Just prior to the December break, first trimester report cards were mailed home to parents. After approximately thirteen weeks of teaching and learning, each student is issued a grade that reflects, and incorporates, how well students have completed various kinds of educational tasks. One letter grade represents the totality of the academic experience, but I would submit to you that there is much more behind “the grade” than what transacts in the classroom. An analysis of the grade should also include a look at the learner as a unique individual at school and at home.
So a third of the year has passed, and now there is an opportunity to gather some information about how your child is doing, possibly make some changes and create goals for improvement. After all, the level of difficulty of the work will increase as the year continues. Indeed, a part of the first trimester includes transitioning to a new grade level’s demands as well as new teacher styles and expectations. Time is also devoted to reviewing foundational concepts.
When interpreting the meaning of a grade, it is important to survey your child’s skills, habits, and attitudes. Home study habits, including time management, efficient reading and note-taking, review of essential information, and organization of all materials are the connecting wires under the hood of the learning engine.
In our Companion Guide, issued to students on the first day of school, parents can find helpful information on active study techniques as well as reading strategies such as SQ3R. The Guide also includes information on split note-taking as well as other more visual formats, planning/studying for a test, and a section entitled “Troubleshooting” where a problem is indicated (i.e., You have low test grades…) and a solution is suggested (Attend a study session, find a study partner and quiz each other, review old tests, etc.) Students and parents can review pages of subject benchmarks, checklists, and self-assessments to help reinforce the “job description” of the learner.
Recent research seems to indicate that not all students need a quiet environment in which to work. Again, this depends on the individual pupil. More parents are reporting, however, that students are distracted more frequently by cell phone calls and texts as well as instant messaging and on-line chatting. What often starts as a peer question about homework meanders into a time for socializing. This distracts the learner from the task at hand, consumes time, and then forces the student to start over again. With a complex task like writing, it is difficult to go back to where you were in the thought process. Consider whether you need to make adjustments with regard to where homework is done and how you can monitor time on task without the interruptions of electronic devices.
I often write about how students in their preadolescent stage are on their own journey of becoming. They will have their own time frames for growing up, and with maturity will come greater capacity for responsibility and independence. In the meantime, they need our love, support, structure, and guidance. All of us parents aspire for our children to be successful, and in their middle level years this means acquiring the tools, habits, and mindset of a master learner.