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My son’s guidance counselor got on his case for bailing on his Advanced Placement course commitment. He didn’t do the summer reading. My son is a junior. He’s smart but not too organized, so I wasn’t unhappy when he dropped out. He gets so stressed, and a low AP test score might hurt his college application. Why was she so upset?

Could she see potential in your son that he isn’t working to realize? Or does she think that an AP course would help him develop the skills he needs for college work?

Since 1955, the College Board has offered high school students college-level courses that are more rigorous than high school courses. Today, students can take AP courses in more than 30 subjects. (Go to collegeboard.org.)

“We encourage a range of students to challenge themselves with an AP course,” says Matt Frahm, the superintendent of the Naples, New York, school district. “Traditionally, schools offered AP to students in honors programs, but today high schools are opening up AP to more students who typically don’t enroll.”

Frahm says AP courses can benefit students several ways.

“The courses can provide an academic challenge that reflects the rigor of college work, motivate students to improve study habits, offer a rich curriculum in a chosen interest area, show colleges that the student is motivated to do college work, and — depending on the AP test score — obtain college credit for that work,” he explains.

Westbury High School in Houston encourages all freshmen to take two pre-AP courses, sophomores to take pre-AP classes and an AP course, and juniors and seniors to take two AP courses.

AP tests are scored on a 1-to-5 scale. Scores of 3 or higher are eligible for college credit. Administrators say more challenging classes better prepare students for higher education, even if they score poorly.

“Kids who take AP courses benefit (even) if they don’t score a 3, 4 or 5,” said Houston Independent School District Superintendent Dr. Terry Grier. “If they just score a 1 or 2, their likelihood of being successful in college or even going to college is increased significantly.”

Parents shouldn’t worry about a low AP score affecting a student’s chances to get into college, says Frahm of the Naples district.

“Studies show that the rigor of a student’s high school courses is the single best predictor of success in college,” he explains.

Admission officers would prefer that a student take a challenging AP class and get a low score rather than skate through easy courses. Many colleges recalculate applicants’ GPAs, giving extra points for AP courses.

A 2008 study found that AP students had better four-year graduation rates than those who did not take AP courses. However, Stanford University senior education lecturer Denise Pope cautions that AP courses benefit students only if the quality of the teachers is high and students are prepared for the work.

Sit down with your son and his counselor. If he’s college-bound, put together a plan, possibly including a study coach, that includes an AP course. He needs to hone those organizational and study skills soon, or he risks wasting time and money in college.

Teachers urge parents to talk with their kids about school each day, but my 9- and 10-year-old boys just give me one-word answers. I would love to have conversations with them. How?

You’re right: Educators, school psychologists and administrators tout the benefits of checking in with your kids through casual conversation. You can learn about what excites them, who they’re hanging out with and why, which teachers are as tough as nails and who’s a bully on the bus. Daily conversations also build vocabulary, reinforce concepts taught and model oral language skills.

“Casual conversations about school let your children know you’re interested in their most important job — being a responsible student,” says Shirley Harden, a retired Maryland principal who coaches parents. She says that once you get the hang of skillful questioning, it will become easy and fun and your boys will start remembering things to tell you when they get home.

Try these tips to engage your boys.

– Pick a good time to talk. If you ask, “How was school?” the minute they walk in the door, you will likely hear, “OK. What’s to eat?”

Let kids decompress and follow their after-school routines, such as eating a snack, playing, doing homework and having dinner. Talk during a meal, while watching TV or before bedtime.

“Some of the best conversations come during family reading time, or other nightly rituals,” says Harden. “Kids are relaxed, and if they’re excited about a topic they’ll want to tell you, and if they’re worried about something it will likely surface.”

– Don’t ask, “How was school today?” Avoid questions that elicit one-word answers. Instead, ask: Who did you meet today? What are the biggest differences between school this year and last year? Tell me what surprised you today? Which classmates did you sit with at lunch? What do you think your teacher will ask tomorrow? What questions did you ask your teacher today?

“Try to start a conversation that raises topics you can come back to in the following days,” says Harden.

– Focus on the positive. Asking, “What is the best thing about your class schedule?” will give you more insight into the school day than, “Do you still have to rush to get from gym class to reading?” Positive questions can still give your child a chance to express concerns, says Harden, while negative questions can shut down a conversation.

– Ask questions that get kids to think. Say you’re reviewing your fifth-grader’s social studies homework. It’s better to ask, “What factors led to the Civil War?” than to ask, “What year did the Civil War start?” The former question tests for conceptual understanding. If your son has that, he probably knows the answer to the latter.

– Focus on facts rather than emotions. Ask, “What was the most interesting thing the new substitute teacher said today?” rather than, “Is your substitute teacher nice?”

– Be a patient listener. Kids (and adults) often need time to formulate their responses, so ask your question and then wait.

“Don’t rush to fill the void,” advises Harden. “Let them think through their answers.”

At our son’s middle-school orientation, the principal asked parents to help teens develop the “habits of mind” of good students. It sounded great, but when I got home I wondered what she meant. Does she mean study skills?

Not exclusively. To be sure, study skills, such as the ability to focus on a task, manage one’s time and take responsibility for assignments, help students succeed. But I’m betting that she means more than just turning in homework on time or getting the right answers on a math test.

This principal wants students to develop skills that will help them when they don’t know the answers, suggests Dr. Arthur L. Costa, emeritus professor of education at California State University, Sacramento.

“It means having a disposition toward behaving intelligently when confronted with problems, the answers to which are not immediately known: dichotomies, dilemmas, enigmas and uncertainties,” he says.

Costa and his colleague, Bena Kallick, identified 16 “habits of mind” (www.habitsofmindinstitute.org) that help students become effective, curious lifelong learners. They include:

– persistence

– thinking and communicating with clarity and precision

– managing impulsivity

– gathering data through all senses

– listening with understanding and empathy

– creating, imagining, innovating

– thinking flexibly

– responding with wonderment and awe

– thinking about thinking (metacognition)

– taking responsible risks

– striving for accuracy

– finding humor

– questioning and posing problems

– thinking interdependently

– applying past knowledge to new situations

– remaining open to continuous learning

Many school district leaders find that teaching these “habits of mind provide a well-researched approach for college and career readiness,” says Margo Ulmer, a school board president in Naples, New York. “We know that mastering content is only one aspect of academic success.”

Educators like Carol Dweck of Stanford University and Angela Duckworth of the University of Pennsylvania are applying the findings of other researchers. They’ve shown in separate studies how attitudes and character traits such as grit, self-control, goal-orientation and a growth mindset (a belief that one’s abilities can be developed through effort and hard work) can trump IQ in learning. Paul Tough describes their research in “How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity and the Hidden Power of Character” (Mariner Books, 2013).

When students develop these habits of mind in middle school, says Ulmer, “they increase their ability to persevere, reason, research and solve problems. They become stronger students in high school and have an easier transition to college work. They also have a foundation for the collaborative, problem-solving work required in many of today’s careers.”

These habits are especially important in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) subjects, says researcher Ryan Stowe of Scripps Research Institute in Jupiter, Florida, which conducts biomedical research. Stowe works with STEM teachers in Palm Beach County.

“Content knowledge, like knowing the definition of a molecule, is important, but equally important is acquiring a scientific disposition,” he says. “The real world is a messy, inexact place where one is often confronted with nebulous situations for which no easy solutions exist. When we teach students to tackle these scenarios in a thoughtful manner, they learn to think like a scientist. Such a disposition predisposes one to seek uncertainty, learn from failure and be comfortable with ambiguity.”

My 12-year-old is part of the “Google it” generation when she has to research reports. Some of the stuff she finds (and thinks is true) is just goofy. Should we invest in an encyclopedia for her? What kinds of reference materials should parents provide for kids?

There is an assumption among digital natives that a quick Google search and a Wikipedia entry will give them all the information they need, says Carl Harvey, library media specialist at North Elementary School in Noblesville, Indiana.

“It can be a start,” he says, “but educators work hard to teach students to take the next step — verify that the information is accurate. It’s an important skill. We want students to learn that not everything you read on the Internet is true and that good researchers check multiple sources. We love it when parents reinforce this at home.”

Students should have access to a reputable encyclopedia for homework. Before you purchase a set or a digital subscription, check with your school librarian, suggests Harvey.

“Many schools allow students to log in to digital encyclopedias and other online databases from home with their passwords,” he says. “For example, Indiana provides access to an encyclopedia and many other online databases in their INSPIRE database. Any resident has access.”

Many public libraries provide members with access to online encyclopedias with login/passwords for accessing them from home as well, says Harvey.

“We are open for homework hours,” says Blanche Warner, a library manager in Naples, New York. “We work closely with our schools to have resources available to students. If seventh-graders are researching the local ecosystem, we are ready with maps, charts, books, photos and digital resources.”

If you’re thinking of purchasing an encyclopedia, look at World Book and Britannica, suggests Harvey. He leans toward digital subscriptions because they’re less expensive and “information is updated as the need arises, where a book is only updated at the next printing.”

Your choice — digital or paper — depends on your budget and your objective, says Mike Ross, an executive at Encyclopaedia Britannica.

“Some parents purchase a digital subscription to Britannica, along with a print set of Britannica Kids,” he says. “The digital multimedia products are easy to search and always current. But those enticing volumes on the shelf invite browsing and kick-start a kid’s curiosity when she pulls one out to read.”

Every child should have a print children’s dictionary, says El Paso, Texas, elementary educator Lisa Schoenbrun.

“Children learn more about words and their histories when they look them up in a dictionary than when they simply type the word into a database,” she says. “Look up ‘handbag’ and on the pages your daughter will also discover ‘handball,’ ‘handbook,’ ‘handcuffs,’ ‘handful,’ ‘handicap,’ ‘handicraft,’ ‘hand-me-down,’ ‘handstand.’ Having a dictionary on hand helps build vocabulary.”

Other reference books such as almanacs and atlases are inexpensive, motivating resources that add knowledge in bits, says Harvey.

“TIME For Kids, National Geographic and World Almanac publish annually,” he says. “A series like the ‘TIME For Kids Big Book of Why’ is fun reading. Put these books where the whole family can browse and start conversations that lead to new learning.”

I’m told our school doesn’t teach handwriting anymore because of the Common Core. I think that’s really dumb. My daughter was looking forward to learning this. What can be done about it?

Don’t blame the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). Handwriting instruction began declining 20 years ago. Increased use of technology for assignments and testing, more instructional time given to other subjects, and a growing assumption that cursive was a “horse and buggy” skill in a digital age has led to less emphasis on it in schools.

But many educators and parents think handwriting shouldn’t go the way of the typewriter. Research shows that knowing cursive handwriting can increase a student’s attention span, language fluency, physical coordination and ability to retain information.

Studies also show that the act of writing stimulates creativity in the brain, says handwriting expert Thomas Wasylyk, author of the “Universal Handwriting” series (Universal Publishing, 2014).

“People tend to remember things they write more than things they key in,” he says. “About 90 percent of all writing assignments in grades K through 6 are done with a pencil and paper, so why stop teaching a skill that is used every day, by every student, in every subject?”

Cursive makes it easy to get thoughts on paper quickly, notes Kathleen Wright, product manager for handwriting at Zaner-Bloser (”an educational curricula and digital resources provider”).

Knowing cursive boosts reading power, too. Greta Love, a New York librarian, helps college students hone research skills. She was surprised to discover that many can’t read primary source materials such as historical documents because they’d never learned cursive.

While it’s true that handwriting isn’t part of the Common Core, many states that have adopted the standards continue to offer cursive instruction — among them California, Massachusetts, Florida and North Carolina.

If you think your child should learn cursive, and you can’t get your district to reinstate it, teach it at home, says Sharon Paul, a Massachusetts educator.

“With the right materials to model how to make the strokes properly,” she says, “it’s one subject that’s easy to ‘homeschool.’”

Make it fun and interactive — not drudgery — says Wasylyk.

“Young children can start very early with large writing instruments like crayons on large pieces of unlined paper, or newspaper spread out on the floor or taped to a wall,” he says. “My method of teaching manuscript and cursive handwriting is fun and engaging for the teacher and the students. There is a difference between teaching and assigning. Assigning handwriting, where the student practices the letter 50 times, very seldom has good results. Handwriting is a skill and must be taught using a planned, sequential approach.” (Find Walsylyk’s series at www.upub.net.)

Paul helped her son build faster note-taking skills using the “Handwriting Without Tears” method of instruction (www.hwtears.com). “Our goal was learning simple, basic strokes through 15 minutes a night — never a minute longer,” she says.

Just as kids are proud to read their first book on their own, “a child cannot wait to write his or her name in upper- and lower-case letters,” says Wasylyk. “They can’t wait to reach this milestone in their intellectual development.”

I took my second-grade son to his classroom on the first day of school to explain things about him to his teacher. She waved me off and said she was really looking forward to having him in class and that it would be a good year for him. She suggested I make an appointment to discuss concerns. I felt dissed. Don’t teachers want parental involvement?

Oh, they do! They just can’t engage quite that deeply on the first day of school in a room buzzing with 20 unaccompanied kids looking for their desks and cubbies.

Don’t feel dissed. Your son’s teacher handled you very professionally, says Frederick Lilly, a retired California principal who made strong communication between home and school a priority.

The teacher sent important messages: One, a new year is a fresh start — a time to think “success”; two, she’d done her homework on her incoming class; and three, she said she’d happily work with you when she could give you her full attention.

Perhaps most important, she was also encouraging you to allow your son to make his way on his own. Teaching your second-grader to function independently is an important parental job, says Donna Adkins, an Arkansas educator and greatschools.org adviser.

Adkins suggests establishing daily routines your son can follow. Typical independence goals for second-graders include knowing how to get ready for bed and for school, where to go when entering the school, and what to do when arriving in the classroom.

For more advice from Adkins on second-grade expectations (and grade-level expectations for kindergarten through grade six), go to greatschools.org.

If you want to get off on the right foot with your child’s teacher this school year, ask the $64,000 question: “How can I help you help my child succeed this year?”

Many primary teachers will respond by asking parents to read with their children regularly. “This is essential,” says Massachusetts reading expert Keith Garton. “Young readers need lots of practice to become fluent, and there’s no way to provide kids enough practice time during the school day.”

Parents expect that a child learning a sport or a musical instrument needs to practice. “It’s no different with reading,” says Garton. He began writing “Funny Bone Readers,” humorous stories about character development, in response to parents’ desires to read short, whimsical books with a message with their kids. (Go to redchairpress.com.)

In upper elementary and middle school, teachers may suggest helping your children develop study and organizational skills or limiting TV, gaming or other screen time.

“Whatever the teacher’s response,” says Lilly, “listen and take it to heart. You’ll have learned something about the teacher’s priorities.”

By asking how you can support the teacher’s efforts, you will have signaled early in the school year that you want a good working relationship.

You’ll have opened the door to ongoing communication and set the stage for the first parent conference. And you’ll have launched a partnership that will pay off for your child all year long.

My brother-in-law, an engineer from Poland, argues that good American schools aren’t as good as we think. I believe that the United States does poorly in international rankings because urban districts drag down the scores. He says I’m naive. My kids are in a highly rated school. Should I worry?

Don’t worry, but don’t be complacent either. Your children may be achieving at high levels, and if they are, kudos to them and their teachers. However, international comparisons from the 2012 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) show that it’s not just disadvantaged students who rank poorly. American students from educated families lag in international rankings too.

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, in discussing the PISA results, calls them a “picture of educational stagnation. … Fifteen-year-olds in the U.S. today are average in science and reading literacy, and below average in mathematics, compared to their counterparts in (other industrialized) countries.”

The PISA results show that educational shortcomings in the United States are everyone’s problem, says Eric Hanushek, senior fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution.

Hanushek, along with Paul Peterson, the director of the Program on Education Policy and Governance at Harvard University, and Ludger Woessmann, a professor of economics at the University of Munich, dug deep into data from PISA and the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). They looked at math and science test scores as well as the performance of students from families of low, moderate and high education levels.

Their May 2014 report, “Not Just the Problems of Other People’s Children,” is a wake-up call.

The report focuses on math because, they say, “the U.S. economic strength has been built in large part through its record of invention and innovation, things that themselves depend upon the U.S. historic strength in science, technical, engineering and math fields (STEM).”

These fields depend on “students who have developed advanced skill in math and science in school.”

In an abridged version of the study found online, they write: “When viewed from a global perspective, U.S. schools seem to do as badly teaching those from better-educated families as they do teaching those from less well-educated families.

“Overall, the U.S. proficiency rate in math (35 percent) places the country at the 27th rank among the 34 OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) countries that participated in the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA). That ranking is somewhat lower for students from advantaged backgrounds (28th) than for those from disadvantaged ones (20th).”

There are multiple countries with higher math proficiency rates among students from better-educated families. They include Korea (73 percent), Poland (71 percent), Japan (68 percent), Switzerland (65 percent), Germany (64 percent) and Canada (57 percent), compared to 43 percent for U.S. students.

“Many people assume that students coming from families with high education levels are keeping up with their peers abroad,” and there are some bright spots, note the authors. Such students from Massachusetts, Vermont, Minnesota, Colorado, New Jersey and Montana have a proficiency rate of 58 percent or higher.

“But students from these states are a small portion of the U.S. student population, and other states rank much lower down the international list. In many places, students from highly educated families are performing well below the OECD average for similarly advantaged students.”

Find the abridged version of the report at educationnext.org/us-students-educated-families-lag-international-tests, or the full version at hks.harvard.edu/pepg/PDF/Papers/PEPG14_01_NotJust.pdf.

I’m a high school math teacher who did three days of professional development to “prepare kids for STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) careers.” What a waste. The curriculum director droned on and showed videos. Are there programs where teachers can get hands-on experience in STEM jobs?

The STEM education movement asks teachers to get kids ready “to participate in a 21st-century workforce.” Yet professional development rarely connects educators to people in STEM careers.

That’s changing. Innovative partnerships are popping up that make it easier for teachers to connect with STEM professionals who can serve as classroom resources.

The Architectural Foundation of San Francisco created a program called “Designing Student Success.” It offers teachers paid summer externships that place them side by side with working professionals in STEM businesses. AFSF Executive Director Alan Sandler says teachers go back to class eager to show students how STEM subjects are used in real-world projects.

“In our pilot, we learned that the model works well across disciplines and appeals to a wide range of teachers,” says Sandler. “Teachers say that the experience changes how they organize classrooms and design lessons.

“For example, Common Core emphasizes the skill of collaboration. When teachers see how architects work in teams to solve a big design problem, they are better able to put collaboration in context for students.”

Sandler is expanding the program to other cities.

Palm Beach County science teachers can apply for paid summer research internships at Scripps Florida (part of the nonprofit Scripps Research Institute, which conducts studies on biomedical science and technology, among other subjects), funded by the William R. Kenan Jr. Charitable Trust. They become part of a team conducting basic biomedical research under the supervision of a Scripps scientist.

Scripps Florida Education Outreach Director Deborah Leach-Scampavia says the program exposes teachers to laboratory procedures, provides insight into biomedical topics and forges ties to working scientists, who can assist with curriculum or become mentors.

“It’s great to see each class of interns take their learning back to school to share with both peers and students,” she says.

Bruce Capron, assistant superintendent of the Honeoye Falls-Lima Central School District in upstate New York, thinks that districts have an obligation to bring teachers together with STEM professionals.

“We have to find ways to hurdle the time and financial constraints,” he says. “We’re working in partnership with the Empire STEM Network to connect our teachers with area STEM professionals, ranging from health researchers and engineers to physicists, geologists and hydrologists. Through workshops, they work together to create rich lessons that are relevant to real-world problems.” (Go to empirestem-fl.org for more information.)

Capron left a successful career in engineering to become a school administrator because he wanted to “help align schooling with the world students will find when they leave it.”

While teachers can find many terrific STEM resources online, Capron says it’s worth the time to set up these partnerships so educators can meet individuals with STEM skills in business and higher education.

“We owe it to teachers to open these doors,” he says. “We’ve found that STEM professionals are eager to work with teachers and students. They want to share their enthusiasm and expertise.”

Our school district is doing Family Day (Sept. 22). The organizer, who wants me to lead our school’s effort, says that kids whose families eat meals together do better in school and are less likely to become obese. Is that true? If so, more families might make the effort.

With many parents working full-time and juggling kids’ after-school schedules, family dinners at home may be going the way of landlines. And that would be a shame, say folks at the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University, the organizers of Family Day.

CASA has tracked family eating patterns for nearly two decades. Its studies suggest that children who eat dinner often with their families are more likely to get better grades, have fewer school absences, be less bored, experience less stress and feel closer to family members than children who share meals with parents infrequently. Teens who have dinner with parents five or more times a week are also less likely to have problems with drugs and alcohol.

There is a nutritional benefit as well, says historian Cody Delistraty. In a recent article in The Atlantic (”The Importance of Eating Together”), he cites research showing that kids who don’t eat dinner with their parents at least twice a week are 40 percent more likely to be overweight compared to those who do.

But Family Day isn’t just about dinner.

“I’m a fan of what Family Day seeks to accomplish because it’s basically about being present in kids’ lives, being there to listen when they want to tell you something,” says California youth counselor Marissa Gehley, founder of KNOW (Kids Need Our Wisdom) Consulting. “Driving your teen to hockey practice, cleaning up the kitchen after dinner, shopping for school supplies or getting your kindergartner ready for bed — all are great casual opportunities to check in with your kids and really hear and respond to what they’re thinking.”

The trick is to be a smart questioner and a patient listener, says Gehley. She suggests that your conversations will bring your kids closer if you try the following:

– Ease into communication. Don’t pepper kids with questions right after school or the minute they get into the car or sit down for supper.

– Avoid questions that elicit a yes or no answer. Instead, try: Why do you think …? … Tell me about … What do you see? … Why do you suppose? … How did this compare with …?

– Ask questions because you’re genuinely excited about their answers. “Kids know when you’re nagging and they’ll clam up,” says Gehley.

– Give kids time to think before responding. “Teachers call this ‘wait time,’” Gehley says, “and while it may be a little frustrating to you, it’s important.”

– Don’t substitute texting for talking. “When you set the dinner table, remember: It’s not fork, knife and cellphone,” says Gehley. “Make the dinner table a tech-free zone. You can’t focus on your kids if you’re listening for the ping of texts and emails arriving on your phone.”

My 5-year old daughter, Illana, has been so excited about starting kindergarten, but suddenly she cries when we talk about it and insists she’s staying home with her sister. She loved preschool, so I don’t get it. How can we get her ready for her first day?

Many children, even those with preschool experience, get last-minute “kindergarten jitters,” says Shirley Harden, a retired Maryland principal who coaches parents on supporting their children’s school success. She offers these tips:

– If possible, visit Illana’s school before classes begin. “Often principals encourage kindergartners to come for a sneak peek to see their classroom, cafeteria and other rooms,” says Harden. “During your walk-through, point out bulletin boards and displays. Even show her the bathrooms, so she’s familiar with the facilities.”

– Probe her worries. Because parents make the first day a big deal, kids may develop unwarranted concerns, says Harden. “Talk through any fears and put them to rest,” she says. “Explain how her day will go and what she will do after school to allay concerns about how she gets home.” Tell her about first-day jitters in your life, such as a new job. Explain that it’s normal to have anxieties about new things.

– Read books about starting kindergarten. “There are some really funny ones,” says Blanche Warner, a library manager in Naples, New York. “Librarians have them ready in August.”

Warner suggests these time-tested titles:

– “A Place Called Kindergarten” (Puffin, 2008) by Jessica Harper. Tommy’s animal friends become alarmed when they learn Tommy has gone to a place called “kindergarten.”

– “Countdown to Kindergarten” (HMH Books for Young Readers; 2006) by Alison McGhee and Harry Bliss. Ten days before school starts, a new kindergartner can’t tie her shoes and fears the worst.

– “Jake Starts School” (Square Fish, 2010) by Michael Wright. A boy worries about staying at school without his parents.

– “Kindergarten Rocks!” (HMH Books for Young Readers, 2008) by Katie Davis. Dexter isn’t scared to start school, but his stuffed dog, Rufus, is terrified!

– “Late for School!” (Carolrhoda Books, 2013) by Stephanie Calmenson and Sachiko Yoshikawa. A teacher oversleeps and is late for the first day.

– “Look Out Kindergarten, Here I Come!” (Puffin 2001) by Nancy Carlson. Henry looks forward to kindergarten, but he isn’t sure about staying once he gets there.

– “Miss Bindergarten Gets Ready for Kindergarten” (Puffin, 2001) by Joseph Slate and Ashley Wolff. This book introduces the alphabet as Miss Bindergarten and her students get ready for kindergarten.

– “On the Way to Kindergarten” (Puffin, 2008) by Virginia Kroll and Elizabeth Schlossberg. This picture book helps parents show their kindergartner all of her accomplishments in the past five years.

Make a plan to support Illana’s learning all year. Include daily activities such as reading each night, reinforcing social and emotional skills needed in school, and talking about a range of topics to develop oral language and a strong vocabulary. Find ways to connect math and science concepts to daily life by using science and math vocabulary; for example, “Today’s weather brought rain. Let’s measure how much rain we got.” Encourage active play and limit screen time.

Introduce yourself to her teacher and offer your support, says Harden. “That way,” she says, “should a problem arise, you’ll have a working partnership from day one.”

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