April showers bring May flowers, but before you know it, those May flowers will usher in the end of the school year. Standing in your way of summer vacation, however, is the fourth quarter. Long gone is the enthusiasm and energy of the start of a school year, with new teachers, new subjects and new backpacks at the ready. With Daylight Saving Time beckoning children outdoors later and later each evening, school routines from the beginning of the year start to fall by the wayside. Now is the time to take a few moments to reboot, restock and refresh so that your student can finish the year strong.
Here are some tips to end the year on a high note.
Do some spring cleaning
• Dump out that backpack. Organize all graded classwork, tests and quizzes, along with artwork and school flyers. If your student has final exams at the end of the year, find out if it is a year-long cumulative exam or just for second semester. File the papers accordingly. Return only current work to the binder and backpack.
• Stephanie Hammel, a resource teacher at St. Jude Regional Catholic School in Rockville, Maryland, suggests “weekly cleanouts of binders, folders and lockers. This way papers from over the school year do not pile up and get lost in the mess.”
• Take inventory of school supplies. “Students often need fresh school supplies in the spring, glue sticks and especially pencils” in the lower grades, says St. Jude Regional Catholic School teacher Tiffany Brown. Middle school students may need new notebooks or a refill of loose-leaf paper. Highlighters and markers are probably dried up or lost. Spending a few dollars on school supplies may just be the push to re-excite your student about school. (Moms, just think about what a new lipstick or nail polish can do for your spirits!)
Show interest in your student’s schoolwork
• “The more interest parents show in the material the students are learning, the more eager the student will be to share. If the parent can contribute some experience they have had that relates to the topic of study, that helps the student see application of their studies to the real world,” says Carol Hampe, a local middle school science teacher.
• Don’t just ask, “How was your day?” Nine times out of 10 the answer will be “Fine.” Instead, ask about a specific subject. “What did you do in science today?” Hampe suggests asking students to “tell a story about what they are learning over dinner or in the car on the way to sports practice. “
• Make math practice fun — get some flashcards and practice subtraction and addition facts as a game. Brown says, “It is important for students to have math facts memorized as they move on to more challenging concepts.”
• “Springtime is a wonderful time of year to go outside with your preschooler and have conversations about the natural world, building your child’s vocabulary and wonder of science,” notes Alexandra Lopez, a preschool teacher at St. Jude Regional Catholic School.
Maintain a consistent routine at home
• Danielle Trotta, a middle school science teacher at Holy Redeemer Catholic School in Kensington, Maryland, recommends, “Set up a dedicated area that is free of distractions,” but still visible for supervision. Stock a basket or bin with supplies: pencils, markers, scissors, tape, stapler, ruler, calculator, etc. Make a computer and printer available for research and typing papers.
• Some children work best on homework and studying after a snack and a short break, whereas others need to get it over with while they are still in “school mode.” Help your student prioritize the evening’s work; begin with the most challenging before your student runs out of steam. Don’t forget to take breaks and stretch between assignments.
• Use any technology and online resources your school makes available, such as Edline or the school’s website. Trotta adds, “Set a schedule for studying ahead for tests and preparing long-term projects.” If an online grade system is available, check your student’s grades and discuss them. Go over strengths as well as weaknesses, and make a plan for improvements.
• Lopez says, “Preschoolers thrive on routine! Keeping mealtime and bedtime hours consistent, even with the time change, will make for a confident and happy child.”
Be sure to set aside time for independent reading each day
• Brown says, “It is important to remember as the weather gets nicer to still have your child read every night, even outside or in the car on the way to sports practice.”
• Include reading as part of your child’s bedtime routine. Take turns reading aloud or have your student read along silently while listening to an audiobook. Sharon Kennedy, a fourth grade teacher in Kensington, Maryland, advises, “Read to your child. The more they hear a fluent reader, the better reader they will become.”
• Keep a chapter book in your bag for times when you and your student are waiting somewhere, or utilize an e-reader app on your phone to have a book at the ready.
Now’s the time for independence
• With the school year three quarters of the way over, Kennedy recommends, “Help your student to be just a little more independent. If you pack their lunch, have them pack it instead. Have your child pack up their own backpack. Give them a bit more responsibility than in the beginning of the year.”
• Lopez says, “Continue to include your child in everyday tasks such as pairing socks from the laundry pile or helping with the grocery list. These simple tasks help to build on math skills,” as well as promoting independence.
• Trotta adds, “Helping them does not mean doing it for them. Children need to be taught independence, but sometimes, even in middle school, they still need some help. Help your children find what study strategy, organizational habits and time management skills work well for them. Don’t let them slack off. Help them stick to deadlines and remind them to continue to put forth their best effort,” even so late in the school year, so they can finish strong.
Michelle Blanchard Ardillo is a middle school language arts teacher and freelance writer. Follow her on Twitter at @michardillo or on her website at michelleardillo.com.