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Bright ideas from our readers: Getting ready for a new grade

From workbooks to school supplies to finding the right teacher, our readers share their ideas for helping kids start the new school year off right.

By GreatSchools Staff

Thanks to our readers who shared their ideas for helping children prepare to enter a new grade in school. Here are some of their suggestions:

Prevent summer learning loss

"I believe during the summer you should go on the computer and print out worksheets of every subject and tell your children to do one worksheet every day," writes the father of two sixth-graders in Florida. "That way when they go back to school they won't forget everything they learned. Also make sure to take your child to the nearest library at least every three weeks to check out chapter books. After they read the book you may read it and ask your child questions about the book. This worked for my child last year because he got better grades and he started to appreciate school more, too."

The mom of a 10-year-old son in Texas agrees that reading and workbooks are important. She writes, " I usually ensure we visit the local Barnes and Noble during the summer. My son loves flipping through books while savoring a frappuccino and a rich chocolate brownie! This is an excellent time for my son and me to spend quality time together.

While checking out the kids section, I noticed that they sell school workbooks for all academic areas. I purchased one for his next grade level (fifth grade) and I usually pay him 50 cents per page. This way he earns money and prepares for the next grade level without too many surprises."

Request a teacher who's a good match

Another parent writes, "At the final parent-teacher conference of the year, a lot of the teachers at our school talk to the parents about their recommendations for the child's next year teacher. Last year our child's kindergarten teacher did not, so I went to the principal, and very humbly asked for her help in placing our child with the first grade teacher who would be the best match for our child and our family. I told her as best I could about the strengths and weaknesses of our child and of our family, i.e., we can volunteer in the classroom. Prior to the discussion with the principal I also tried to learn what I could about the various teachers from parents and students, although the principal's knowledge was considerable because evaluating teachers is her job.

"This year's teacher was a good match for our family, and we worked closely with her to address my child's discipline problems, which improved. His academic performance also went from subnormal to outstanding. She discussed his next year's placement with us (a no-brainer) and discussed my child with the next year's teacher, who said she was interested in continuing the elaborate home bribery and daily reporting system we had going, (i.e., no TV unless earned with good behavior at school.)"

Get fun school supplies

"When I take my 9-year-old son shopping for school supplies, he gets to pick out the colors that he likes. Also when school starts he brings a small gift bag to all the kids to introduce himself and they love the gift as well," shares another mom.

Make the new situation familiar

"My son will be starting kindergarten in the fall," writes another parent. "To ease the transition we coordinated a group of children that will be attending his school. We get together for play groups every other week throughout the summer. My husband and I have also been taking him to the school in the afternoon and letting him walk around the campus. After a few trips, he feels more comfortable with the school setting and is familiar with the playground equipment, the location of the cafeteria, as well as the window to his upcoming classroom."

Give appropriate rewards and responsibilities

"My 5-year-old daughter will be beginning first grade in late July," share the mother of two in North Carolina. "She is excited and ready to go. Her father and I always tell her how special it is to see her growing up, learning and becoming such a big girl. I tell her that she did such a wonderful job with her work and behavior in kindergarten, that her school (and mommy) agree that it's time for her to move on to first grade and learn even more stuff. She really likes that. In addition, we celebrated the ending of kindergarten with a special reward. With each year completed, we plan a different celebration. She's already looking forward to a successful first grade year and her big girl reward!

"My 10-year-old son has just begun his fifth-grade year. After he reached a certain age, we began adding another chore or responsibility each year and we allow him a bit more freedom to do different things. For example, he will be able to join a youth bowling league this fall. He's too excited! With him, we do things to show him that he's not a little boy anymore, that he's becoming a responsible and trustworthy young man."

Comments from GreatSchools.org readers

09/1/2009:
"In reference to 'request a teacher who is a good match'...I've continuously been informed by principals and school staff that requesting a teacher is 'impossible' and that the children are placed 'homogeneously' in the class environment. However, when asked to explain how the placement is done 'homogeneously', the staff/principal was at a loss for words."
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