Parents Corner

Helping My Child with First Grade Reading
How can you help your first grader with his reading homework? Here are some tips for parents on what to do to help your child develop good habits and get the most out of his homework assignments.
  • Have your child read aloud to you every night.
  • Choose a quiet place, free from distractions, for your child to do his nightly reading assignments.
  • As your child reads, point out spelling and sound patterns such as cat, pat, hat.
  • When your child reads aloud to you and makes a mistake, point out the words she has missed and help her to read the word correctly.
  • After your child has stopped to correct a word he has read, have him go back and reread the entire sentence from the beginning to make sure he understands what the sentence is saying.
  • Ask your child to tell you in her own words what happened in a story.
  • To check your child's understanding of what he is reading, occasionally pause and ask your child questions about the characters and events in the story.
  • Ask your child why she thinks a character acted in a certain way and ask your child to support her answer with information from the story.
  • Before getting to the end of a story, ask your child what he thinks will happen next and why.
Choosing a "Just Right" Book
In class, the children are taught how to use the 5 Finger Rule to find a book that is at their independent reading level.  This rule can also be used at home!

5 Finger Rule

    1.  Open to a page of the book.
    2.  Begin reading.
    3.  Each time you come to a word you don’t know, hold up 1 finger.
    4.  After you finish reading the page, check to see how many fingers you are holding up.
Too Easy:  0 - 1 fingers

Just Right:  2 - 3 fingers

Too Hard:  4 - 5 fingers


Helping My Child With First Grade Math
In first grade, kids move from object-based, hands-on math, to more standard pencil-and-paper scribbling. Children still need visual and tactile learning in the mix, but they also need to start transferring many of their mathematical ideas onto paper. Here are some things you can do at home, to help your child make the leap.
  • Practice counting forward to and backward from 100, and forward or backward between any two numbers under 100. Practice when your child is bored (such as in a grocery store line or during a long car ride). Lots of praise encourages repeat performances. Count by twos, fives, and tens as well. You can begin this by using Lego-type blocks: hook multiple sets of two or five together.
  • Flip through a magazine or catalog with your child, pointing out numbers and asking her to read them. Or, reverse the exercise by naming a number and asking her to find it.
  • Part of understanding numbers is being able to represent them in multiple ways, using words, models, and number expressions (For example, a child might describe the number 4 as one more than three, 2+2, 4 dolls, and "my apartment number.") To practice this, play "Guess the Number" using index cards with numbers written on one side. Your child chooses a number and then tries to make you guess it by giving descriptions without actually saying the number. Take turns.
  • Cook using printed recipes to teach fractions. Your child can help read the ingredient amounts and then measure. Demonstrate fractions by showing how 1/4 cup of water, poured into a 1 cup container four times, fills it up.
  • Create word problems. "If I want to eat two cookies, and you want three, how many do we need?" Use number magnets or pencil and paper to turn these word problems into number sentences. Verbalize the operation of, "Two plus three equals five."
  • Use a clock to time favorite activities. "You may watch TV from now, 6:00 (point at the numbers on the clock) until 6:30." Then, show your child when it's 6:30.
  • When playing games, take the opportunity to model the use of ordinal numbers. List who will take turns first, second, third, fourth, etc.
If your child is having a hard time with the work he brings home, try bringing a concept off the paper and into the "real" world, to help him understand it. For example, if he's struggling with a worksheet on counting the total value of small groups of change, give him actual coins to work with. If basic fractions on a homework paper are puzzling your child, cut up some construction paper to demonstrate parts of a whole; then let your daughter take apart and put together a circle cut into fourths, describing one-fourth, one-half, and three fourths.
Be creative in helping your child succeed at math. Most importantly, be patient; these are difficult skills, and it takes time for most children to perform them perfectly.

Helping My Child with First Grade Spelling
Some kids seem to spell naturally. Without so much as blinking, they absorb letter patterns, adjust to sight words, and scribble away. But for most, spelling is one of those old-fashioned learning tasks: it takes effort, focus, and above all, repetition. Especially in the younger grades, when children have just learned how to read words, spelling can be a major roadblock. If your child is feeling overwhelmed by all this, you can help! There are a few choice practice techniques that you can use to make the process easier for your child.
One strategy to use when those spelling sheets start coming home is “Look, Say, Cover, Write, Check,” which uses a grid to take a child through the process of remembering her spelling words.
To make the grid lay a piece of paper out on the table with the longest side running horizontally. Fold the paper in thirds, so that you have three columns that run vertically. Ask your child to write his spelling words in the first column, one underneath the other.
  • Look. Ask your child to look at the word and read it aloud. For example, “friend”
  • Say. Then spell the word letter by letter while continuing to look at it. “f-r-i-e-n-d”
  • Cover. Your child should now cover the word "friend" (either with her hand, another piece of paper or by folding that column underneath the others) and try to write "friend" in the second column, without looking at the first column.
  • Check. Now, have your child check her work by comparing the first column with the second column. If it's correct, move on to the second word. If it's incorrect, ask her to repeat the steps, this time trying to write "friend" in the third column.
If your child is still experiencing difficulty spelling this word, don't harp on it; just circle the word in the first column and move on to the next word for now. After all of the words have been attempted, you can go back to the circled words and try them again on a fresh piece of paper.
This technique works because it draws on several different learning styles, which is important because to spell a word, a child must use several parts of the brain at once. If you only use one way to get there, such as writing, things can move pretty slow. With each new word, your child has used three approaches: visual (“look”), auditory (“say”), and kinesthetic (“write”). If you have a child who also craves physical activity, you can even add to the kinesthetic part of this exercise. A physical activity like jumprope, in which she recites spelling rhythmically as she goes, or bouncing a ball as she spells, can be great ways to practice spelling. No matter what method you use, however, do make sure you finish up by having your child write the word correctly. That’s the structure of most tests, and certainly of essays both now and for years to come. With your encouragement, your child might even grow to love this famously difficult task!

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