How to Get Good Grades in K-12 School
Organization is the First Challenge
Many students who do not do well in school, have organizational difficulties. They forget which assignments are due and what is being studied in the various classes or times throughout the day. This is really easy to overcome and for a parent to monitor. Every student should have a planner with a built in calendar section. Every day, when assignments are given, students need to write out the objectives, sources, and due dates in their planners. They need to take two minutes and review this every night with their families. This will eliminate huge issues of students who are not either prepared for tests, and assessments, and that challenge of missing work and assignments.
Parents play a part in this too. Your kids need to develop good organizational habits, and you need to help them get to that level. Most school now have a form of electronic monitoring of the teacher grade book available so you can have viewing access. If you do not already have this, inquire with their school and try to get digital access to the data. It is likely that they will have a cell phone app that will give you access to the information as the teacher inputs it. This will help you to keep tabs on any issues, before they get to be unmanageable.
Set aside a reasonable amount of quiet time each evening to get homework done and prepare for tests and assessments. Additionally, set aside at least 20 quiet minutes every day, and make sure that your child is reading something at their own level. Research done by Dr. David Krashen, says that a young student should be getting one million words of reading at a "comprehensible input" level each year. This indicates that every student should read a minimum of 2,700 words per day, at their own level. Obviously, this is much more for a student in middle or high school and may be much less for a first-grader. This includes all of the reading that they do, but a good rule is to give them that 20 minutes, so that they definitely build those skills. Let them read things that they want to read, as long as the level is appropriate. Read with them and role model the reading and make it a fun activity. Reading should never be a punishment.
Zero's are the Death of Good Grades
Even though I personally disagree with giving zero's in any grading format, they are still used by many, if not most teachers. Your child needs to make sure that they are not accruing zero's in the grade book. Typically, students get a zero for just not doing the work. It happens to all of us, once in a while - we forget, something comes up, it just does occur. If your child gets a zero, ask the teacher if they can make up that assignment. Most times, if it is not a regular event for your child, a teacher will want to allow a student to have the opportunity to fix this error. Try to train your child to be assertive, but polite and ask first for themselves. We want to make our kids as independent as possible and turn them into their own advocates. The teacher will appreciate this as well.
In today's classroom, if a student is trying their best, paying attention and being diligent, the work they do, and turn-in, will generally be of high quality. That work will get good scores, because if they are trying and if it is at their level, they will do fine with it. If your child is struggling, but trying, do not wait for this to compound itself, help them in their area of weakness, and provide supports so they do not fall behind. I constantly hear about how difficult math is for students and parents will complain that they did not like math when they were kids. Do not admit to this. Tell them that you were good at math and love math. tell them that math is in their blood and genetics, that they are naturally good at it. They need to believe in themselves, or they will just shut-down and give up when it becomes super challenging. Parents, if you need help with the math, or any subject quietly make an appointment with the teacher, or academic coach if the school has one, and ask for some assistance, so you can better explain the material. Also, Youtube is an amazing source of great explanations for almost every subject area. Watch these educational videos on your own, because they can confuse a younger student, and you want to be the expert to support them. If they are struggling in a subject, and still trying, this shows that they may be stronger than a student who is getting most things easily, but who fails to turn in many assignments. Good habits are very good to instill and they will support your child as they become an adult and face these things in their working lives.
The Academics are Just Too Hard
Sometimes, a student is trying very hard, and is getting good grades, everywhere but in one subject. Everyone has weaknesses, and when you find one, this is where you do super studying to counter the issue. When I was a teenager, I despised foreign language class. I could not understand how I was supposed to memorize words and phrases and then never use them. I grew up in California, but in my freshman year of high school my parents moved and I had to start at a new school. Needless to say, the Spanish classes were all full, and all I could get was German. I was terrible at German, and had to take three years of it in high school and another one in college. I tried hard to get good grades, and still struggled with this class.
Having taught for many years, and also having been a school administrator, I have learned, from students, that the best way to tackle a subject that is super difficult, is to pre-read all of the material and create a set of 3x5 cards with the definitions. If your student did not understand some vocabulary on the first attempt, help them to create a tool that captures those definitions. They may not be able to use them on the test, but just the act of writing them out, helps them to learn them. Work with your child's teacher or have your child inquire, to determine the standards, or assignments that will be addressed in the following week. On the weekend, set aside a small amount of time, no more than a couple of hours, to do a preview. Read the chapter ahead of time, and take note of terms that are confusing. Create notecard definitions of those tough vocabulary words that are giving them trouble. Write down a few key questions to get answered during the lecture in the next week.
Pre-reading and preparing for the lesson will magnify your comprehension and allow you to concentrate your efforts on the weak spots you already noticed. None of the material will be new to your student. They will be in great shape for that work, certainly better than they would have been without the preparation. A teacher will notice that this pre-work has occurred and will know that maximum effort is happening here. This will help a great deal as they will be able to tie your student into the learning as a role model and engage them in the learning during the instruction.
If they read material and do not understand what they have read, have them read a passage to you. Set aside about 100 words and count them out. As they read, if they cannot pronounce a word, make a mark on a piece of scratch paper. At the end, if you have made more than 7 or 8 marks, then they are having difficulty with the reading. Do a pre-reading strategy and help them to identify and understand the words that they are not fluent with. Often times, when you read the word with them, they will understand it. They may just not be capable of decoding it. If a student can decode well, but cannot remember what they read and have low comprehension, have them read into a cell phone recorder, and play it back to themselves. This will dramatically increase their comprehension, and it will be - them doing it. We need to teach kids ways to overcome their own weaknesses. We want them to be their own advocates, so they can prosper as adults.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2019 Scott P Davis