Teaching Elementary vs. Middle School—How Your Methods Should Differ

Teachers expect incoming students to have sufficient background knowledge of a subject so that they can begin expanding concepts and ideas for future lessons. With those expectations, it is equally important for teachers to understand how their students are evolving in order to provide a strong and effective learning experience.

Understanding the Shift Between Elementary School and Middle School

Not only are students changing grades, but their roles are starting to change—they are also learning about themselves. As students move from elementary to middle school, their individual responsibilities increase, school subjects become more complex and their interactions with their peers and teachers are in flux.

You’ll have to work with a set of behaviors that can oscillate between the two extremes for each school group. Students are going to change in multiple ways, and you should be prepared to embrace these changes.


The way you personally approach your students and present yourself plays a huge role in how students will perceive you. Elementary students may naturally be more inclined to admire you and get excited for your activities, since they already spend most of their time with you. On the other hand, middle schoolers might be less enthusiastic due to the many other changes occurring around them, such as adjusting to an entirely new school and a schedule where they switch teachers with every subject.  However, you might also have the chance to develop better connections with the students as individuals.

Classroom Management

Elementary school classrooms may be arranged to cultivate social interactions among classmates and showcase more visually stimulating decorations. Middle school classrooms may be more organized to accommodate efficiency and effectiveness with their lessons.

Lesson Planning

One of the biggest changes in approach will be how you design your lessons. Middle school lessons may be structured to provide more in-depth information or more challenging lessons. When working with elementary students, you may emphasize interactions and fundamentals.

While all students need to be engaged, middle schoolers may prefer more intellectual challenges, like classroom discussions, whereas elementary students may do best with more sensory activities.

Grading Systems

As students progress through the school system, so will their grading standards. Elementary classes focus more on participation and interaction to promote more excitement and impetus to learn. Middle school grading systems still emphasize class participation, but will require a heavier grading weight on tests and homework to ensure that there is a clear understanding of the subject.


At the end of the day, while it may be easy to lump students into categories based on their school level, it’s vital to tailor lessons based on the actual needs of our students. TCI has created an extensive science program for teachers looking to provide their students the most engaging education anywhere in the area. If you’re looking for science curriculum for elementary or middle school, TCI is here to help. Try our free 30 day trial today!