The ‘technical stuff’: Packets go home on Monday and are due every Friday (or the last day of the week if there is no school on Friday).
Math assignments coming home today look so much different than what you and I remember math homework looking like. Remember the long, tedious class lectures followed by endless pages of algorithms needing uniform responses? Yeah. Me, too. Now, though, assignments are asking for students to explain their thinking process, show the problem solving steps they used and develop responses beyond the “right” answer. But, rest assured of this: the core concepts in math haven’t changed. Two times two still equals four, ¼ of a pie is still more than ⅛ and angles measuring 90 degrees are still called “right angles”. You can also breathe a deep sigh of relief in knowing that assigned math homework is limited to math facts practice activities like our Weekly Mulitplication Game (comes home in Tuesday folders), online games and traditional practice methods like flash cards.
Reading is a cornerstone to both success in school and in life. We use reading everywhere we go and in everything we do — reading a bus schedule, making a grocery list, cooking from a recipe, completing forms (doctor’s office, DMV, etc.) and more. Developing good reading skills is a complex endeavor and, unfortunately, too many American students aren’t achieving grade level expectations.
Thirty-three percent of American fourth graders read below the “basic” level on the National Assessment of Educational Progress reading test. The “basic” level is defined as “partial mastery of the prerequisite knowledge and skills that are fundamental for proficient work at each grade.” (NAEP 2009 Reading Report Card)
As a parent, you can help! Students in our class are expected to read approximately 100 minutes outside of class time each week. This can include non-fiction books, graphic novels, picture books, newspapers, magazines, online resources and more! If there is text to be read, it counts! In addition to routine student practice, parents can help develop reading skills in the following ways.
In these examples, you are “thinking aloud” many of the connections that good readers make naturally as they read. Modeling these types of connections will help young readers know how to do it when they read alone.
Connect the Book to Your Child’s Own Life Experience
Example: A River Dream by Allen Say
“This book reminds me of the time my father took me fishing. Do you remember the time we went fishing?”
Connect the Book to Other Books They Have Read
Example: Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters by John Steptoe
“This story reminds me of Cinderella. Both stories are about sisters. Do you know any other stories about nice and mean sisters? Let’s keep reading to find out other ways the stories are similar.”
Connect the Book to Big Ideas/Lessons
Example: Stellaluna by Janell Cannon
“This story helps me understand that we are all the same in many ways, but it’s our differences that make us special.”
Read me a story! Whether snuggled under the covers with peanut-butter sandwiches, or following along with a book on tape while on a road trip, reading together is a powerful tool in motivating your child to read.
Keep it fun, for everyone Keep your kids involved by asking questions about the story, and let them fill in the blanks. You can also create activities related to the stories you’re reading.
“Look at what I did!” Keeping a chart or graph that illustrates the number of books a child has read can bring a sense of accomplishment.
Spice up your reading log Choose a theme that goes along with your child’s interests, for example: a Reading Olympics, where the child “goes for the gold” by reading a certain number of books. Or, create a bingo card or passport where each space can be filled in by reading a mystery book, or a piece of non-fiction.
“I want that one!” Reading should be a choice, not a chore. Make sure there are a variety of books, magazines, and other materials available for your child to choose from.
Something to talk about Reading doesn’t have to stop when you put the book down. Talk to your child about books you’ve read and books you think he or she might enjoy.
Write a fan letter If your child has a favorite author, help your child write a letter to send to the publisher, who’ll send it along.
Start a book club If your child likes structure and doing everything with friends, consider joining or starting a parent/child book club.
Make time for reading Carve time out of the busy day and dedicate it to reading, both together and on your own. For some families, the best way to accomplish this has been to dedicate 20-30 minutes after bedtime that you child can read in bed before turning out the lights.
Encourage your child to read another one Find ways to encourage your child to keep reading. If he or she likes one book, find another book with a similar subject or by the same author.
Turn on the closed captioning on your TV When watching a TV show with your child, try turning on the closed captioning channel. This shows the words the characters are speaking on the television screen.
Find reasons for your child to write As your child gets more comfortable with writing, try to think of reasons to write – ask him or her to write the grocery list, thank-you notes, or birthday cards. As you’re writing your grocery list or a thank you note, share your work with your child. Don’t be surprised if she asks to borrow the pencil!
Make a writing kit Find a box or basket and fill it with paper, crayons, books, pens, and pencils. Have your child add things to the box.
Use a dictionary Show your child how to use it to look up the meaning of words.
Hear the words If you have access to the Internet, show your child how to find a talking dictionary to hear how a word is pronounced (in English).
Tell stories Tell your child a story you already know – or just make one up! It could be a folk tale, stories about your family, funny stories, or any story you both like.
Talk about books Retell exciting stories at the dinner table. Encourage your child to share his favorite parts.
Talk about punctuation Explain that punctuation is a way to show how we talk. You can say, for example, “When we talk, we usually pause a little bit at the end of a sentence. The way we show this in writing is to use a period.”
Parent tips courtesy of ReadingRockets.org. Visit Reading Rockets online to find more valuable information on reading, literacy and how you can play an active role in your child’s reading development.
Spelling practice packets go home every Monday and are due on Friday. The activities are designed to help students practice with the words in preparation for a weekly spelling test (given on Thursdays or the last day of the week during weeks with no school on Thursday…i.e. Turkey Day!). There are 20 spelling words weekly, each list focused on a specific spelling rule or rules, such as “-ies” words or words with the prefix “dis-“. There are also five challenge words students may opt to try for extra credit on their test.
Aside from helping to ensure your student completes his or her packet, you can also give your child a practice spelling test or have them spell the words aloud to you. The more practice they get with the words, they better they will do at test time.
Still struggling? Let me know! If you are feeling like more often than not the homework battle at home is taking up your evenings, please give me a call or send me an email! We can talk about strategies you can try at home and arrange to provide additional help for your student at school. Students love being successful, and we can work together to make sure your student achieves success (and you keep your hair!).