HELPING STUDENTS AT HOME
In addition to, providing a consistent time and place for homework, encouraging students to do their best, and developing a positive working relationship with their children’s teacher, many parents/guardians seek ideas and resources to help their children at home.
Many of the following are things that you may already be doing, but perhaps haven’t thought about in relation to specific content or skill areas. Throughout the year, teachers may send home suggestions or resources related to specific areas of study. We recognize that there are many demands on your time during the evenings and weekends, but some of these suggestions can be incorporated into your current routine and will not require additional time.
To help children develop a sense of time:
- Use a play clock, draw the hour and minute hands on paper, and/or write the time that you will begin an activity (e.g. read together, play a game, or watch a program). Have the child check that time against an actual clock and tell you when it is time to begin.
- Begin a game, activity, or story by saying, “For the next… minutes, we are going to…,” or “You will have…minutes to…” Use a timer or parent/guardian can keep track of the time.
- Ask the child to predict the length of time it takes to do a routine activity like brushing teeth, taking a bath, search for a missing shoe, or complete a longer activity. Children are often surprised by the actual time. The clock (or watch) can be covered as part of the game, or a timer can be set out of view of the child.
- Ask the child to make a short “To-Do List” and set a timer for each item or have them time the amount of time it takes you to complete a routine task.
- Keep a chart of the time it takes to drive the same or different routes to and/or from school for a number of consecutive days. Look for similarities and differences. Older children can find the range, the mode with enough data), and average.
- Provide a calendar on which child can use stickers or write to make special events or due dates.
Play a game to estimate quantities:
- Socks in a drawer
- Pennies in a jar
- Raisins in a mini-box
- Cups of cereal in a box
- After total is calculated, count backward to put back into the container
Ask the child to sort and classify household items:
- Pencils and pens
Ask child to explain his or her classifications (size, shape, color, use, etc.). Compare and contrast the items and quantities of each group. Ask child to look for alternative ways or sorting or classifying.
Together, cut out numbers from flyers, magazines, or newspapers. Have child sequence from smallest to largest and/or largest to smallest. Older children can use prices of items, fractions, and decimals.
Have child estimate length (older-width & height) of a bed, table, room, or other object. Help child measure actual dimension. Older children can cut out square foot piece of newspaper and estimate area. Compare estimate and actual.
Young children can go on a search for items designated as thinner than, taller than, thicker than, shorter than, more than, less than, etc. (e.g. Find a book that is thicker than this one. Find something that is smaller than… Find something that is heavier than or weighs more than…).
Children can also search for or match items with numbers (e.g. How many beds, chairs around the table, etc. do we have? Or Find three of something.)
Line up stuffed animals or toys. Discuss who is first, second, in line, etc. Discuss size or other attributes.
Use weather information or sports statistics to sequence numbers, calculate averages, or make comparisons.
Have child participate in cooking activities, reading recipes and experimenting with different measuring tools. Compare measuring cup and coffee cup, filling one and pouring into the other.
As you cut a pizza, describe pieces by their fraction names. Give child paper to fold into fractional parts. Compare fractions and point out applications in other everyday contexts.
Use playing cards to compare number quantities and group by similarities. Encourage child to use same as less than, more than, smaller than, or greater than to describe relationships. Pick a card and have child draw the equivalent number of objects. For older children, distribute cards (without face cards or by assigning a value to face cards) between you; and use cards for adding subtracting, multiplying or dividing.
Create a set of cards with different numbers on them. Let child draw a card and create a problem with the drawn numbers as the answer.
Have child observe house numbers and discuss even and odd numbers and patterns.
Play an “I spy a shape game.” Take turns describing the shape, trying to stump each other. Game can be very simple (I spy something that is round) or bit more complicated (I spy something that has a square and four rectangles).
Older children can be encouraged to search for angles (e.g. right, acute (less than 90°), obtuse (between 90° and 180°) straight (180°) and reflex (between 180° and 360°) in their home environment or en route to and from school.
Encourage children to observe and describe patterns in their environment (leaves, flower petals, man-made objects). Draw or recreate similar patterns with other shapes.
Grocery store activities:
- Count number of kinds of soup, cereal, etc. on a specific shelf or aisle.
- Compare prices in the grocery store. Child can look for items on a shelf or section that cost less than, more than or between a designated amount, or they can compare the price of two brand, estimate the difference in price, then calculate the exact amount. Children can also practice rounding numbers. Packaging (weight, volume, # of items per pack) can be used to for comparisons.
- Nutrition labels can be used for children to calculate fractions and percents: Fat calories = percent (%) of fat
- Total Calories
Plan an imaginary or actual meal using carry-out menus. Have child estimate, and then calculate cost (older-add percentage for tip). Alternatively, start with fixed amount; have child choose items from different categories that can be purchased.
Practice basic facts (alternative activities for learning and practicing):
- Practice one number fact on a given day. Start in the morning by repeating it together several times at home or en route (e.g. 7×9=63). Encourage child to repeat it to herself/himself when appropriate during the day. Repeat at the end of the day.
- Use multiple (including silly and singing) voices to repeat the fact of the day. Imitating story characters, T.V. personalities, animals, and even other family members can add fun to a repetitive activity (e.g. “How would …say 8+5=13?”).
- Make a set of cards with numbers (size should be determined by age of child). Draw a card and ask child to create as many number sentences as he/she can that have that answer. Can be used for addition, subtraction, multiplication or division. Similar cards can be used for fractions and decimals (e.g. Draw the card ½.; write equivalent decimal (.50, .5)) or add two fractions to arrive at the sum (1/4+1/4, 2/8+2/8, etc.)
- Use a table of facts. Cross out all the known facts. Then cross out all the equivalent facts (e.g. 6×9 and 9×6). Keep the chart and continue to cross out those that are mastered.
- Practice fact families to understand the relationships between operations. Learning the subtraction and division facts should be related to the addition or multiplication facts. (7+6=13, 6+7=13,13-7=6,13-6=7)
- Fact triangles can be used for practice
VOCABULARY, READING COMPREHENSION, AND READING FLUENCY
Most, if not all, of you have been reading to your children since they were babies, and the practice of reading to and with them should continue at least through elementary school.
Emphasize the meaning of words in addition to the pronunciation. The child can try to think of synonyms (same) and antonyms (opposite) for a particular word in what you read, they read, or in their writing. Play with alternative word choices, and ask how the new word affects the writing.
Young children can be encouraged to play rhyming games or to change a word by substituting initial or ending sounds /letters (rock-sock, can-cat).
Correct common grammatical errors in your child’s speech (e.g. If the child says, “Him and John read the same book, or “Me and him read the same book,” repeat the sentence and point out the correct grammar, “John and he read the same book, or He and I read the same book.”)
Have your child the predict meaning of unknown word when reading, looking for context clues. Check the specific meaning in the dictionary. Ask child to retell a story or passage in her/his own words.
Ask questions to have child predict what will happen next. Ask your child to explain why he or she thinks that will happen.
Ask questions about the characters, setting, and events in the story.
- Ask what in the story gives clues or information about the character (age, etc.), setting (time of year, geography, historic context, etc.), and events (leading up to and following the main event or climax)
- Ask the child to describe character’s feelings or attitudes. Ask if he/she knows anyone who the character reminds him/her of or what the character might look like.
- Ask your child to tell you what happened, first, next last.
- Ask what the main problem was in the story and how it was solved.
- Ask your child to make up a new solution or ending.
- Ask your child to tell the main idea. Then add details that tell about the main idea. (For older children, ask about the genre (science fiction, fantasy, etc.), ask if the conflict in the book is an example of character vs. character, character vs. self, character vs. nature or society; or if there a moral to the story)
When reading informational or nonfiction text, help child use headings, subheadings, and bold print to prepare for reading. Turn headings into questions and search for answers in the body of the text. Ask your child to make predictions about what information they will find.
Ask your child to retell what he/she has read in his/her own words.
Assist children with table of contents, index, and glossary.
Encourage child to read the topic sentence of an informational paragraphs and predict what information will be found in that paragraph. After reading a section or paragraph, ask if they found information that was new, they already knew, or that surprised them.
Have a dictionary accessible during reading. Encourage children to use guide words and pronunciation keys, and note parts of speech with the entry.
Use billboards, advertisements, announcements, road signs, store signs, etc. as opportunities to identify words and interpret meaning.
Take turns reading aloud. Give child time to preview or rehearse before asking him/her to read to you. When reading dialogue, each person can choose the role of one of the characters, using the voice and expression that seems appropriate. Ask child to play with story and read or say character’s part as if the character were older, younger, etc.
Encourage the child to notice punctuation, pausing for commas, stopping at periods, changing voice inflection at question marks and exclamation marks.
Younger children can fill in a missing word when you stop and give them a signal or point to the word as you read. They can also echo read, reading the same line after you.
Before drafting a composition, discuss topic and help child focus on purpose, audience, and main idea.
- Graphic organizers (simple webs, charts, outlines) can help child begin to get ideas on paper.
- Simple words or phrases can be put on cards or separate lines. They can be cut apart to categorize or sequence, then put into sentence, then paragraph form.
- Encourage child to identify which ideas are main ideas (topic sentence ideas) and which could be details
- Encourage child to think about the reader (intended audience) and primary purpose (entertain, inform, persuade)
- You may help your child find examples of how writers narrow a topic and sequence ideas rather than trying to tell or show everything about a topic.
When your child has finished drafting, ask questions to help him/her begin to revise:
- Ask child, “Is there another way to say that to help your reader understand or to help the reader see the character, location, or event?”
- Ask, “When you read it aloud, do you think your word choices or sentences can be changed or varied to make the writing more interesting?”
Encourage your child to read her/his writing aloud and listen for grammar and punctuation errors.
Encourage him/her to read specifically for capitalization, spelling, and punctuation.
When doing research or writing an informative piece, remind child of the importance of documenting sources, using appropriate quotes, and rewriting information in his/her own words to avoid plagiarism.
Help your child compare/contrast information from alternative sources and to verify reliability of information.
For elementary school students, the main reason for assigning homework is to help students assume responsibility and develop organization and time-management skills. Teachers assign homework to reinforce skills or concepts that students have learned in class, to help children prepare for the next class session, or to supplement class work with an activity that may require additional time and/or outside resources.
The general guidelines are presented in the Student Handbook.
If your child is spending significantly more time than the suggested guidelines, please contact the teacher. It may be that the amount of work is greater than the teacher intended. If the problem is specific to the individual learner, early recognition can lead to more effective assistance or modification, particularly if your child doesn’t understand the underlying concepts of the work. If your child is not able to maintain concentration, it is important to know if she or he is overly tired, over-scheduled, or if the difficulty with concentration is observed during class.
Parents can help by providing a consistent time and place for homework, asking questions, and encouraging children to do their best. It is also important to encourage them to stop when they are struggling too much or are exhausted. That does not mean that the child will never or should never struggle with an assignment or mastery of skills and concepts.
Mathematics is a subject in which the struggle is often most apparent, and some unfortunately believe that struggling with math is an indicator of a lack of aptitude. Solving math problems is a complex cognitive task. While it may come easily to some early in the game, there is no guarantee that the struggle won’t come later. Helping students understand that the struggle is normal, valuable, and usually lasts only a short time can help influence children’s math success.
Just as we expect practice and persistence to master a sport or musical instrument, we can encourage practice and persistence in learning math. Those who have learned to accept the challenge and to persevere stand the best chance of long-term success. Parents as well as teachers can assist children to accept the natural struggles through conversation and activities: (see the Mathematics section under Helping Students at Home)
- Encouraging careful reading and interpreting the problem before attempting solutions,
- Asking what they are specifically frustrated with,
- Helping students look for real world examples of math problems and applications,
- Encouraging children to use drawing or concrete manipulatives such as beans or coins,
- Assisting them with finding similarities in other problems,
- Working with students or playing games to help them become fluent with basic math facts. Teaching or learning of math facts should not be done in isolation or without developing a conceptual understanding of the arithmetic operation and patterns. (e.g. students learning about addition should have many experiences with connecting, counting, grouping, and counting-on, before beginning to master facts).
Attention spans of young children are relatively short; if their math fact recall has not become automatic, and they must shift their attention to obtain a fact, solving a multi-step or complex task is more difficult. Encourage students to organize and show their work; this will help them review their steps and find errors. Try to avoid, giving them the “correct” answer or making comments like, “I was never very good at math either.”
For long-term academic success, positive determination and learning to segment challenging work into organized and manageable chunks are more significant than good teaching, curriculum quality, and aptitude.
SITES FOR PARENTS AND CHILDREN
You may already be familiar with a number of web sites for students and for parents/guardians to help their children. Listed are just a few that you and/or your children may find helpful.
Internet Public Library Kidspace
In conjunction with the University of Michigan
Great Sites for Kids
American Library Association
A+Math (Site has ads)
(Make your own flashcard and homework help)
Ask Jeeves for Kids
Scholastic (Site has ads)
Yahooligans (Sites and links have ads)
Awesome Library (Site has ads)