Secrets of “A” Students

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Keeping up with the papers, assignments, quizzes, and tests is hard. Here's success!

Your participation in your child’s education goes a long way toward school success. Especially if your child is in public school — where piles of worksheets are the norm — kids need help with organization, keeping up with assignments, quizzes and tests and more. It can be hard. But some kids have mastered how to succeed. Here are a few of their pointers:

“A” Students PARTICIPATE

Top students know that teachers factor participation into their grading (some more than others). Participating in class shows that you’re paying attention and it helps the teacher know who you are more than he might if you simply sit and never answer or try to add to the conversation. Encourage your child to ask questions. Help him learn how to ask by play acting at home, suggests the book School-Family Partnerships for Children’s Success (Teachers College Press; 2005). And let your child know it’s OK to be wrong: Being wrong is another way of learning. Tell him there are no dumb questions and keep on working with him at home to get comfortable in coming up with questions.

“A” Students Stay ORGANIZED

Successful kids learn early on how to keep on top of their things. If your child’s digging hopelessly through his backpack in search of a loose piece of homework, more support is needed. Put up a big wall calendar just for him. Together, write down important test, assignment and project dates. Decide when homework should be done and put it on the calendar. Put “Library” on there so he can keep up with his books and any other “specials” he has like a music lesson or soccer practice. Get him in the habit of checking the calendar daily. Also, be sure he has a folder in his backpack for each day’s academic work. Set aside time so you can review work together, ask questions, praise successes.

“A” Students Don’t PROCRASTINATE

Teach your child that as soon as he learns a project or test date he should start working on it so he’ll have plenty of time to get it done without having to cram everything in the day or two before it’s due. Studying for tests can be done in 15 minute increments for several days over a period of time. Many educators encourage kids to make flashcards for tests. Simply writing something down helps to embed an idea. Teach your child about setting goals for himself, and encourage him to tell you if he’s having difficulty understanding a subject or concept so you can get him help.

“A” Students Will Do HOMEWORK Anywhere

Top students keep up with what’s happening in class by doing a little studying every day whether it’s assigned or not. If your child consistently comes home saying “No homework!”at least have him do some pleasure reading for 20 minutes or so. Plenty of kids say they do their homework during study hall or “lab” or some such. Make it clear to your child that if that’s the case you want to see it to be sure he understands the work.

Busy kids sometimes have to do their homework on-the-go (it’s not uncommon to see a kid studying at a hockey tournament). If work gets done at home, make sure you have the supplies your child needs and a working printer for your computer. In the book Homework Made Simple: Tips, Tools, and Solutions for Stress-Free Homework (Advantage; 2010), find simple strategies such as mounting a dry erase board next to the bathroom mirror so your child can study his spelling words while he brushes his teeth! You get the idea.

“A” Students do the READING

Keeping up with assigned reading is what top students do. Kids who think the teacher can’t tell if they read the work or not are setting themselves up for failure. If you have a reluctant reader, it may be best to read the material with him. Eventually your child will learn that it’s so much better to be ready than it is to slink down in a chair and hope not to be noticed, or worse, be called on and not have an answer. In his book Getting Straight A’s (Lyle Stuart; 2000) Gordon W. Green, Jr., says the secret of good reading is to be “an active reader — one who continually asks questions that lead to a full understanding.”

“A” Students Stay ON TASK

Top students allow no intrusions on study time. Once the books are open or the computer is booted up, the cell phone gets switched off. Study is business, and business comes before recreation.

“A” Students Turn In CLEAN PAPERS

Neat papers are likely to get higher grades than sloppy ones. The student who turns in neat papers with his name legible at the top is already on the way to an “A.” To a teacher, a child’s work is like being served a meal: No matter how good it really is, you can’t believe it tastes good if it’s presented on a messy plate.

“A” Students Do a Little EXTRA

On a special project, for instance, if the required number of facts is five, a top student will turn in 10. If the teacher asks the class to read ahead, the top students will do it and be ready to participate.

Susan Swindell Day is the editor in chief of Nashville Parent and the mom of four amazing kids.

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