Do you know how do primary students learn

Mar 4, 2019Blog, teaching and learning0 comments

Student-focused teaching, centralizing in understand the students, is now growing so much in popularity. It is not only because it meets the need of the parents but also solves many problems in teaching, especially in primary level (Some of which we have outlined in our previous article here). Do you know how primary students learn? That is what we will attempt to explain this article.

It can be difficult to try to understand learning from the time most of us could not remember. Let’s be honest here, how much can you actually remember from the years of learning in primary school? We hope that this article would be somewhat useful to your understanding of how primary students learn. There are 2 main types of learning and development that occur at this age that we would like to touch on:




1. I get what I can see

During this age, how primary students learn are mainly through direct interaction with concrete physical objects in the world. One benefit of this process is that children learn quickly and many through interacting with objects. And they love it! Through these types of interaction, children began to understand the basic features of the natural world and of logical reasoning.

The downside of this is that children’s thinking will be limited to these ‘concrete’ things. They cannot seem to let go of what they know so far or able to reason about what they cannot see.

This can cause trouble in teaching them abstract subjects such as mathematics or unobservable natural processes. Visualization of these concepts hence can help the understanding of these subjects.


2. Eagerness in exploring

A typical trait in the learning style of primary students in these age groups is that they ask a lot of questions. And asking a lot of questions means one thing: curiosity. This is the results of two processes:

          1. More interaction with the world means more input thing to ask about 

          2. Cognitive development at this age has allowed children to think more about the world.

Thus, in primary school, students are constantly looking for answers for anything they get their mind on. Although they just developed this superpower of logical reasoning, this ‘power’ can be quite naïve. This naivety along with their eagerness about learning prompt children to accept answers, even illogical ones, quite readily. Therefore, answers given to children can stick with them for a long time. This further highlights the importance of teaching and explaining a concept at this level.


‘An example of this is how children readily believe that a white-beard human being can fit through a chimney, deliver gifts for everyone and live off only cookies and milk.’




3. Test drive

The chief learning power for children during these years is ‘trial-and-error’. It is through the feedback they gain from the environment (through – you guessed it – interacting with it) that help children improve on their beliefs of the world.

This also suggests how primary children love to learn is through a test drive. They enjoy the sense of ‘I can do this myself’ in learning. Hence, materials that use real-life relatable examples and encourage activities let children learn more efficiently.

For example, that is why many of the math homework we used to get involve banana, apple and oranges and so on. This is clearly based on teachers’ odd assumption that we used to have a close relationship with fruits.

Pattern and rules also give children this sense of autonomous satisfaction by letting them predict what happens next in the world.



4. Sensing the world

Just like us, children also possess all five senses and there is no reason stopping them from using all five to explore the world. Coincidentally, the combination of senses in learning, in return, help children learn better. Therefore, teaching materials that encourage the uses of all 5 senses can make learning more interesting!

One unexpected example for use of different senses is probably in literature. A study has shown that children who merely listen to literature can improve their language skill.

Another benefit of combining senses is developing creativity and different types of intelligence. For example, this could be the use of sounded subtitled videos for better learning in the classroom.


Maybe you are interested in:
» Visual aids for learning: Why they matter


Visual aids in Primary Education:
from understanding to applying

A 37-page eBook for primary teachers including:

- How to better understand primary students' learning 

- Tips to choosing the right teaching aids 

- Ultimate guide to design effective visual aids for teaching




5. The IMITATION game

Primary school students tend to love to pretend to be people they see. Thus, it is not uncommon to see they play the role of teachers in the made-up classroom full to doll students (or sometimes their unlucky younger siblings).

How primary children learn a lot about the world through imitating and seeing what others do. Based on the same curiosity that leads them to interact with things, they learn about other’s thoughts and feelings.

This is one of the reasons that animation can waltz right into their interest. Why? Because children feel they can relate and understand animated characters. In return, imitating these characters also allow them to learn more about other’s views of the world. Perhaps it is not quite accidental that there are so many young princesses and superheroes walk around on Halloween.

Marvel superheroes by F-studio

Hmm.… If only, we could use this animation method in teaching and learning?


6. Feeling belong in the classroom

An engaging and equal classroom can make the student feel belong and focused on learning

The need to feel belong in the classroom or a group is not specific to only children. Being humans, we are given this desire to belong!


But importantly, this relates back to the disciplinary problem we discussed here: When children don’t feel belong in the classroom, they would be more defensive and ‘rebellious’ rather than learning. It is the feeling of safety that let children engage more on in the lessons.

That is why creating an engaging and safe learning environment is the key to a productive learning session.


7. Me! Me! Me!

Children at this age look for themselves through others’ feedbacks. It is done by comparing with others and seeing others’ reacting to them. This is why teachers’ opinions at this level can form such a strong impact on children’s beliefs about themselves and their abilities.

A classroom that focuses on understanding and learning rather than only reward or punishment is very important.

Fun fact: before the age of 7, children believe they could do anything even when they previously failed before. Sometimes at the age of 8, children lose this ability and differ between effort and ability. Is there a way we could keep this belief of invincibility/’can-do’ in children longer than 8 years old?


Implications on teaching and learning

Now that we have some understanding of how primary students learn, what can this tell us about teaching in the classroom? Here are some of our suggestions:


  • Playtime is for only fun! Or is it? Lessons (and even rules) can be effectively delivered through the form of playing. Rules and lessons disguised as play can:
    • Allow children to learn naturally from experiences
    • Produce a rich understanding that can be built on later on
    • Engages better since children just like them better…


  • Let me tell you a story: is a great way to introduce a lesson. (They will never what hits them). Story-telling is a powerful teaching and learning tool because of it:
    • Lets children communicate their feelings and thoughts to you!
    • Helps them understand or learn abstract concepts better (especially language)
    • Encourages the development of memory and creative thinking


  • One apple plus one apple: is a form of relatable examples that is always effective! This is because allows relatability and visualization in children. And both of these promotes learning enormously.

  • Equal and appropriate support: Children learn differently but they all have this need to belong. Therefore, appropriate compliments are important in helping children reach their potentials. To succeed in this process, teachers first need to listen carefully and to know their students EXTRA well.


  • Encourage teamwork! This helps children improve their soft skills naturally through:
    • 1. understanding the ideas of others and
    • 2. Better communicate their own ideas to reach compromise.


  • Clarity and purposeful exercise: Since abstract concept a no-go. Children at this age prefer to be able to show a simplified concrete piece of information.


Read Further:
» Innovative teaching methods for in-class learning




By now, we hope that you have gained some interesting insights into the learning process of these young learners. Teaching primary school is, of course, no piece of pie but through passion, elementary teachers still do them so well for so many centuries. With the development of technology, teaching and learning can be more fun and efficient than ever before! To start diving into the world of technology, have a look at our quick list of innovative teaching tools right here.




Read Further:



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