Think back to when you were in elementary school. Can you remember what your favorite subjects were? Do you remember what you were curious about? When you ask a child in elementary school what they want to be when they grow up, you can see their eyes light up as they discuss the possibilities.

In a recent webinar, we discussed how educators have the opportunity to help students understand that recognizing personal interests can lead to best-fit education paths and careers. Hobsons works with schools to discover how college and career readiness fits into the elementary landscape. While developing Naviance for Elementary Schools, we identified key themes that encourage curiosity in elementary students of all ages. Here are six of those core themes:

  1. Start with Student Interests

Kristy Cunningham, a User Experience Designer at Hobsons, once worked with a third grade student who didn’t like to read, but in a couple weeks, he was found reading a Goosebumps book. The student later shared that he likes “spooky” books. This example is a reminder that when giving a student the option to explore a variety of books they can select one based on what they find to be intriguing.

Tip: Assist students with finding books related to career or college based on their personal interests.

  1. Encourage Expression

Kids desire to express themselves starting at an early age. These expressions can range from drawing to writing to discussion.

Tip: Offer a number of opportunities for students to experience different forms of expression.

  1. Tell Stories

Students of all ages enjoy stories. As they grow up, narrative becomes an important part of learning and expression. Telling different stories can help students picture themselves in career roles and discover new interests.

Tip: Check out the book, A Splash of Red: The Life and Art of Horace Pippin, by Jen Bryant to get started.

  1. Build Relationships

Believe it or not, adult relationships are very important to students. They rely heavily on relationships with us to understand how to be a part of a group. As adults in education, we can show students that a network of people, who can support them, exists.

Tip: Involve parents and community members in student’s school activities that require exploration – like career days or field trips.

  1. Provide Feedback

Positive feedback is also important to students. Detailed positive feedback will encourage a student that they are going in the right direction. Dr. Bruce Duncan Perry points to the word “don’t” as a curiosity killer. He encourages us to try different wording when providing feedback, such as ‘that is not a choice’, or remind them when and where that behavior is appropriate. For example, the host character featured in the Naviance for Elementary School platform says, “Oops! Try again” to encourage students along the way.

Tip: Try to not lead with “don’t” and rephrase your response(s). For example: “now is not the time for drawing,” or “how about writing your name at the top of the paper instead.”

  1. Give Respect

Kids need a balance of challenge and fun in order to feel respected. Children can quickly sense when an activity feels “babyish” to them. We have incorporated this into Naviance for Elementary School, by having two distinct look and feels for lesson activities based on their grade level. K-2 has more vibrant colors, while grades 3-5 have neutral colors to give off a vibe of maturity.

Tip: Carefully match a student’s age to the experience. You can incorporate these differences in your material and activities with your students.

As we reflect back to when we were in elementary school and what made us curious, we are ultimately one step closer to helping today’s learners. We encourage you to be curious, ask questions, and discover together with students.

Learn more by listening to the webinar here


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