With class sizes growing, what specific things can a parent do to make sure their child gets the attention and assistance they need from their classroom teacher? The following tips below will help families adapt to today's large class sizes.
Contact the teacher after the first day of school, requesting their email address and set up a communication system between the parent and teacher. Use it WEEKLY to email about what you as a parent can be doing at home to reinforce what is going on in class.
What specific things can they do at home before or after school to make sure that their child will do well in class?
Daily ask student what student's homework is, check the student's planner or binder personally to be sure it is completed, ask frequently when the next test is coming up and what topics will be covered. If the student has no assignment listed or doesn't know when they may have a test or the teacher hasn't sent information on when tests are routinely scheduled, email the teacher IMMEDIATELY to find out what is happening and why the student isn't showing any homework to be done.
How much time should you be spending working with your child each day and at what grade level?
MOST IMPORTANT: Make a set homework time EVERY night even if there is no homework assignment given-NO TV, NO video games, NO phone, NO texting, or the like. This is dedicated SCHOOL WORK time every evening M-Thurs.
K-1 students' parents should work with them 20-30 minutes per night on homework on letter names, phonics skills, writing letters and sight words, practice on sight words, numerals, addition and subtraction facts (through 10 for K and through 20 for 1st) and be SURE they are reading together for a minimum of 15 minutes per night.
Grade 2-Grade 2- Parents should work with them 30 to 40 or 45 minutes per night on homework-reading, writing, grammar, number concepts and math facts (3rd graders should know multiplication facts through 10's or higher by the end of the year), and have them read recreational books aloud or silently for 20 to 30 minutes per night.
Grade 4-5-Parents should directly oversee them working on homework for a total of about an hour plus do outside recreational reading for 25 to 30 minutes per night. If they say they have no homework-contact teacher IMMEDIATELY and assign your own, i.e. have them work on spelling, grammar, writing summaries of what they read during recreational reading time, work on multiplication facts through 12's, fractions, decimals and 1, 2, and 3 place multiplication and division.
Grade 6-8 (Middle School)-Read 20 to 30 minutes per night, do minimum of 20 to 30 minutes of math and 30 minutes for other classes and assignments. Parents should check planners nightly, and see that the homework that is written down is complete. If there is no home work more than one night in a row in a class, contact the teacher IMMEDIATELY, assign your own by having them review their notes for every class and have them read aloud from the class text book and quiz them on their reading.
High School: Read the Class Syllabus for each class. Be familiar with the requirements, which are explained for each class. Go on the district or school website (many use School Loop) to check for assignments and private posting of grades for homework and test scores. Typically, expect 30 to 45 minutes per class for homework nightly. Check for long term projects and large essays or papers due in each class during the semester, then help students time line the steps and work over the time given, not letting them wait until the last minute to begin.
What should they expect from the classroom teacher about their child in the way of communication and how often? If the teacher or the school falters in this regard, what steps would be appropriate for the parent to take?
If class sizes go to high 30's, and 40's don't expect much personal communication. Teachers will expect parents to use online resources and take charge of communicating if they have questions and concerns. Make their requests for communication in writing (email is best) and save the emails so the parent can show a school counselor or principal if they do not get responses after a minimum of 72 hours, unless the teacher is out sick. At the middle school level, and higher, contact the student's counselor if the teacher doesn't respond to communications-give them 48 hours to respond and let them know the next contact will be to the principal. That gets usually action pronto!
What are the three biggest mistakes parents make in trying to help their child succeed in the classroom?
1) Parents do the work FOR the child instead of having them do it themselves.
2) Do not just blame the teacher because the student isn't doing well and says the teacher is MEAN or doesn't care. Parents need to hold students responsible and institute consequences such as removal of privileges or things like video games, electronics, etc. if they don't do what they should be doing in class or at home for homework.
3) Waiting too LONG to communicate with teachers and/or to seek outside help, such as private tutors.
4) Assuming that after school tutoring (where there are many students with one teacher all needing help in different subjects and homework assignments) will work to remediate poor grades. Often kids just mess around, socialize and/or don't get the individual help they need on their specific problems and sink further behind.
5) Yelling, screaming and getting angry and emotionally distraught with the student, especially younger students. If the parent loses his/her temper they have lost the battle before it begins. Do not make empty threats. Follow through with promised consequences.
Diane “Sunny” Goodwin, of Sunny Day Tutoring Services, Oceanside, is a Master Teacher, Educational Consultant, Diagnostician and Curriculum Developer. She is fully credentialed with 43 years of teaching expertise in many subjects and grade levels, Pre-K through 12 and adults.
She can be reached at (760) 439-0136. For more educational tips follow Sunny on Facebook or Twitter.