It is back-to-school time and while it is hard to let go of the lazy days of summer, we have to get into the mindset of schedules, earlier bedtimes, homework hassles with the kids. Most of all, we need to be in the mindset of supporting our children in their learning experiences at school. Wanting to get the inside scoop, I consulted my friend and elementary educator Becky for her opinion on the top ten secrets to help you succeed this year in school.
Secret #1 – Tune-up Keyboarding Skills
The shift to Common Core Standards in most states has meant that students will undergo new year-end assessments this year. The assessments are computer-based (unlike the former paper-pencil tests) and require students to have mastered basic keyboarding, scrolling down, selecting items, and using drop-down boxes. These concepts are often difficult for younger elementary-aged students. Extra practice at home will put your child in a great position to do his/her best!
Secret #2 – It’s all about “Why”
A big difference between many states’ standards and Common Core standards is an emphasis on analytical thinking. Students are expected to not only determine correct answers, but explain why they are correct. Looking for ways to help your child practice these skills? When asking a question at home (such as “What is your favorite TV show?”) simply follow-up with “why?” It will help your child to think through their thoughts and identify how they come to answers.
Secret #3 – Supplies Really Do Matter
Shopping for that long list of school supplies? Wondering if it’s really worth it to get that third notebook? It really is! Teachers put those lists together based on their plans for the year and how they plan to use them. Make sure to stick to specifications, too. (Ex: bendable rulers become toys, whereas standard rulers are better for measuring.) Labeling all of your child’s materials with permanent marker will also help to ensure that lost materials are easily returned. Most teachers would agree that there is a lot of time lost in the classroom over pencils and glue that look the same and are claimed by more than one child.
Secret #4 – Be in the Know
Evening conversations about what happened at school will help you to know what is going on in your child’s social life. If your child is having trouble with his/her peers, he/she is not as able to focus on lessons and classroom tasks. Helping your child to work through difficulties (and possibly contacting the teacher for additional help) will make sure that your child is comfortable at school and is emotionally ready to learn.
Secret #5 – Stay on Top of Classroom Happenings
Teachers dedicate a lot of time to making sure that they communicate with families. Taking advantage of classroom newsletters and websites, as well as checking backpacks for letters that come home, will help you to know about those upcoming tests, field trips, etc.
Secret #6 – Use Online Resources
As technology is becoming more common in the classroom, so are the resources available to families. Your child’s textbooks, assignments, etc. are often available online. School (and sometimes individual teachers’) websites will provide links to valuable information for your child’s use. Using these online resources helps to be sure that you have the books and assignments that your child needs. They also help you to see, first-hand, what your child is learning.
Secret #7 – Practice the Basics
As teachers are being required to teach higher-level content and meet the expectations of higher standards, less time is being spent drilling the basics. Your child’s teacher may be doing all he/she can to drill those math facts, practice spelling words and work on handwriting, but time in the day for those activities is few and far between. Additional practice at home will help to ensure that your child has mastered those basic skills.
Secret #8 – Encourage Independent Reading & Writing at Home
Independent reading (anything that your child enjoys) will help to develop vocabulary and grammar skills. Not sure if your child is reading a book that’s at his/her level? Have him/her read a paragraph aloud and then tell you what was read. If he/she was able to read most of the words correctly and comprehended the content, then it’s a good fit! If your child loves to write, encourage creative writing about whatever topic is interesting to him/her. To sharpen both writing and comprehension, have your child to write a paragraph or more describing the sections of the books he/she reads each day.
Secret #9 – Identify your Mistakes
Mistakes are perfectly normal (both in and out of the classroom.) Helping your child to see that you also make occasional errors will give him/her the understanding that it’s okay to slip up sometimes. Explaining what you learned from your mistake models for your child that errors are a way to learn something new. It also lets him/her know that it is okay to take risks and try new things.
Secret #10 – Be Positive about Progress
Teachers view progress as something that continues from the beginning to the end of the year. A report card is merely a progress report of a child’s growth toward meeting grade level standards. Rather than placing emphasis on grades, focus on your child’s learning process and celebrate each sign of growth along the way.