The transition from kindergarten to first grade is a big one. While perhaps not as momentous as starting kindergarten, children have a lot to adjust to when starting first grade. First graders often spend more time at school and deal with increased academic demands, especially in terms of homework. That means that, while your kindergartener often had little or no homework, homework expectations for your first grade are ramped up: first grade homework often consists of multiple parts, including language arts, math and independent reading, and teachers may assign homework daily or in weekly packets.
Beginning first graders are sometimes put off by having more homework than they did in kindergarten. While dealing with a more intense academic program during the day, children may not be inspired to do their homework after school, and, homework can become a struggle. But the good news is that parents can help! Use the following tips to help avoid homework battles.
Break homework into small chunks
First graders have already spent all day at school. Make homework more manageable by allowing first graders to do small bits of work at a time. If your child has daily homework, let him take breaks in between each activity. If your child has weekly homework, decide which parts will be completed on each night. Remember to pile on the praise and make your child feel great about all the hard work he is doing!
Work together on homework
Homework is not only a time for first graders to practice what they are learning in school; it’s also a great way for families to communicate about what is going on in their lives. When doing homework, ask your first grader to tell you more about what she is learning in school. Make doing homework a time when you are completely focused on your child: if homework is associated with special family time, your child will come to look forward to it. Focus on what your child does right instead of stressing the mistakes she makes. Try to keep your tone positive and upbeat even if homework becomes a struggle. Homework will just become harder if it becomes a high-stress situation for you and your child.
Find out from your child’s teacher what strategies are being taught at school, then reinforce those strategies at home. For example, if first graders are practicing addition using hands-on manipulatives, find beans or blocks to help your child solve addition problems at home. Whenever possible, use the same language and materials that are being utilized by the school.
Make independent reading engaging
Oftentimes first grade homework includes a requirement to read for a certain amount of time each night. But first graders are often beginning readers and may not yet be able to decode many books independently. If you are reading to your child, ask him to read easily decodable words, or sight words he has learned, in the book. First graders can often decode leveled reading books independently, but many first graders find those books boring compared to those they are used to being read by their parents. If this is the case, write your own easily decodable book for your child to read and illustrate - just get a few pieces of paper out, write the words and have your child read and draw a picture! Some kids become much more inspired to read when reading becomes interactive.