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Dear Teacher

Parent-Teacher Conferences, Organizing Your Child and Dealing with Report Cards

Teachers Answer Your Questions

October 01, 2009
>Parent-Teacher Conference Questions

Question: What information should I hope to learn about my child from the parent-teacher conference next week? Also, what questions should I ask? – Preparing

Answer: Conferences are a great place for getting important information. Before the conference, make sure that you are very familiar with the work that your child brings home each day. It is a big clue to how well your child is doing in school, and will eliminate most surprises.

At the conference you should expect to get an overall picture of how well your child is adjusting to this school year. Expect answers to most of the following questions, or ask them yourself:

• Is my child performing at, above, or below grade level in all of his or her classes?

• Is my child being challenged or struggling with the academic work?

• What are my child's special strengths and weaknesses in dealing with schoolwork?

• Has my child taken achievement, intelligence, or aptitude tests in the past year? • What do the scores indicate?

• Does my child need special help in any academic subjects?

• Can we look over some of my child's work together?

Before the conference, be sure to ask your child if he or she has any concerns that you should bring up at the meeting.

Organizing a Disorganized Child

Question: My son, a fourth grader, does a terrible job of bringing his books and assignments back and forth between home and school. His bedroom and desks at home and school are always in total disarray. He usually forgets test dates. What can I do to help him before he gets in the later grades? – Disorganized

Answer: Your child may be having problems with what is called "executive function." It is the neurological process that lets us be organized. Children with attention deficit disorder (ADD or ADHD) or other related neurobiological problems often have problems with their executive function skills. It would be a good idea to ask your child's school to test him for these problems. If one is found, he will receive not only additional support from the school but also understanding from his teachers.

Obviously, having poor organizational skills affects schoolwork. According to the National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCLD), early attention to developing efficient skills in this area can be very helpful. Fortunately, there are many things that you can do to help your child:

• Develop checklists with him that he can use for various tasks including starting and completing homework and bringing materials to and from school. These checklists can be laminated and placed on his desks at home and school. As items are completed, they can be checked off with an erasable marker. At first, you must be sure to go over the checklist with him immediately after he has completed his homework.

• Have him use a calendar to keep track of long-term assignments and tests. Look over it with him at the start of each homework session.

• Work with him to divide long-term assignments into manageable chunks. Then check that he is following this timetable when he has this type of assignment.

• Decide on a weekly time in which you help your son clean and organize his workspace at home. It would be great if the same thing could happen at school.

• Make sure that he uses the organizer that the teacher recommends. At first, help him keep it organized nightly. Later, he should take over this task, which will be part of his "at home", checklist.

• If possible, provide him with an at-home set of books until bringing home books becomes automatic.

• After homework sessions, have him put all homework and books going back to school in his backpack or organizer. This should be placed by the door. Check that he has done this. Place a note on the door to remind him to take these items to school. If he fails to do this, start checking on this before your son leaves home.

In trying to help a disorganized child become more organized, don't expect miracles to happen right away. What works best is to work on improving one area in which he is disorganized at a time. After he acquires organizational skills in this area, back off on your supervision for a while. Then, if he has definitely acquired a skill, start working on helping him acquire another. It will take time! And it will be far easier if you are an organized person.

Report Cards

Parents: Report cards should be coming out soon or may have already been sent out. These cards say it all. They give a picture of your children's total performance from schoolwork to behavior to study skills.

You must look carefully at report cards, especially grades and whether your child is working above, below, or at grade level in different subjects. Look at all check marks. Most importantly, read all the comments on the report card. Since this is the first report card of this school year, quickly contact the teacher if it looks like your child is having problems in any area.

Parents should send questions to dearteacher@dearteacher.com or ask them on the columnists' Web site at www.dearteacher.com.

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