End of July and early August is back to school time! Ah! While you still have lots of summer left to enjoy, many kids need a little help to get back into the classroom. This is true for students at all development stages, private, public, or home schooled students.
1. READ, READ, READ…
Read. Lots of books. I know, I know, it’s all you hear right? But nothing is as powerful of a teacher than just reading.
When I was in elementary school, I struggled to read. I had reading tutors help me for several years, and eventually I had all the skills I needed to be a great reader. However, I was still struggling to read anything. I hated reading. In fifth grade I was caught copying a book report that I had previously used in fourth grade. I know… smooth right? I remember it was about Amos Fortune. Do you think I read that book in fourth grade? No way! I came to my mom crying the night before and she told me everything I needed to know about the story. So when fifth grade rolled around, I was like, “Great! I know all about this dumb book!” That was until this goody-two-shoes went and told the teacher on me.
Anyways, the point is, I was grounded. My mom sat me down with Harry Potter and said you are not allowed out of the house until you have read this entire book. And I want to know everything as you go. Check in with me and tell me what you read. At the time, it sounded like the worst sentence that could have been enacted. But you know what? I loved it. I wanted more and more. And eventually I became an excellent reader.
So here are a few tricks to help you this summer:
- Pick a book that your child would actually be interested in. Go to the library and pick a genre, even if it’s a little too difficult.
- Read with them. Take turns reading out loud, silently, etc. Make it fun! Have a read-a-thon in your back yard. Build a fort! Go to a beautiful park! Get an ice cream! Whatever it takes.
- Give kids a goal. Sometimes kids who hate reading need a time limit. Bribe them if needed, who cares? This is their brains we’re talking about. Example: If you read for an hour and can tell me about it, we’ll go swimming.
- Try to do it for small chunks regularly. This will help build attention span and get their brains working for school.
Comment below with any tricks you have used!
2. Start brushing up on math facts.
As a teacher, it is so depressing to see the multitudes of support for reading, the lack there of for math. Number sense is so critical for life, and our society quickly dismisses it. We need to be able to understand numbers.
You can’t start understanding numbers without knowing your basic facts. And schools don’t have enough instructional time to really work on these. There are a ton of free printable flash cards on the internet, or you can make your own with note cards.
Even spending 5 minutes a day on these will make a huge difference in your child’s ability to move on to more advanced math concepts.
Here are some basic guides for each age group (Remember if your child is entering this level for the first time, these tasks may be VERY difficult. It take practice!):
- Pre-K : Flash cards here should be colors, shapes, and dots or shapes that kids can practice counting.
- K : These flash cards should be recognizing numbers 1-10 and then 1-20, counting objects 1-20, adding one more to a number (1+4, 1+5) up until 5, by the end of the year adding 1-10.
- 1/2 grade: Adding single digit numbers mentally, on their fingers, or using a number line (work on increasing speed after a lot of familiarity), Add double digit numbers that equal up to 20 (11+3), then add double digit number within 100 (kids typically need to use a pencil and paper at this point).
- 3 grade: multiplication! Get those facts down! 1-12, identify the names and pictures of various fractions
- 4 grade: Division! Start memorizing basic division facts to help with long division.
These are the very basics, but can really give your child a head start!
3. Start the going to bed early routine a week or two before school starts.
This is another tactic that sounds like the death of summer, but really kiddos need their sleep for all the learning that happens during school. The first few weeks of school can be rough!
As a teacher it is always a struggle to keep kids engaged and awake! It’s especially hard when students are learning new rules, new processes, new systems of organization, and new schedules. Keeping some routines at home can be really helpful for kids.
Don’t let going to bed a little earlier ruin your fun days you have planned! Just leave the late night bon fires for the weekend.
Here are some tricks to getting kids to bed earlier.
4. Practice making new friends.
This may seem like a strange thing to help your kid at school, but this is a no-brainer for a Special Education teacher. Each year, kids are mixed around for classes, kids move, teacher move, and your kid could be with a lot of strangers. Not only does this create anxiety, but it can also keep them from branching out and making friends.
This is going to take some coaching from you mom or dad. It might seem ridiculous, but practice starting a conversation with your kids. Do role plays. Have you child approach you and practice saying things to engage other kids: “Do you want to play ball with me?” “Can I join your game?” “What did you do this summer?” Then go practice with kids in a public space.
Make sure you talk about what to do if someone doesn’t want to play. How do you handle that? Do you get angry? Or go find a new friend?
Social skills is a huge part of navigating school, and unfortunately teachers don’t typically have time to teach them. Any support you can give your child at home is better than nothing.
If your child continues to strike out making friends, you may want to consider reading out to a child behaviorist/psychologist. They can help direct your family on ways to better help your child.
5. Talk to your child about school, expectations, and goals.
Hey if teachers are instructed to do it, why shouldn’t parents do it too? Telling your kids straight forward that you expect homework to be done right after school (or after sports or whenever) can reduce a lot of stressors later. Make sure to ask kids what they expect as well. Sometimes kids have really good input here.
Setting a goal for the school year is a great way to build teamwork into the school year. What grades are realistic? What do you want to try out for the first time? How many times are we going to get our homework folder back to school (haha)? These can be a great and easy way to open up conversations later. If you have already opened the door to getting a good grade, when you check in a few weeks later, your child won’t necessarily feel like you are judging them.
At the end of the day, these are just suggestions. However, this list was created from struggles that teachers have each year. Whatever you choose to do to help your child succeed this school year will be a success. More important than any specific strategy is a parent who is actively involved and cares about their child’s education. If you’re reading this, you are probably that parent anyways! Give yourself pat on the back!