School Readiness: 5 Tips for Talking to Parents About Moving Up a Grade

June 16, 2016
Teacher Voice
Daina Lujan

At the start of summer, many parents ask a great question: What can I do to help make sure my child is ready for the next grade? You know that students staying sharp over the summer is a great way to ensure academic success in the fall, so be sure to prepare resources and suggestions for parents who are looking to help their child over vacation. Here are a few recommendations to help educators prepare robust, individualized answers about how parents can support their students.

School Readiness

Consider Whole Child Development

Grade level readiness takes more than just drill-and-kill worksheet exercises—it’s important to consider the child’s academic, social, emotional and physical development. Tailor your recommendations based on each child’s specific needs. If you have a stellar student who sits alone at recess, suggest that their parents look for opportunities to develop social skills, such as a summer team sport.

If you’ve never met the child in question, ask mom or dad questions about all areas of development to gain a sense of their strengths and weaknesses, specific to the grade that’s just around the corner. Some great questions include: What does your child enjoy doing? What have you noticed about the way your child learns? What does your child struggle with? “Whole child development” isn’t just a buzzy educational phrase—there are many benefits to helping kids nurture many aspects of their development, from academics to ethics to social-emotional skills. Find more information about supporting the development of the whole child from the Association of Curriculum and Development here.

The transition from preschool to kindergarten is one of the biggest for elementary students. Check out the specific whole child recommendations for kindergarten readiness from the Silicon Valley Community Foundation and Center for Early Learning here.

Learn the Grade Expectations

Familiarize yourself with expectations for the grade level above and below the one you instruct. During the school day, when you’re alone with your class, the world of teaching can feel isolating. But educators never truly work alone—the work of one teacher lays the foundation for the colleague who will work with students the following year.

Take the time to develop an understanding of how the content in the grade you teach feeds into the next. Talk to teachers in the grade level above yours: What are their expectations for incoming students? What resources would they recommend for incoming students and parents to work on over the summer? Look at the Common Core or state standards to get a sense of what students will be learning next. This approach will also help you tailor helpful recommendations for parents. A great video about the significance of horizontal and vertical alignment is available through Teaching Channel here.

Prioritize Your Recommendations

Generating a list of summer recommendations for parents is a great step to making sure children are prepared for Back to School. However, parents can only do so much. Instead of giving them a laundry list of to-do items, prioritize and categorize each task by potential impact and the area it addresses. Having students focus on a few key areas and complete the things that have the potential for the greatest reward can help keep them focused, instead of overwhelmed. Limit your recommendations to parents to no more than three key exercises in each of three focus areas.

Be Specific

Include specific examples of things parents can do with children in your recommendations. Parents are dedicated partners who want the best for their children, but don’t always have expertise in how to help kids develop.

For example, a child’s lack of stamina with writing may be a focus area of growth. Without specific examples of how to help a child build writing stamina, a parent may push exercises at home that make their kid grow to dislike writing. Instead, explain that hand muscles can be strengthened by cutting paper or playing with clay. Suggest that mom or dad read frequently to their kids and discuss the stories to build a love of good writing. Specific examples empower parents to support their children in targeted, meaningful ways. Check out Curiosity Pack for more ideas of how parents can support their child at home.

Make Home-Based Learning Different from School

Provide recommendations that avoid making the home and family relationship feel like an extension of school. The classroom should be a place that kids enjoy coming to because they learn new things and are challenged in ways that support their growth. However, bringing too much of this into the home can make children feel like they don’t get a break from school-style learning. Parents and other family members shouldn’t feel pressured to “be the teacher” during the summer. When providing activity recommendations, consider how families can support the development of children in fun, play-based ways. Several helpful ideas are available at:

While the question of how to support a child during summer break may be asked casually by a parent, it’s not a question to take lightly. In that moment, parents are asking to be partners. Providing them with thoughtful, rich answers sets everyone up for success. Students benefit from the additional support and parents benefit from educational guidance.

About the Author

Daina Lujan has worked as an educator for over 12 years and is the mother of a wonderfully playful son. When she is not writing or thinking about education, she enjoys outdoor and gardening adventures with her family. She and her family live in the San Francisco Bay Area.

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