20 January 2014 08:00 AM

Be Prepared

by rbavaria

For the past few weeks we’ve been discussing ways we can help our kids in this New Year.  I suggested a half dozen resolutions earlier in the month, and last week we talked about the dangers of chronic absenteeism and the power of just showing up

So, we have our kids resolved and present.  What’s next?  Here’s a suggestion, one that we can help our kids with – be prepared.  Be prepared for learning, for what goes on in the classroom, and for what happens at home.  Just as you can’t learn if you’re not present, you can’t learn if you’re not prepared either.

Here are some suggestions we teachers can try in the classroom and parents can try at home.

1.      Do that homework.  Teachers give homework to review the skills they’ve taught yesterday, to reinforce the skills they’ve taught today, and to pique interest in new skills to be introduced tomorrow.  Parents help kids stay on track when they have firm homework routines, and when they check up on kids’ homework regularly and randomly.  (Randomly keeps kids on their toes.)

2.      Anticipate classroom discussions.  The best teachers routinely tell kids what to expect.  “Tomorrow, let’s pick up this discussion with Jack’s interesting observation about the Battle of Lexington.”  Or, “Chapter seven gives several thoughts for us to consider.  We’ll talk about them tomorrow.”  When kids know what to expect, they can be better prepared.  Parents can talk with their kids about what tomorrow’s classes may be about.  Prod kids’ thinking.

3.      Anticipate test questions.  Teaching kids how to anticipate what will be on a test is a great skill.  Remind them to pay particular attention to teachers’ repeated remarks.  (“That’s the third time she’s commented on the ‘blood theme’ in Macbeth – must be important.”)  Also, paying attention to highlighted chapter headings in text books, to themes in class discussions, and to the material that teachers stress and get excited about won’t hurt.

4.      Study with buddies.  Study buddies are valuable and essential.  Teachers regularly put kids in groups where they learn with and from one another.  Parents can encourage study buddies to come over for pizza and homework/studying.  When like-minded, motivated kids support, compete, and celebrate with each other, learning becomes meaningful and fun.  Nothing wrong with fun.

5.      Take notes.  Good note-taking is a perfect way to be prepared.  Teachers stress what they think should go into kids’ notes.  Parents can look over kids’ notebooks – paper or electronic – and help organize and anticipate.

6.      Participate.  Class participation is essential for keeping up, and keeping up is essential for being prepared.  Good teachers involve everyone in class discussions, and parents can encourage kids to participate.  Ignore the distracters and clowns, pay attention, and participate – it’s a recipe for success.

7.      Talk about school.  Making content from school the occasional topic of conversation at home shows you’re interested, involved, and not to be deterred.  If you’ve read the novel they’re reading in English class, an informal dinnertime discussion can’t hurt.

8.      Get help when you need it.  Kids need help now and then.  Just like adults.  If you suspect your kids need a little extra help – or, better yet, if they’re brave and motivated enough to ask for it – look into tutoring.  It works.  Ask a friendly teacher, a really, really smart National Honor Society kid, or a professional tutor to help.  The company I work for, Sylvan Learning, has a great track record.


Determination to stick to reasonable New Year’s Resolutions.  Showing up.  And being prepared.  These are common sense practices that, with your help, can keep kids on track, motivate them with success, and maybe even keep a little peace in the family.  


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