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Dear Teacher

Helping Children Make Friends, Summer Plans and Gifted Children, Spelling Words Kids Must Know

Your Questions for Teachers—Answered

June 01, 2010
>Helping Children Make Friends

Question: I feel so sorry for my 9-year-old son. He never seems to have any friends. He may have a friend for a few days, but his friendships never seem to last very long. He usually plays alone. Is there some way I can help him make and keep friends? – Friendless 

Answer: Most children seem to make friends fairly easily. When they don't, it might be because other children don't like their behavior. They might be too bossy, disruptive or unwilling to share. Or they might always want to have their own way. Some children have problems because they are shy. For a few, the problem might be caused by a learning disability.

According to researchers at the Mayo Clinic, parents can teach and reinforce basic friendship rules. Reinforce with your son how everyone likes to get a compliment. Teach him how to give compliments. Make sure he realizes the importance of sharing. When he plays with other children, watch what is happening to see if he needs some friendship tips from you.

Parents should also make sure that your children have many opportunities to make friends. Get your son involved in activities this summer with children who have similar interests, from sports to music to stamp collecting. Share family outings with friends who have children his age.

If your son continues to have problems making and keeping friends, you might wish to talk to a counselor for more help. And do remember, some children are happy with only one or two friends.

Summer Plans and Gifted Children

Question: My sixth-grader is in a gifted program at his school. He just loves the challenge of this class. What do I do with him this summer? – Decision Time 

Answer: With all children, it's important to ask: What would be a perfect summer for you? What projects do you want to do? What family trips would you like to take locally or elsewhere? Would you like to take some classes? Who would you like to spend time with? What interests would you like to explore?

Listen carefully to what your gifted child says. Try to include many of his preferences in your summer plans for him. Summer should be a time for gifted children to explore new and old interests and grow intellectually. He may or may not opt for a formal academic program.

Be sure to see that your son has both structured and free time. In fact, all children need this during the summer. Be careful that free time does not just mean TV or computer time. This time should be limited.

We have long advocated that all families have a "reading time" each day. Everyone in the house can gather in one room and read for a designated time (hour or half hour). No discussion of what is read is necessary. Even gifted children may not do enough reading without a formal time period for it.

Spelling Words Kids Must Know

Question: Next year, my daughter will be going into second grade. She is a poor speller. What words should she have learned to spell in first grade? I want to help her learn these words this summer. – Want to Help 

Answer: We have a list of words that your daughter should have learned to spell in first grade. It is based on the research of Steven Graham, Karen R. Harris and Connie Loynachan. The idea behind their research was to help educators know which words should be taught to children in grades one through five. The list contains 850 words that account for 80 percent of the words children use in their writing. Readers can find the complete list of spelling words for grades one through five online at www.readingrockets.org/article/22366. The words marked with an asterisk are the ones that cause trouble.

You will find the words for first grade below. They are arranged in alphabetical order. When your daughter masters this list, you can go online and get the list for second grade so she will become familiar with some of those words.

dad, day*, did, do, dog*, fat, for, fun*, get*, go, good*, got*, had*, hat, he*, hen, here, him*, his*, home*, hot, I*, if, in*, into*, is, it*, its*, let, like*, look, man, may, me*, mom, my*, no*, not, of, oh, old, on*, one*, out*, pan, pet, pig, play*, ran, rat, red, ride, run, sat, see, she, sit, six, so, stop, sun, ten, the*, this, to*, top, toy, two*, up, us, was*, we*, will*, yes, you* a. all, am*, and*, at, ball, be, bed, big, book, box, boy*, but, came*, can*, car, cat, come*, cow. The words marked with an asterisk are the ones that cause trouble.

Because it's summer, make learning these spelling words fun. Don't just drill her on them – use them in simple games so learning the words will be fun. For example, select five words such as go, dog, not, hat, and like. Then read together Go, Dog. Go! having her read these words. Or you can make single or double cards for each word, and use a few at a time to play your version of "Old Maid" or "Memory." Also, you can use Scrabble or Bananagram letters to have her spell some of the words. And for older children mastering more advanced words, try these games as well as "Hangman."

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

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Tags: Education, Parenting, Party and Entertainment

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