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How to Help Your Child Improve at School

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Kids write Highlights thousands of letters each year—and we answer each one. One of the most common things they write about is school, and many want to know how they can do better. Maybe you have a child at home who is asking you the same thing. We talked with Highlights’ educational editor Julie Stan about how parents can support kids’ school success in some of the most common areas of concern and how to help them put grades in perspective.

“Always,” says Stan, “you should start with your child’s teacher.” Teachers have seen every kind of learning hurdle and have great activities and suggestions to support your child’s learning. But subject by subject, Stan also shared with us accessible tools and tricks to work on school skills at home.

How to Improve Writing Skills

“It’s good for parents to look for patterns,” says Stan. Is your student falling apart when they start to do writing homework? Are they showing anxiety when it involves writing by hand instead of typing? Stan recommends keeping a log to help you start to identify issues. Then, talk to your pediatrician. “Your doctor can rule out issues like poor eyesight and hearing issues, but they can also let you know if testing is needed to support your child.” The earlier a family can identify any developmental obstacles that might get in the way of a child learning, the more they can support that child’s needs.

After ruling out obstacles, Stan recommends using your special understanding of your child to help them enjoy writing more. Find that subject or activity they love and use it to ignite a love of story.

For Preschool and Kindergarten Learners

  • Little kids learn through play, and there are lots of opportunities to play with letters. When you are on an errand, challenge your child to find every K you go by at the store. Point out words you see along the way that start with the letter you’ve picked.
  • Young kids are developing social skills and love to connect with others. Invite them to help you write a letter to a friend. It may generate more enthusiasm than homework.
  • Bring writing into your daily commute, letting kids practice lettering in the car with a tool like the Highlights Write-On Wipe-Off Let’s Write Words book.

For Elementary School Students and Beyond

  • Writing shouldn’t just seem like schoolwork. It should be fun! The Highlights Book of Things to Write includes over 175 creative writing topics for kids, how-to’s, open-ended questions, games, activities, and more. It invites kids to explore character creation, short stories, poetry, and writing tips. Activities like this at home can help reluctant writers start to see writing in a whole new light.
  • Do not underestimate the pleasure of a new pen. Setting aside a special place for writing and filling it with items like glitter pens and postcards may inspire a student to see writing as a pleasurable pastime, not just an assignment.

How to Improve Reading Comprehension

Reading comprehension is the ability to understand the meaning of the stories and words we read. There are a lot of reasons that young learners may struggle with this core skill. After ruling out learning challenges, Stan recommends one activity that is research supported at improving comprehension—more reading at home! Here are some tips for encouraging more joyous reading.

For Preschool and Kindergarten Learners

  • Mixing puzzles with reading can engage kids who aren’t captured by books alone. Highlights combines great story with puzzles in leveled readers that boost reading confidence, encourage re-reading, and provide extra opportunities for vocabulary enrichment.
  • Literacy for little kids means more than just reading; it encompasses all the ways they are learning language. That includes conversations with the grown-ups who love them. Take time to lean in and listen to kids and to talk to them about the things they love. Believe it or not, this is one of the important ways they are developing the language skills that will propel them to school success.
  • Surround young children with a wide variety of books. Magazines, like Highlights High Five, can offer a change of pace and variety of story patterns that can engage reluctant readers.

For Elementary School Students and Beyond

  • Make a visit to the library a special reward. Go often and let your child pick the books themselves. Research supports that letting elementary school students select their own reading material encourages a love of reading.
  • If your student favors a book they love to read over and over, don’t discourage it. But expose them to a variety of genres by offering them resources like Highlights’ Reading and Writing workbook, which incorporates mazes, Hidden Pictures scenes, and other fun puzzles to make learning enjoyable. Variety helps kids build comprehension, grammar, and vocabulary.

How to Ignite a Love of Science for Kids

Kids are natural scientists, although they don’t always see themselves that way. Stan shares that we can encourage their natural curiosity about the world and how it works by listening and sharing their enthusiasms. Encouraging curiosity will supercharge their creativity, which translates to foundational problem-solving skills and delight for exploring the amazing world around them. This is true at every age, from a 4-year-old who wants to understand why her shadow disappears when she goes under a tree to a fourth grader who wants to understand how a tornado forms.

For Preschool and Kindergarten Learners

  • The hands-on experiments, projects, and activities in this Preschool Hands-On STEAM Learning Workbook get kids ages 3 to 5 to think critically and creatively while having fun.
  • Kids this age tend to ask a lot of questions. We can encourage their hunger to understand the world by really listening when they do. Help your child look up answers you don’t know. Share when you do know. Tell your kids the questions you still have about how the world works. All of these conversations will feed your young learner’s curiosity!

For Elementary School Students and Beyond

  • Nothing helps kids see science in a new way like getting their hands dirty. Curious families have made Highlights Book of Things to Do a best seller, and it’s jam-packed with over 500 tech-free ideas for building, playing, experimenting, crafting, cooking, dreaming, and thinking.
  • Model an understanding for kids that failure is a part of the scientific process. If they feel they are “bad at science,” share with them through stories and books about the many famous scientists who learned through making mistakes and trying again.  

How to Improve at Math

For Preschool and Kindergarten Learners

  • Familiarity and comfort with numbers is crucial at this early stage of kids’ math learning. Just like with letters, grown-ups can make counting and numbers more fun by infusing them into daily activities. At the grocery store, make a game of counting how many red things you pass. Spot numbers on signs on road trips.
  • Many young learners appreciate math more when it feels like a game. Highlights’ Math Concepts book was developed with education experts and blends puzzles, humor, and skills practice to pave the way for success in math. Aligned with school standards, it covers identifying and writing numbers 0 to 100, skip counting, ten frames, basic addition and subtraction, shapes, and more.

For Elementary School Students and Beyond

  • A lot of grown-ups have strong feelings about their own math skills. But don’t say you are bad at math. Model positive thinking. The truth is, we all use numbers in our lives. They are all around us!
  • Similar to early learners, if it’s fun, they’re more likely to stay engaged and learn. Try this math learning kit that blends puzzles and activities with math to make learning more enjoyable.
  • Invite your child to teach you the math they are learning at school. Teaching activates different parts of our brain than listening, and for some kids, this can be a pleasurable way to spend more time with a math concept.

Don’t Let Kids Lose Sight That School Is More Than Grades

When kids write Highlights to ask how they can improve at school, we answer. We often give them concrete ways to practice and improve, like we’ve offered in this article. We also let kids know that yes, learning can be hard—but hard things are often the things most worth doing. And we hope to help kids take the long view—to see that doing well in school is about more than earning good grades. We hope they’ll see that knowledge is empowering and that school done well helps them grow into people who understand their own strengths, work well with others, cope with real problems, and grow up confident. In our conversations with students, we say in various ways, “You’ve got this.” And so do you!