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Ask the Teacher

Parental homework help, spelling words, peaceful mornings and spring testing

Ask the Teacher
May 2013

Question: How do I know how much help to give my son on his homework? I don't know if I should just leave his work alone or if I should help him correct mistakes.

A parent's role at homework time is to create an environment that is relatively distraction-free. Provide some time guidelines with check-in points. When you are monitoring your son's progress, you should offer self-check strategies rather than your own "right" answer. For example, ask your son to read his answers aloud so he can hear if they make sense. He will more likely hear than see errors. Give him specific things like capital letters and end marks to check for one at a time, rather than say "Proofread your work." If he struggles to elaborate in his writing, ask questions that will lead him to greater detail.

For math, help your son consider whether answers are reasonable. Show him how to check subtraction with addition and division with multiplication. If you check over one or two problems together, he should check the remaining ones independently. A statement like, "I see three incorrect answers. Can you find them?" helps develop your son's ability to find his own errors.

Offer encouragement by stating some positives, too, like "I see many specific details in your writing" or for math "Do you remember when you thought carrying was tough? Now look what you are learning!" Comments like, "I always hated poetry, too" do not provide good motivation!

Give your child the latitude to make a mistake and do not expect perfection.

Question: What ideas do you have for helping my second grader learn her spelling words? She is so tired of writing them three times each, but I don't know what else to try.

Using a variety of strategies that includes visual, auditory and kinesthetic activities will increase interest and improve results when learning. Create a game against the clock requiring your daughter to spell out the words with alphabet noodles or homemade letter tiles. She can sing or chant the letters for a word. If she records herself, she will enjoy listening to her own voice reinforcing the spelling. Fill a large, sealable plastic bag with pudding for your daughter to "write" the words in the pudding, using her finger as a pencil. A pan of rice or sand also works well for that, too. Turn the tables and have her quiz you. Intentionally misspell words that she must correct. These activities should help make spelling practice fun!

Question: My sixth grader is a bear in the morning. She won't get up when I call her, and she has to be reminded about gathering all of her belongings that are supposed to be in her backpack. Is there a way to have a peaceful morning with a middle school student in the house?

No one wants to start out the day with nagging! The time has come for your sixth grader to take some personal responsibility. Have your daughter write out what she needs to do each morning and how much time she needs to do everything before leaving for school. Buy an alarm clock for her and give her the responsibility of getting herself up. You can be the back-up, but there must be a consequence like an extra job or loss of computer privileges if you have to call her after too many times of hitting the snooze button. Packing her back pack the night before and laying out her outfit for the following morning will limit what has to be accomplished in the morning. Have simple breakfast items that she can put on the counter, so they are ready to grab and go. A checklist that she creates will take you out of the role of supervisor (also known as "chief nagger").

Question: Our school does additional testing in the spring, beyond what the state requires. My fourth grader's reading score was quite a bit lower than his other scores have been. I am very worried that he is falling behind in reading. Should I be concerned?

Test scores are certainly headline news right now. However startling it may be to see a lower score, there is no need to panic. Generally, three pieces of data are needed to show a trend in student achievement. Look at your school's test results as well as those of the state test and your child's school achievement. Take the standard deviations into account to determine if there is as much of a difference as it appears.

If there is only one lower score, chalk it up to a bad day. Rest assured, one test does not give an accurate picture of your child's ability. If two or three have dipped, then it would be a good idea to set up a conference with the teacher.

Ask the Teacher is written by Deb Krupowicz, a mother of four and current teacher. Deb holds a Master's degree in Curriculum and Instruction and has over twenty years of experience teaching preschool, elementary and middle school students. Please send your questions to her at asktheteacher@indyschild.com

Tags: Education, In This Issue

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