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Dear Teacher

Motivating Kids, Homeschooling and Improving Reading Fluency

Teachers Answer Your Pressing Questions

December 01, 2009
>Motivating Your Children

Parents: So many of you lament that your children are not motivated to do well in school. You may even brand your children as lazy. This usually is not true. However as children get older, their passion for learning often seems to shrink. It happens for some because they have failed repeatedly at school tasks and no longer see any sense in trying. And it happens for many young teens because of the distractions of biological changes, emotional concerns, and social and peer pressures. Plus, some unmotivated children may never have learned that school success takes time and effort. The loss of motivation can also be fueled by insufficient support in a new school or by an increased workload and expectations to which students haven't yet adjusted.

As children get older, it seems to become more difficult to motivate them to do well in school. Of course, part of this job belongs to your children's teachers. Children are more motivated to learn in classes where the work is challenging, yet achievable and where they see how the skills that they are learning can be applied outside of school. And many schools motivate their students by having an atmosphere that stresses learning.

Parents also play an important role in developing, maintaining, and rekindling their children's motivation to learn. Because of the importance of children valuing learning for its own sake, our New Year's resolutions this year deal with ways you can help your children be motivated to learn.

• Resolve to be a good role model. Let your children see that you put forth your best effort in completing work and meeting obligations.

• Resolve to show your children that you are interested in their schoolwork.

• Resolve to help your children succeed in school by contacting teachers whenever your children encounter any difficulties in learning to find out how they can be helped.

• Resolve to offer sincere praise to your children based on their effort and improvement at school.

• Resolve to find tasks in and out of school that your children can succeed in to build an "I can do it" attitude.

• Resolve to use rewards infrequently to encourage your children's motivation to do school tasks.

• Resolve to find your children's strengths and to build upon them.

• Resolve to teach your children how to set goals and to work hard to achieve them.

Is Homeschooling a Good Idea?

Question: I think that my children might do better in school if I home school them. Is this a good idea? – For Change

Answer: Home-schooled children usually do well academically. However, it's not easy to home school. You must have the time and patience to work closely with your children and the organizational skills to develop and implement a solid curriculum.

You can't decide whether home schooling is right for your children until you learn all about it. Visit these Web sites: www.home-ed-magazine.com, www.teachinghome.com, and www.homeschool.com, find out what the legal requirements are for homeschooling in your state, and talk to as many homeschoolers as you can before making your decision.

How to Improve Children's Reading Fluency

Question: What is fluency? My daughter is in eighth grade and her whole class was just tested. The results came home that she was not a fluent reader. How can this be improved? – Needs Fluency

Answer: Reading fluency is the ability to read material quickly and accurately. Children who are fluent readers can focus their attention on understanding what they are reading because they do not have to concentrate on recognizing individual words. The reverse is true for less fluent readers. If your daughter is able to improve her fluency, she will at the same time improve her comprehension.

Until recently, fluency was a neglected reading skill. Now, more and more attention is being focused on it in the classroom. It has been discovered that the best way to improve fluency is for students to read aloud. It is not through more silent reading. Unless your daughter is currently in a reading class, she is not likely to get much help at school to increase her fluency.

Fortunately, you can help your daughter improve her fluency. Read a short bit of text material to her. This gives her a model for how the passage should sound. Then have her reread it aloud to you. Provide assistance, when necessary. Next, have her reread the passage until she can do so quite fluently. Three or four times are usually sufficient. Also, you can read a passage to your daughter. Then read it aloud together three to five times. This doesn't have to be done on the same day. Your daughter will not become a fluent reader overnight. However, she definitely will become a more fluent reader if you and she frequently do repeated oral reading. These same techniques can be used to help beginning readers become more fluent readers. There are more techniques to help struggling readers on our Web site in Resources under "Skill Builders."

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

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