Secrets to Becoming an “A+” Student

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Straight A's don't come naturally to most kids; they're the result of a lot of hard work and effort.

“I’m not as smart as the other kids in class,” sighs your 11-year-old student. She’s constantly comparing herself to other students and it’s not looking good. However, you can turn that around.

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:

PLENTY OF PARTICIPATION

Top students know that teachers factor participation into their grading (some more than others). Encourage your child to participate in class to show he’s paying attention. It also helps the teacher get to know him better. Suggest he ask questions, too. Maybe even act it out at home so he learns how to ask his teachers questions. Let him 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.

KEEP UP WITH HOMEWORK

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. 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. 

Help him get a good grip on his homework and make the most of it. Sir Ken Robinson, Ph.D., and Lou Aronica provide a few tips to help you do just that in their latest book, You, Your Child, and School: Navigating Your Way to the Best Education (Viking; 2018):

  1. Resist the urge o do the work for your child. Homework creates an opportunity for students to learn from their mistakes, so it is important not to overstep.
  2. Do your OWN homework. The key to avoid being overwhelmed with a child’s homework is to be prepared.
  3. Make a plan. Avoid the last-minute rush/panic.
  4. Create a family calendar. Create a physical or electronic family calendar that houses all family, school, extracurricular, and work schedules and deadlines.
  5. Set a family study time. Weekly family study time is a good way for parents to connect with children, instill the importance of education, and spend quality time together.
  6. Tie homework to real-life activities. Look for current events  to discuss social studies, or research specific jobs to bring science and math concepts to life.
  7. Get creative, particularly with young children. Look for opportunities to expand homework assignments into creative projects.
  8. Create a calm and supportive environment. Have a quiet space in the house where your child always goes to do homework.

Don’t forget to set aside time so you can review work together, ask questions and praise successes.

NO PROCRASTINATION

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

LOTS OF 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, he 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.”

STAY ON TASK

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

PRODUCE 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.

DO A LITTLE EXTRA WORK

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.

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