This is a guest post by Marcy Winograd, an English and history teacher with the Los Angeles Unified School District. She is also the author of a new tween novel Lola Zola and the Lemonade Crush, available on Amazon.
I’m a teacher, author, and a mom — not always a perfect mom, but one who has learned from her mistakes and can offer insight into the keys to academic success.
Here’s my list of “10 Back-to-School Tips”
(1) Encourage your child to be his or her own advocate.
Rather than always advocating for our children, let’s encourage them to assert themselves when their needs are not being met in the classroom. Examples: “I’m sorry, but I don’t understand the assignment” or “How will this assignment be graded? What are you looking for?”
(2) Help your child get organized.
Moms don’t need to instruct their children on the importance of organization, but they do need to model good organizational strategies (systems for paying bills, calendars for
keeping track of appointments, etc.) and provide the tools for their children to organize their notebooks to easily access homework agendas, different subjects and sub- dividers within subjects. Example: English: vocabulary, reading, writing, grammar. Joint backpack looks (I hate to use the word “inspections”) are useful, too, to make sure our sons and daughters are not collecting paper wads.
(3) Read with your child.
Once we’re done with the picture books, we can still enjoy the closeness that comes with a shared appreciation for language. Whether it’s poetry or the newspaper, we need to find common ground that can lead to laughter, frames of reference, discussion
and debate. I recommend Jim Trelease’s The Read Aloud Handbook as well as my own book, Lola Zola and the Lemonade Crush - a tween novel (ages 8-12, available on Amazon) that offers you and your young teens opportunities to discuss family strategies during hard economic times. When reading fiction together, discuss the plot, characters, and theme. What do think will happen next? Do you like this character? Why or why not? What’s the message here? When reading non-fiction, discuss the main idea and details. What’s the author’s evidence?
(4) When your child makes a questionable claim, challenge them with
two words: “Prove it.”
In other words, encourage them to support their assertion with evidence: facts, details, anecdotes. This elevates their
(5) Also elevate their thinking by asking their opinion about their learning.
Don’t just ask, “What did you learn today?” — Ask, “What do you think about what you learned?” This pushes the envelope to access higher order thinking and meta-cognition or thinking about thinking.
(6) Make room in your home for a study center, a desk or table where your
child can spread out and work without needless interruption.
(7) Restrict time spent on cell phones and other electronic devices.
I’ve seen kids addicted to playing games, texting, etc., and virtually unable to put down their phones to join the conversation in the room. There’s nothing wrong with setting
limits on cell phone use.
(8) Turn off the television and leave it off most of the time.
Some kids will watch five hours of television after school. Not only does this detract from their school work, but it also leaves them fatigued and cranky.
(9) Practice strategies to ensure academic success.
Two column notes - main idea and details – can be helpful in analyzing a chapter in a
textbook. With hand-outs, encourage your child to highlight main ideas or topic sentences and to check off or number supporting details. Concept map vocabulary words by drawing symbols to represent the words. Example: resilient: rubber band
10) Do not do your children’s homework.
Set aside the same time every day, if possible, for your children to complete their own homework. When you do most of the work, be it a nightly assignment or a more
involved project, you send the message, “You’re not capable” to your child. Instead, empower your children by affirming their abilities. “You were able to tackle that difficult assignment last time. What strategies did you use? What worked best for you? How would you get started on this? What might you do next? I know you are capable.”
Good luck with the school year, and remember these three “E” words:
Encourage, Empower, and Elevate!
Marcy Winograd and Jackie Hirtz’s tween novel Lola Zola and the Lemonade
Crush tells the story of a sixth grade girl who tries to support her laid-off
parents by selling lemonade soon rumored to zap wrinkles, cure allergies
and promote world peace. Trouble arises when a rival for class president
opens a competing limo-stand out of the back of his father’s Cadillac.
LolaZola and the Lemonade Crush is available on Amazon and at Diesel book
stores in Brentwood and Malibu. For more information, check out Marcy and
Jackie’s blog at www.lolazola.com