Tuesday, May 19, 2009

25 Ways to Help Your Child Do Better in School Next Year -- Starting Now!

Soon another school year bites the dust, and summertime fun begins. For your child, summer is a l‑o‑n‑g time. In three months, she can forget many of the skills she learned this year. You can help give her a head start on success next year by following the suggestions below:

1) Maintain your child's counting skills and help her learn to estimate by asking, "How many?" Ask her to guess how many radishes are in the bag you're opening or how many songs will play on the radio by the time you reach the store. Then have her count to see how close her guess was.
2) Skip counting (counting by twos, threes, etc.) is helpful in learning multiplication. Your child can skip count any time she is grouping objects. For example, she can practice counting by twos when rolling socks or by five when stacking books.
3) Use a calendar to practice counting, adding, and subtracting. Ask your child questions like: How many Saturdays are in this month? What will be the date in three days? How many days is it until your birthday?
4) Have everyone dump change in a cute bank each day. Let your child help you roll the coins and keep a record of the money collected. When there's enough for a family treat, take her to the bank to cash it in.
5) Whenever you measure something, let your child help. Cooking has its own rewards, but measuring for drapes or bookshelves also gives a child math practice and shows her math is useful.
6) Understanding graphs is an essential math skill. You can make graphs of: the growth of a plant, the weather, or scores in sports.
7) Many games involve math skills. Keeping score uses addition facts as well as other addition skills. Have each player keep her own score so everyone gets practice!
8) Use "wasted time" to quiz your child on her math facts ‑ in the car, while doing chores, waiting at the dentist's office. Keep things on a game‑like level. Let your child quiz you, too!
9) Counting games can help with multiplication facts. For example, if your child has trouble with her four‑times table, assign a point value of four for each of a certain object passed while driving ‑ say, for each red car. Change point values on different trips to give your child practice on different tables.
10) You can buy motivating computer games that will help your child practice her math skills. At the store, ask to see "educational software," not just "games." No computer? Teacher stores sell card games and board games that practice basic math skills. Many of these games cannot be played by large groups, so you can actually make better use of them than a teacher can!
11) Use broken clocks to practice telling time. Set the hands of the clock and ask your child the time. Sometimes tell her a time and let her set the hands.
12) Work in your checkbook, balance your bank statements, and do the family budget in your child's presence. Show her that math is important in "real life."

Language Arts:
When teachers talk about "the language arts", they mean listening and speaking, reading, spelling, and writing. Here are some ways you can help your child keep her language arts skills:

13) Write notes to your child about chores, plans for the day, or what a great kid she is. Set up a central place for family notes. Encourage your child to write notes to other family members or to herself.
14) Use word play to help your child learn about and enjoy our language. Puns, riddles, and jokes can be fun for everyone. Challenge your family to think of words that rhyme with a particular word, all the meanings of a word like "run", or words that are associated with a certain topic.
15) Copy poems or quotations and put them at your child's place at the table or in her lunchbox. Save these and repeat during the summer. You may find your child requesting favorites!
16) Get your child and yourself library cards. Take her or send her to library activities. Let her check out books she can read and books that can be read to her. Check out books yourself ‑ remember ‑ you are your child's most important role model.
17) Set aside some time each day for reading. Everyone in the house should read whatever she wants for at least ten minutes ‑ longer as the summer progresses. Your modeling will teach your child the joy of reading.
18) In the car, at the supper table, or wherever you can, tell stories. Share your childhood, books you've read, and old movies with your child, and let her do the same. Retelling a story or program is good for your child, and shows you how well she remembers and understands. Discuss why things happened as they did and what lesson the story or show was trying to teach.
19) Read aloud to your child each day. You can read to her as she does chores. Car trips go quickly if an exciting story is being read aloud. Being read to allows your child to experience stories beyond her present reading ability and to hear what good reading should sound like.
20) Be sure your child sees you write. Keep lists and write letters. Write for the editorial section of your newspaper, and send letters to magazines.
21) Get your child a penpal ‑ a relative or friend. When she writes her penpal,
encourage her to use complete sentences, capitalization, and punctuation. Do not sit beside her spelling out every other word. This practice distracts her from getting her thoughts down and reinforces feelings of inadequacy about writing. Tell her to spell the best she can, then leave her alone while she writes. If she is very concerned about her spelling, ask her to look over the finished letter and pick out a few words she thinks are misspelled, then help her "fix" them
22) Encourage your child to write stories if she's interested, but don't force the issue. If you write, your child may want to write. Or you may interest her by suggesting she write down a story she's told you.
If you can, make typed copies of your child's stories. You can correct errors as you type, since you are a "publisher", but do not change the story. Let the author illustrate her story, too!
23) Be your child's secretary sometimes. Let her dictate a story while you write her words down. This gives her the freedom to be more creative. Read back what you've written, and have your child read it to you daily for a week.
24) Buy your child a blank‑paged book to use as a journal. Talk about how journals are private, and encourage your child by writing in your own journal. Occasionally share something from your journal with your child, and let her share with you.
25) Have your child tape herself reading and send the tape to an appreciative audience. Let her record, listen, and retape several times before sending off the tape. This can help her learn to read in a natural voice.
And one more: Have fun! You're just trying to maintain what your child already knows. Don't make her and yourself miserable by pushing too hard or spending hours a day on "schoolwork." Summers are for kids to be kids!

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