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How to help struggling students

Schools, Internet, other technology offer resources for parents

Schools, Internet, other technology offer resources for parents

October 19, 2007|By TIFFANY ARNOLD

Parents are a child's first teacher, but when a child is having trouble at school, parents don't always know where to turn.

"That's part of the challenge," said Duane McNairn, principal at E. Russell Hicks Middle School in Hagerstown.

McNairn said schools are trying to come up with better ways to provide resources for parents to help students outside the classroom.

Parents will soon be getting an idea of how well their children are performing, as report cards will be handed out during the next few weeks.

In Washington County Public Schools, the marking period ends Oct. 26 for students in elementary school. High school marking period ends Nov. 21, and students in middle school should have received their report cards already, McNairn said.

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When assessing a child's problem areas, parents should first familiarize themselves with their state's educational standards, said Lynn Baynum, a professor at Shippensburg University's Teacher Education Department.

Saying, "This is what I learned when I was in school," is not a reliable gauge for what today's students should be learning said Baynum, who specializes in literacy.

"School systems have changed," she said.

Here are some things McNairn and Baynum suggested to help parents tutor their children at home:

· Focus on strengths and not weaknesses.

Doing this improves confidence and helps students draw connections to their trouble areas.

· Get involved.

Parents need to maintain a presence throughout their child's academic career.

"It's not enough to just ask if they have any homework," McNairn said. If they say "no," parents should respond: "Well, what are you working on in school, right now?"

If you see the child's planner and notice it's empty, McNairn suggested saying to them, "Hey, I noticed your planner was empty. What's going on at school?"

"This shows them that you care about what they are doing," McNairn said.

· Older children need to see relevance.

High school students might lose interest in a subject if they do not see how it fits into their lives. "They need to understand that there are some things we have to do as a society," Baynum said. "It's like toilet training. If you want to be a member of society, you have to know how to do it."

· Take advantage of the Web.

Baynum recommends parents try the exercises at The Metropolitan Museum of Art's Web site, which has an interactive section just for kids at www.metmuseum.org/explore/museumkids.htm. The site is suitable for elementary school-age students. In the section Czanne's Astonishing Apples, there's a reading passage about the artist, with interactive quizzes and other activities. The aim is to improve reading skills, but it doesn't feel like homework.

Baynum also recommends the following sites:

· www.starfall.com

· www.sitesforteachers.com

· www.literacy.uconn.edu

· www.childdevelopmentinfo.com/learning

· www.whitehouse.gov

· www.kids.gov

· Take advantage of school resources.

Teachers at E. Russell Hicks plan to take after-school help one step further by offering assistance to groups of students who need it in a specific subject.

"We'll identify students with certain needs, one might be a math topic. We're going to group them all together and help them," McNairn said.

McNairn said the after-school help could start as soon as Monday.

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