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How to Help K-3

by Penny on May 10, 2011 · 0 comments

If you think your child is struggling at school, and they are in K-3, what should you do?

First, start with the school. If your child is minimally meeting or not meeting expectations in any area of the curriculum, make an appointment to meet the teacher. You need to find out if the difficulties are academic or behavioural.

If your child is struggling because of behavioural issues – they are having trouble listening or focusing, or they are not able to work in groups, or perhaps they are impulsive and shout out, then it is important to work on classroom behaviours at home. Learning to share, learning to work co-operatively, to control impulses, are all behaviours that can be worked on at home. For example, playing board games as a family can foster listening, following directions and co-operation. Doing quiet time activities such as reading or art can help foster sustained attention. Having dinner as a family and having each family member taking a turn to discuss their day, without interruption, can help children learn to take turns and control their impulses.

If your child’s struggles are determined to be academic, don’t panic. Remember that children develop at different rates, and your child might experience a slight academic delay that is considered natural – not all children learn all skills at the same age. However, curriculum in school is hierarchical. A four or five month lag in grade one is not a huge gap to close, but if skills gaps aren’t closed by grade two, then the gaps will generally get larger. A four month gap in grade one can become an eight month gap in grade two, which can become a twelve month gap in grade three, and suddenly your child is a year behind!

Skill gaps rarely close spontaneously, so it is important to get help as soon as you determine there is a problem (even if it is only your gut telling you that your child is having more difficulty learning than his friends).

  • Ask the teacher what you can do at home, preferably in a fun, non-threatening way, that will reinforce the learning that is taking place at school. This may take the form of games, art activities or computer programs.
  • Also ask about early literacy programs and whether or not your child qualifies. Most schools in the GVRD have a reading recovery program or a ‘fast forward’ program. The sooner a child is enrolled in one of these programs, the quicker they can get caught up.
  • Most schools in SD61, SD62 and SD63 also have parent resources available so don’t forget to ask your child’s teacher or the librarian what is available and how long you can borrow it for.

There are also many other resources available to parents  

  • Bolen Books has a good selection of work books from companies such as Sylvan Learning and Jumpstart and these can be good resources for working at home with your child.
  • Hundreds of websites offer free games and activities to help with the development of phonics, phonemic awareness and overall reading and math skills. Some of my favorites are www.bbc.co.uk/schools/ks1bitesize/literacy/  www.abcmouse.com, http://www.scholastic.com/parents/play/games/# .
  • Your local librarian can also help you find books and resources that are appropriate for your child. Libraries and library reading programs are a great resource in the community.

I would recommend trying a variety of the above options to work with your child, however; if after two months a consistent approach isn’t yielding results, then you might want to think about getting help outside of the home.

Why look to a learning centre or tutor for help? Firstly, it can often relieve the stress at home. Secondly, a professional can often help your child maker bigger gains in a shorter period of time. There is no shame in looking for help. Adults hire personal trainers and singers have voice coaches. Kids who play sports do training and work with coaches, so having a ‘coach’ for academics make sense. It is also easier to help a child get back on track in grade one or two, than it is to close skills gaps in grade eight.

What to look for in a tutor or learning centre? I would start by asking friends and family if they can recommend someone or somewhere. I would also look at the professionalism of the institution or person you are considering.

  • What is their track record?
  • How long have they been in business?
  • How often do they work with children of your child’s age?
  • What qualifications do their teachers have?
  • Is there a structured curriculum in place?
  • How will they measure growth and progress?
  • Will they keep you updated?
  • Will they communicate with the school?

Personally, I would also look for a person or place that makes the learning fun. It is important that the work is not just based on drills, but the child is actively engaged in the learning. The use of hands on materials and manipulatives is important for younger children – you want them to see, here and do. It is also important that your child feels good, so pay attention to how the tutor or learning centre you are considering deals with developing confidence and self-esteem.

The most important decision is to do something! Don’t leave a child floundering any longer than necessary. Not only will they get further behind, but confidence, self-esteem and even behaviour can also be affected when a child struggles!

If you have specific questions about learning issues, skills your child may have trouble with, or what they should be able to do developmentally at this stage of the year, email me or post your questions. I’ll answer as many as I can!

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