Getting the Best Out of the Second Part of the School Year
During the second half of the school year, teachers often introduce more challenging work and assignments for your child. Depending on your child’s grade, you may see longer-form reading, special projects, book reports and more study time required to prepare for tests or finals. Your children will be required to retain and harness what that they have learned thus far so that when January rolls around, they can hop right back in the saddle and gallop strongly to the finish line and into the summer.
Keep Learning Alive During Winter Break A multitude of approaches can keep young minds sharp even when breaks from school interrupt normal study routines. Even though most students do not experience the same level of academic regression over winter break that they do over summer break, it doesn’t mean it should be ignored. There are opportunities for learning all around us, and whenever possible, parents should seize these moments. Downtime at home could be used for a reading hour. If your child seems restless and without much focus in the afternoons, start reading together and share with each other what you have read. Honing spelling skills can be fun and competitive with a classic board game we all know well, Scrabble. Play together as a family; it’s fun, and it will likely teach your child words that he or she didn’t know. If your family is having a holiday party this year, break out Apples to Apples. This game can support up to 10 players and involves creative word matching using nouns, adjectives and verbs to creative funny, interesting and hilarious comparisons. Everyone in the family will enjoy this game, and it keeps your child thinking about words and how they can be used practically and with humor. When your child returns to school, he or she will have had fun with the family and learned a thing or two in the process.
Giving Tools for Learning With more work and more demands in school, it may be time to revisit how your child chooses to organize and manage his or her workload and also to ask yourself, “Do we have all the tools needed to succeed and feel excited about school?” If you notice that your child’s folder is falling apart, he or she is always looking for a pen or a pencil, or that his or her backpack is barely holding in all those books, give new materials and school supplies as gifts this holiday season. This benefits your child in two ways: It provides needed tools and it gets your child excited about learning. Education gifts send the message that you value learning and your child’s educational development.
Take Tests and Quizzes Seriously When School Resumes The end of the school year will present your child with more tests, quizzes, standardized tests and finals. Take these seriously and your child will follow suit. Many children procrastinate and put off studying until the night before the exam. We don’t recommend cramming for a test the night before. When you have found out that a test or quiz is coming up, block out time on several days in the weeks leading up to the big day so that you are sure your child has had enough preparation time in advance. Cramming causes anxiety and poor performance, second-guessing and lower scores. When your children have studied and are familiar with the material they will be tested on, they will feel confident and comfortable picking up those No. 2 pencils and filling in their answers on test day. If your child gets nervous before tests – rehearse. The best way to beat anxiety is to master test-taking. Practice at home, and time your child’s work so he or she can get accustomed to doing timed tests. Testing is here to stay, and it’s important that your child learns to conquer fear of testing so he or she will be prepared for the future.
Make a List and Check it Twice With more work comes more things to keep track of, and your children need to make sure they are on top of the things they need each day to succeed. With a little help from you, you can assure they have all the things they need in their backpacks each day. Create a checklist that your children can use to make sure they haven’t forgotten anything when they pack their bags the night before. If children have a different schedule every other day, such as odd or even days, make a checklist for each one. This will prevent the embarrassment of showing up with their math and science textbooks when they arrive for history or English class. You can also reinforce your children’s habit of double-checking their homework each night. This may seem tedious in the beginning, but when they begin to catch errors they would normally have missed, they will begin to appreciate this routine. Doing this may also highlight areas that they need to spend more study time on, while also introducing repetition as a great way to prepare for tests without feeling the burden.
Fuel Those Minds As classes become more demanding, your child will need the right foods to tackle each day. A healthy breakfast to start the day is important. Starting the day with fruits, proteins or cereals that aren’t loaded with sugar will give your child real energy that will carry through until lunchtime. Lunch is just as important as breakfast. Most schools offer meals from the lunchroom, but take a good look at what your child’s school cafeteria is serving each day if you don’t feel it’s nutritious enough, pack your son or daughter lunch for that day with things that are missing from the cafeteria. Sugary sodas and snacks will only cause children to crash and hurt their performance in class during the most critical time of the year. Good nutrition provides energy and staying power to stay focused on learning throughout the entire day. If you need help learning more about nutritious eating, speak to your school nurse or visit www.nutrition.gov to get fast, easy tips to help fuel your family with good foods.
With a little preparation, some reorganizing and a little fun sprinkled in, children can finish the school year off with a real bang. Help them by taking this time seriously and providing them with tools for success that will get them performing their best.