Teachers work with special education teachers to adapt lessons to these students’ needs and monitor the students’ progress. In some cases, kindergarten and elementary school teachers may co-teach lessons with special education teachers. For more information, see the profile on special education teachers.

Some teachers maintain websites to communicate with parents about students’ assignments, upcoming events, and grades. For students in higher grades, teachers may create websites or discussion boards to present information or to expand on a lesson taught in class.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition