Central Dauphin School District

600 Rutherford Road Harrisburg PA, 17109 • 717.545.4703

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Parent "tips" for Elementary and Secondary Students

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Are you helping your child read with fluency?



Studies show that kids who read aloud with fluency are most likely to have a greater understanding of what they read.  Your child reads with fluency if he reads aloud smoothly and with expression.

            Are you helping your child improve his reading fluency?  Answer yes or no to the questions below:

___1. Do you set aside time for your child to read to you in addition to the time you spend reading to him?

___2. Do you let your child pick the books he wants to read?  Even if you think it’s too easy, nothing succeeds like success.

___3. Do you try not to interrupt if he pronounces a word incorrectly?

___4. If your child asks for help pronouncing a word, do you give it, then let him keep reading?

___5. Do you talk about a book after your child is finished reading?

Reading is for fun and enjoyment.

How well are you doing?

Each yes means you’re helping your child learn to read aloud.  For each no answer, try those ideas.



Reinforce six important skills with some colored cereal



Here's is a fun way to reinforce six important reading skills.  These skills will help your child understand and remember more of what she reads following a reading assignment.

            You’ll need a cup of colored cereal (or candy) in six colors.  Have your child close her eyes and pick a piece of cereal.  For each color: have her do one of the following tasks:

1.     Blue– tell a word or words that are important in the reading.

2.     Green – ask a question about what she just read.  Then look for the answer.

3.     Orange – restate what she just read in her own words.

4.     Yellow – make prediction.  What does she think will come next?

5.     Brown – draw a picture or sketch of something important in the reading

6.     Red – relate something she read to something in her own life.

Your child will enjoy drawing out different colors.  She may not even notice she is actually practicing her reading skills!


SOURCE:  Barbara R Blackburn, Classroom Instruction from A to Z, ISBN: 9781-5966-7038-9 (Eye on Education, 1-888-299-5350,www.eyeoneducation.com)


Teach you child how to take responsibility for assignments



He shows you the paper he’s planning to hand in tomorrow.  It’s filled with misspelled words and unclear writing.  What is your role here?  Do you let your child take responsibility for the paper and turn it in as it is?  Or do you clean it up before it goes to the teacher?


v     Help your child brainstorm about what to write.

v     Encourage your child to write a rough draft.

v     Answer questions about how to spell words.  Write them down so he can copy them, or help him sound them out.

v     Let your child find errors.  Say, “I see a place in the first three lines where a sentence should end.  Can you find it?”

v     Praise your child for using interesting words.  Say, “I love that you say the snow creaked under his shoes.”

v     Encourage your child to write a neat final copy.


Here’s what not to do:

v     Don’t choose a topic for your child.

v     Don’t do all the proofreading for your child.

v     Don’t write or type your child’s paper, no matter how messy you may thinkit is.

v     Don’t be afraid to tell your child there are some things you can’t help with.  Say, “Josh, I don’t think Ms. Jones wants to see what I think about this subject.  She wants to know what you think.”


SOURCE:  Harvey S Wiener, Any Child Can Write, ISBN: 0-195-15316-2, (Oxford University Press, 1-800-445-9714, www.oup.com/us)





Are you stressing the importance of your child’s effort?


Every student is capable of her own “personal best.”  Are you encouraging your child’s very best effort?  Answer yes or no to the following questions: 

___1. Do you make it a point to notice effort? “I can see how hard you’re working.”

___2. Do you encourage your child to take pride in her own effort?  “It must make you feel great to know that you hung in there.”

___3. Do you act as a model by putting forth good effort?  “I am behind on this report but I will finish it by tomorrow morning.”

___4. Do you point to effort as the reason for your child’s successes?  Rather than, “You’re so smart,” say, “That extra half hour a night of studying has paid off.”

___ 5. Do you avoid focusing too much on results, as long as your child puts forth her best effort?


How well are you doing?

Mostly yes answers mean you are encouraging your child to strive for her best.  Mostly no?  Check the quiz for ways to motivate your child.


Do you know what motivates your preteen and what doesn’t?



Is your preteen living up to his potential at school, and at home?  If not, don’t give up on him!  You can motivate him if you: 


      Help him set attainable goals.  Make sure they’re clear, understandable and small.

      Find ways to explore his interests.  Not sure what his interests are?  Ask him!

      Praise him when he does well.  On the flip side, offer constructive criticism when he stumbles.

      Be creative in getting him help.  If he doesn’t do well with one-to-one tutoring, for instance, maybe he’d blossom in a group.

      Accept him for who he is.  Love your preteen unconditionally.


Be sure you don’t:

      Set unreasonable expectations.

      Threaten your preteen or punish him when he fails to achieve.

      Enforce too-strict rules.

      Think you should ignore his achievements because achieving “is what he is supposed to do.”

      Criticize him when he stumbles.

      Compare him to higher-achieving siblings or friends.



SOURCE: “Tips for Parenting Underachievers for Parents of Underachieving Teens,” About-Underachieving-Teens.com, www.about-underachieving-teens.com/parenting-tips.html.



Avoid engaging in arguments with your middle schooler


What’s the only way to win an argument with your middle schooler?  By not having one in the first place.  That’s because, when it comes to arguing with a preteen, no one ever wins.  Instead, both sides just get angrier, frustrated or resentful.  So how can you avoid arguing with your middle schooler when discussing something that may set him off?  Here’s how: 

Ø      Say what you need to say and say it only once.  Avoid lectures ir endlessly rehashing something you’ve already said.

Ø      Schedule your conversation wisely.  If you know a certain issue is likely to lead to arguing, tackle it during a specific low-stress time for both of you.

Ø      Don’t start a conversation you know you can’t finish.  If you’re bolting out the door for work, don’t suddenly bring up a touchy subject with him.

Ø      Don’t take the bait.  It may be hard, but don’t let  yourself be drawn into an argument with him.

Ø      Don’t respond to any ridiculous claims.

Ø      Let him have the last word.  Don’t tolerate rudeness, but do let him conclude the conversation when possible.

And if, despite your best efforts, your middle schooler continues to argue with you?  Walk away.  Staying there and fighting isn’t going to resolve anything, and it may leave you both feeling worse.  Remember, arguing doesn’t solve problems, it creates them.


Source:  Thomas W. Phelan, PhD., Surviving Your Adolescents, ISBN: 1-88940-08-2 (Child Management, Inc 1-800-442-4453, http://www.parentmagic.com/)


Questions & Answers


Q: My eighth grader is so hard on herself!  She complains that she can’t do anything right, which isn’t true at all. 


A:  If there is ever a time when self doubt and insecurity most rear their ugly heads, it’s during adolescence.  Preteens are discovering the pressure of trying to measure up, and it can be scary when they feel like they are falling short.

Although you can’t make your child’s insecurity go away altogether, you can help her see just how smart and competent she is.  Here’s how:

ü      Find the right outlets.  Let your child experience success by putting her where she is most likely to succeed.  If sports are her thing, sign her up for softball or tennis.  If she enjoys theater, let her join the drama club at school.

ü      Give her responsibilities.  She may gripe about having to clean the garage or empty the dishwasher, but make her do it anyway.  Chores are a great way to make your child feel needed because doing them helps the whole family.  They may make her more responsible, too.

ü      Praise her accomplishments.  Did your middle schooler just do something wonderful?  Congratulate her!  Show her that you noticed her achievement, whether it was getting a good grade on a quiz or setting a beautiful table for dinner.

With a little help from you, your preteen will see herself as the wonderful person she is!



Holly Smith, The Parent Institute


Share methods to strengthen your child’s recall


People need  recall to quickly remember and use information they once learned and then stored away in memory.  Recall helps your child with tests and learning new material.


1.     Classify Your child could classify lists of facts before learning them.  Social studies facts could be classified as people, events, or dates.  Group each fact into the right category.  He should know how many facts he has in each category.  Then when it is time for your child to remember, he can thin: “People.  There were seven in the category.”  If he has studied, this should jog his memory. 

2.     Place.  Teach your child to take new information and “place’ it in the s4etting he knows best.  IF your child has to learn the stages of plant growth, he can place this concept in hi bedroom.  He could make a card with notes and a picture about the first stage, and tape it to his door.  The second stage note card should go on his desk, next to his door.  The third stage notecard could go on the dresser next to the desk.  Now when he wants to remember this information, he can visualize his room.  He can recall the place each piece of information is in.  This helps him “see” the information in his mind.


SOURCE:  William R Luckie & Wood SWmethurst, Study Power, ISBN: 57129-046X (Brookline Books, 1-800-666 2665, www.brooklinebooks.com)






Are you helping your teen become self reliant?


One of the toughest jobs facing parents of teens is helping their children learn how to stand on their own.  Here’s a quiz  to see how you’re doing.

_____1.  I try to involve my teen in setting the rules.  He is learning how to negotiate.

_____2.  I’ve taught him basic life skills, such as doing laundry and balancing a checkbook.  I encourage him to take responsibility for himself.

_____3.  I demonstrate – and teach – time management.  I have helped my teen learn how to organize big projects so he meets deadlines.

_____4.  I have encouraged my teen to take a speech course.  Adults who are comfortable speaking in front of a group have more confidence.

_____5.  I’ve tried to teach him good decision-making skills.  I set limits but encourage him to make decisions inside those boundaries.


How well are you doing?

Each yes means you are moving your teen toward becoming a self-reliant adult.  For no answers, try those ideas in the quiz.


Build memories by celebrating the milestones in your teens life


Ancient cultures had traditions for marking milestones in a young person’s life.  In our culture, high school graduation is about the only such celebration.  Finding ways to mark other milestones in your child’s life can be a great way to build wonderful memories.

A birthday celebration, for example, can be just a cake and a few gifts.  Plan a meal that includes your teen’s favorite foods.  Decorate the table with things that reflect your teen’s interests.  Have each family member offer a special wish.

            Look for other times you can celebrate.  She earned her first A on a chemistry test.  She made the cast of the spring musical.  All these can be causes for a small celebration.  Enjoy a cup of tea or hot chocolate.  Eat dinner by candlelight.

            Letters make a wonderful way for you to mark a milestone.  Write her a letter telling her how proud you are.  Share your hopes for her future.  She may never remember the gift she received for birthday – but she’ll probably keep your letter forever. 


SOURCE:  Mimi Doe, Nurturing Your Teenager’s Soul, ISBN: 0-39953-028-2, (Penguin Group, 1-800-788-6262, http://www.penguingroup.com/)




Encourage your teen to manage feelings and emotions responsibly


            Your teen claims he’s “almost a grown-up”—and you’re inclined to agree with him.  He does his chores without being reminded, he can be trusted to come home by curfew and he manages his money well.  But there is one more part of being a “grown up” --- managing his emotions responsibly. 

            Your teen needs to know how to deal with his emotions like a “grown up.”  Be sure your teen knows how to responsibly handle:

  • His worries.  Ask him to make a list, dividing his worries into “Things I can change” and “Things I have no control over.”  Help him focus on solving the problems he can affect and forgetting about the things he can’t. 
  • His feelings.  Encourage him to talk about his feelings instead of acting out or bottling them up inside.  Telling a friend “I’m hurt by the way you treated me” and giving her a chance to explain herself is more “grown up” than spreading untrue rumors about her as revenge. 
  • His emotions.  Just because he is angry with his soccer coach doesn’t give him the right to kick his sister’s dolls out of his way.  Teach him to calm himself down by taking deep breaths or counting to 10.  Afterwards, he will be able to clearly think about how to handle the situation. 


SOURCE: Sean Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens, ISBN: 0-6848-5609-3 (Fireside, a division of Simon & Shuster, 1-800-223-2336, www.simonsays.com)




What should you do when your teen has a problem at school?


A teacher has asked to meet with you and your teen about a problem.  This is a tricky situation.  You want to do more than just observe.  But you know that it’s not your job to solve the problem, either.  Here are some tips to allow you to help, but not too much:

v     Break the ice.  Thank the teacher for his time.  Ask him to start your meeting by giving a summary of the problem.

v     Ask your teen to speak next.  Once the teacher has given his view of things, have your teen do the same.  It is important to know how each sees the situation.

v     Ask a question or two if you think either 9ne should elaborate.

v     Recap the conversation so far.  “Jeff, you think your history grade is unfair.  But Mr. White says you haven’t shown up for any of the extra credit sessions after school.  Do you have other ideas about how you can improve your grade?”

v     Step back.  At this point the problem is theirs to solve.



SOURCE: Louise Felton Tracy, Grounded for Life? Stop Blowing Your Fuse and Start Communicating With Your Teenager, ISBN:0-943990-95-5 (Parenting Press,Inc. 1-800-992-6657, www.parentingpress.com)

Make sure your teen is safe while using social networking sites


            A recent Harris survey found that teens spend about 10 times more time online than their parent s think they do.  Often, they may be on social networking sites, such as MySpace and Facebook.

            These sites can be a great way for kids to stay in touch with friends.  They can share photos and thoughts. 

            But there can be a downside to these social networking sites.  Teens sometimes believe they can say anything online.  They don’t think about the consequences of their actions.

            Here’s how you can help your teen make the best choices while on social networking sites:

      Limit online “friends.”  The page your teen creates can only be viewed by people she classifies “friends”.  Often, teens give a “friend” classification to people they don’t know at all.  One good rule to set for your teen:  Choose only friends you’d know how to contact in real life.

      Remind your teen that nothing can ever be completely removed from the Internet.  She should think carefully before posting anything that would damage her reputation or her friendships.

      Talk about values.   Remind your teen that if she wouldn’t do something in real life, she should avoid doing it online.

      Stress safety.  Your teen should never post information that would allow someone to locate her in real life.   She should also not arrange to meet anyone she has only met online.

      Help her keep the balance.  Online friendships are great, but be sure you’re teen spends time with friends in the real world.


SOURCE:  Nancy Willard, M.S., J. D. “Social Networking Safety:  A Guide for Parents,”  www.futureofchildren.org/usr_doc/snssafety.pdf



Take the TV out of your teen’s bedroom now!


            You’re upgrading the TV in the living room.  Should you give the old set to your teen for his room?

            Not according to the latest research from the University of Minnesota School of Public Health.  It turns out that teens with TVs in their rooms are less likely to engage in other healthy activities.  They exercise less.  They eat fewer fruits and vegetables (but drink more soft drinks and eat more fast foods).  They spend more time in their rooms – and less time with their families.  That’s because they’re twice as likely to watch five hours of TV or more a day.

            These teens also read less.  They study less.  Not surprisingly, they also earn lower grades than teens without televisions in their rooms.

            If your teen doesn’t have a TV in his room, don’t give him one.  If he does have a set in his room, consider moving it to a place the whole family can share.


SOURCE: “ Teens Who Have TV In Their Bedrooms Are Less Likely to Engage IN Healthy Habits, Study Shows,”  ScienceDaily, www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/04/080407074546.htm.


Encourage your teenager to focus when studying


            Teens are constantly distracted – and that’s very obvious when they sit down to study.  If your teen seems unable to sit still, he’s not alone.

            One way to help your teen focus is to teach him to write tasks down.  A written list can motivate your teen to get to work faster – and to stay on the task at hand.  Help your teen learn to mange his time:

Ø      Daily – with a to-do list.  Suggest that write down all the assignments he has to do that day.  After he has done this, he’s ready to create a schedule.  Does he know his attention span is shot after 50 minutes of studying?  Then he should plan for short (five –to ten-minute) breaks every hour.

Ø      Weekly – with a planner.  Encourage him to plan out his time for the upcoming week – his classes, appointments, meetings, practices, family dinners, etc.  Then he can fill in his study time.  Seeing that he has to stick to his schedule if he wants to go out on Friday night may motivate him to stay focused.

Ø      Monthly – with a calendar.  A wall calendar can help him plan for long-term assignments.  He can break down big assignments like science projects or term papers into shorter steps.  Giving each section of the project a due date will make the large task feel less daunting.



SOURCE:  “Time Management,” Study Guides and Strategies, http://studygs.net/timman.htm.




Exceptional Child
 Try techniques to help your teen with learning disabilities focus:

     Homework can be tough for any teen.  But teens with learning disabilities can find the task even harder.  That's a challenge for parents.  How much help is too much?  How can you help your teen focus on what she can do, rather than what she can't

     Here are ways to help your teen with homework without doing it yourself:

Create a climate for learning.  Kids with disabilities are easily distracted.  That means you need to turn the TV off.  Keep the study area free from the clutter.

Plan ahead:  Teens with learning disabilities may always need help with planning.  Buy a big calendar and keep it close at hand.  Write down every step in a big project.  If she needs poster board, help her plan a trip to the store. 

Be positive.  Kids with disabilities receive many negative messages each day.  See that your teen gets at least as many positive messages. 

Remind her of what she can do.  If you look at her math homework and she only got two problems right, talk about those two.  Have her tell you how she solved them.  See if she can apply that same method to another problem. 

Acknowledge her feelings.  If she's refusing to do homework, she's probably frustrated.  Saying, "I know it’s tough," can help. 


Parent Quiz Parent Quiz:  Are you building a love for reading in your child?

     "A person who won't read has no advantage over one who can't," Mark Twain once said.  But far too many kids would rather spend their time doing anything but reading. 

     Are you doing what you can to help your child love reading?  Answer yes or no to each of the questions below: 

__1.  Is reading a regular part of your child's day?  Do you make sure he reads at least 30 minutes a day?

__2.  Does your child see you reading something (newspaper, magazine, book) nearly every day?

__3.  Do you allow your child to try to read a book that may be too hard for him?  If it is, do you decide to use the book for a read-aloud?

__4.  Do you make regular trips to the library and encourage your child to check out all types of age-appropriate reading material?

__5.  Do you plan on enrolling your child in summer reading activities at your local library?

     How well are you doing? 

Each yes answer means you’re doing a good job of raising a child who loves to read.  For each no answer, try that idea. 


Attendance Matters  Act immediately if you suspect your teen is skipping school. 

     Spring weather may beckon your child outside.  But she still belongs in school until the final bell rings.  Research shows that too many students are not complying with this.  One study least year from Indiana University showed that about half the students surveyed had skipped school. 

     Give your child the best change for school success by making sure she has a good attendance record.  You should:

Let your child know that you are monitoring school attendance.  Do not voice this as a threat.  Simply tell your child you are paying attention because attendance is so important.

Speak with your child's teachers or counselor if you feel that she is not engaged with school.  Ask if you can work together on a strategy to help your child increase his interest and school engagement. 

Ask your child how she is feeling about school.  Research shows that children who are bored or who do not feel engaged with school are more likely to skip.

* Make clear to your child that you do not condone skipping school.  Not even once. 
WritingUse the summer to help your teen become a better writer.
Your teen doesn’t have to write research papers over the summer months to become a better writer.  Here are four fun ways he can become a better writer:


  1. Read.  Everything.  William Faulkner once gave this advice to a young writer:  “Read everything – trash, classics, good and bad, see how they do it.”
  2. Keep track.  After your teen reads something he likes (or doesn’t like) have him write about it.  As he reflects on what he reads, he’ll get ideas of things he might like to try in his own writing. 
  3. Try something new.  If he usually writes poetry, he should spend the summer writing fiction.  Encourage him to write letters - he’ll find his writing voice.
  4. Build vocabulary.  A writer’s task is to find the right word.  (Did the character complain, cavil or gripe?)  Making the best choice is easier as he learns new words.

Questions/AnswersQuestions & Answers


Q:  My child is in fourth grade.  I’ve heard a lot about one of the fifth-grade teachers at our school. Many parents say I should ask the principal not to put my child in her class.  Will this work? 


A:  Probably not.  In most schools, children are assigned to classes based on criteria other than parent requests.


But there is no question that your child may work better in a certain kind of classroom.  If he has attention issues, for example, he might thrive in a class where things are orderly and predictable.  If he’s very creative, that same classroom might feel stifling.


That’s the type of important information principals want to know.  As they assign children to classes, they want to place them with teachers who will help them do their best.


So instead of asking the principal for a specific teacher:

  • Try to describe your child’s learning style.  What school experiences has he loved?  What traits affect his learning?
  • Be candid about your child’s weaknesses.  One teacher may be able to address those weaknesses more successfully.
  • Talk about the type of classroom where you think your child would thrive.  Does he need structure or rebel against it?  Does he have any special education needs?
Finally, if your child is assigned to this teacher’s class, don’t panic.  Instead, give the teacher a chance.  Different children react in different ways – and this teacher may be just right for your child.

Parent Quiz  Parent Quiz:  Are you making homework a good experience?


There aren’t many children who love doing homework.  But most kids don’t fight and rebel.  When parents find ways to make homework a positive experience, children will usually do it without a battle.  How are you doing?  Answer yes or no to each question below to find out:


____1.  Do you give your child choices – such as which subject to study first?  Whether to study right after school or before dinner?

____2.  Are you available and nearby to offer support when your child is studying?

____3.  Is homework time a quiet time for your whole family?  Do you turn off the TV and ask everyone to read or study?

____4.  Do you help your child study by calling out spelling words or holding up flash cards?

____5.  Do you praise your child for working hard?  This gives her a sense of pride in her accomplishments.


            How well are you doing?

If you answered mostly yes, you are doing your part to make homework a positive learning experience for your child. Mostly no answers?  Try those ideas in the quiz.

ReadingFollow a six-step process to get your teen to read more quickly.


He can sound out all the words.  But he reads so slowly that homework takes forever.  To help your teen read more quickly, have him:

1.    Choose a short passage for practice.  It shouldn’t be too hard for your teen.

2.    Use a marker.  It can be an index card, a pencil eraser or even a finger.

3.    Place the marker at the first word on the first line.  Have your teen focus a little ahead of the marker.

4.    Now move the marker from left to right.  Make sure the eyes keep moving.

5.    Avoid speaking the words aloud as he is reading.  Most people can read much faster than they can speak.

6.    Test himself at the end of the passage.  Can he tell what it was about?


Keep practicing this technique and his reading speed will improve.

WritingIf your elementary schooler hates to write, start brainstorming!


Some kids don’t like to write because they think it’s boring. Many others find it too challenging.

They get frustrated trying to think of ideas.

You can’t force a child to love writing.  But you can turn a reluctant writer around.  How?  Try a little brainstorming.

Brainstorming is fun and reduces stress and anxiety, which sparks creativity.  It can also help your child break through writer’s block.

Brainstorming also teaches other skills that help with writing.  By creating lists, for example, your child will learn to break down complex ideas into smaller components.

Your child can use brainstorming to figure out a topic for a paper or to think of ideas for a story.


The next time your child gets writer’s block, have him:

  • Make a list.  Good examples are:  Things I love.  My favorite animals, places, toys or food.  Things I know a lot about.  Scary characters.  Things adults say.
  • Exaggerate.  Ask questions to spark new ways to think about people, events and scenes.  What would it feel like to be a car, a house or a dog?  What would life be like if you had four hands? 
  • Use visual images.  Have him look at a picture and write down ideas it brings to mind.  Or take a walk and make notes about what he sees.
  • Add action to ideas, people or things.  He can think:  What will happen next? How quickly?

ReadingEncourage your child to think about material before reading.


Many students just “dive in” to unfamiliar or difficult reading material because they want to “get it over with.”  As result, they don’t emerge with a good understanding of it.


Taking a few minutes to think before reading can help your child improve his comprehension.  Then he may be able to avoid having to read the same text again and again.


Before your middle schooler reads anything – especially school material – encourage him to:

  • Think about the subject.  What does he already know about it?  What should he know after reading?
  • Think about the point.  Why is he reading this?  What will he need to be able to do after reading?
  • Consider his motivation level.  What can he do to get himself ready to read?  Is it a good time of day?  Does he need to change location?
  • Skim for titles and words in bold.  This will give him a preview of the main ideas in the text.

CommunicationOpen lines of communication by doing chores with your teenager.


As a parent, you know that it is important to spend time with your teen.  But you also know how difficult it is to figure out what to do during this “quality time.”  The things you want to do (that your child used to love) are now “lame”, and the thought of you going somewhere your teen likes to hang out is “mortifying.”


So how do you spend time with your teen if you’re not “allowed” to go anywhere?  By spending time together – right at home.  Both you and your teen have a list of chores to do around the house.  Consider working together on some of the bigger jobs – and make sure to spend time talking while you’re working.  You and your teen might:

  • Wash the car together.
  • Plant a garden (or weed one that has already been planted).
  • Paint a fence or the outside of your home. 

Your teen may feel more comfortable opening up to you while you’re scrubbing opposite sides of the car than when you’re staring at each other across the dinner table.  And as a bonus, the conversation (and the extra set of hands) will make the job pass quickly.





Last Modified on September 18, 2012