University Bootcamp

  • Elementary
Jill Woodruff

Last month, I shared 5 ways to incorporate college preparedness into the early elementary classroom.  If you missed my takeover of @ReadyWA's Instagram giving you an inside look of what it looks like in my own classroom, don't worry! You can still view most of my posts here. My school has adopted NEU's No Excuses University teachings, and through year 1 of its implementation, I am happy to share 5 killer strategies for incorporating college readiness into the upper elementary classroom by peeking into the classrooms of some of my colleagues.

1. Adopt a university or college to represent. This is probably the most popular of strategies because it simply involves decorating in appropriate school colors and other paraphernalia.  At our school, each classroom is a mini "college" and has their logo on their classroom door.  For some teachers, this is an easy theme to ground your classroom in.

Use any space you have in your classroom to create a "college corner," which might feature a dream board for your students to communicate about their life aspirations.  For fifth graders, they can display practice college application letters.  For fourth graders, maybe this college corner can feature a job application to their dream job.  For the littles, it may simply be a place where they announce a skill they excel at, which can later be tied to a career.


Door Decorated for University of Georgia

University of Georgia door at Gildo Rey Elementary


Wall Decorated for Arizona State University

Representing ASU at Gildo Rey Elementary

2. Learn the traditional college cheer (or make up a simplified version!)
It's not uncommon to hear me say "WE ARE..." and have my class chant back, "COLLEGE-BOUND!" Right after morning meeting, we have a series of chants that ground us in our day's behavior and class norms, including college-readiness.  We pretend to toss grad caps in the air and quietly transition back to our desks from the carpet.

In Mrs. Howell's classroom down the hall, her first graders sing UCLA's fight song before they transition to lunch.  In the intermediate wing, Mrs. Sutcliff's third graders proudly chant University of Oregon's football cheer to pump up before heading to recess.

Before going to see specialists, Mrs. Leverton's fifth graders chant "After high school COMES COLLEGE!" with a fun clap routine.

Perform your cheers at assemblies or over the intercom for weekly announcements to make it extra special. We feature one primary class and one intermediate class's cheer during each assembly.  The kids get so excited to "perform" even though it's usually 1 minute or shorter.

3. Email your college of choice and see if they are willing to donate any materials for your cause.  I was lucky to get 25 pennants from Pacific Lutheran University so that every year, my class can wave their little banners around proudly. Not all universities will send things, of course, but sometimes you get lucky! These third graders were fortunate to loop with their second grade teacher, who bought them all Beavers shirts to wear on Wednesdays for college spirit day.  She said she got them at a discount since it was for kids and in bulk, and had each parent send in $1 to help with the cost.  The kids leave their shirts at school and consider it a special treat to get to wear them on Wednesdays.  Which brings me to point number 4!

Students Wearing Oregon State Shirts

4. Add a weekly spirit day to class-- as simple as asking students to wear general college colors for your school. Not all classes have matching shirts, but it's pretty easy to ask everyone to wear black, or wear a neutral color and just make logos out of construction paper, laminate, and name badges.

Spirit days help to keep the idea of college present.  When we can't squeeze college talk into the curriculum every day, having a common element like matching colors helps the class feel united with a common goal.

5. Use social media to tag your elected college in a post made by your class and see how they respond.  My students are FIVE and they understand the power of Instagram.  When we tagged our class photo with #FutureLutes (for Pacific Lutheran University), their social media team shared our photo on their Twitter account which got many more views.  My students were amazed that they were "famous" on someone else's media. Not only do hashtags help you spread the word about your classroom, it also links kids and families to great resources about futures in college.

Some hashtags to try: #CollegeBound #CollegeReadiness #Future_______ (school mascot) #DiscoverU


I've got 5 MORE strategies to help create a college-bound culture within your classroom, but you'll have to wait until Friday's post to read them! Don't be shy-- leave me a comment and tell me what YOU do to promote college or career readiness in your classroom!





  • College and Career Readiness
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