In addition to making awesome Busy Bags 😉 I am primary school teacher with 8 years experience and currently work as a tutor so I know a thing or two about helping students learn outside the classroom.
Now that the school year is underway your child has probably come home with some kind of homework that they’re expected to complete. While I don’t love the idea of homework as a whole, the importance of reinforcing skills, particularly reading, cannot be underestimated.
You might find it hard to make time to do anything other than read with your child each night and the burden of homework might rest heavily on your shoulders. What ever you do though, please don’t ignore it completely. Provide your child with a quiet space for them to complete their reading and homework. If spending an hour a week sitting down with your child to work through their homework sounds too challenging, consider blocking out smaller amounts of time. Four 15 minute sessions is much easier to manage than one whole hour of uninterrupted learning.
If you and/or your child are feeling overwhelmed by the amount of homework, please talk to their teacher, they may be able to work out some alternative arrangements.
There are many things, besides structured homework, you can do with your child to help their academic development that are incidental, don’t feel like ‘work’ and are fun for both of you.
Many of the recommendations below are suggestions I wrote in reports for my Year 1 students. They are simple activities that can be done in a stress-free way and may be of great help to your child.
- Reading skills should be supported through nightly reading of the take home book. When reading with your child, encourage them to use different strategies. Help them to read for meaning by asking questions about the text. If a word does not make sense, suggest they re-read the whole sentence/passage to try and understand what the word might mean.
- Borrow a variety of books from the library. You can check out levelled texts to correspond with the books they are bringing home from school but be sure to also borrow books that are of interest to them. Developing a love of reading opens up a world of possibilities.
- Read a variety of texts together and at every opportunity. Read newspapers, brochures, menus, shopping lists, catalogues, information on TV adverts, cereal boxes etc. The more your child is exposed to different text types in real life environments, the more value they’ll see in learning to read.
- Provide your child with fun and entertaining opportunities to trace, colour and write. These activities should help to develop their fine motor skills, in turn leading to better letter formation and neater writing.
- Practise letter names and sounds with your child by making play dough letters, writing with crayons in the bath or cutting out letter shaped cookies.
- Help your child practise pronouncing, sounding out and spelling words they regularly use as well as new words they come across.
- Place word lists in a position at home where they will be seen regularly. Practice reading and spelling from word lists, play games and identify sounds.
- Encouraging them to write cards and journal entries gives a meaningful way to practise writing well punctuated sentences.
- Encourage your child to practise writing detailed and interesting letters or postcards to friends and family. You might also consider giving them a scrapbook in which they could write, record thoughts and collect memories.
- Use Flash cards of letters or common words to build familiarity and help your child to learn sight words.
- Consider using magnetic letters on the fridge to form words and sentences.
- Practice basic number facts through quizzes, flash cards and questioning when there are a few spare minutes, such as while preparing meals or during car journeys.
- When opportunities arise, ask your child to assist you to work out real life problems modelling the solutions e.g. “If I we have 25 grapes to share between the 5 of us, how many will we each get?”
- Support your child’s numeracy development and number fact recall by encouraging them to play board games like snakes and ladders and work through online math activities such as Mathletics*
- Practise counting and mathematical operations (addition, subtraction, multiplication and division) using counters, paddle pop sticks or beads. I have a large collection of Busy Bags targeting specific mathematical skills. You can find them here.
- Find mathematical opportunities everywhere; add the digits on number plates, measure ingredients when cooking, read the time on analogue clocks, count down to events on the calendar, look for shapes and numbers to read in every day locations.
- If your child is finding a concept challenging, borrow some books on that particular theme e.g numbers, colours, time.
Mathletics and Reading Eggs
Most kids love having access to an iPad or computer and there are many great apps or programs that are both fun and educational. Reading Eggs and Mathletics/Mathseeds are paid programs but are definitely worth the investment. Your child can work through short, engaging lessons at their level and develop base level literacy and numeracy skills before building upon them. You might find your child already has access to these programs through their school. I highly recommend signing up for a free trial to see if you and your child likes the program. (After your free trial you will be offered a discounted rate to subscribe, though maybe not immediately so hold out a little while if you’d like to save a few dollars.)
It doesn’t need to be stressful or overwhelming when it comes time to help your child with academic learning outside of school. Hopefully you can see from the suggestions above that there are are plenty of opportunities to extend everyday activities to make them richer learning opportunities.
If you’re after more ideas and pre-prepared activities to help your child with their learning, head on over to Flying Sprout’s online store to browse the full range of fun and educational activities.