This year has been one like no other for students, parents and educators. So much has changed in how and where kids are learning. Many parents are worried that their child has “fallen behind” what they may have learned during a “normal” school year. Many students have been disconnected quite literally from their teachers and their peers. So, what do we do with all of this, especially as we try to prepare for the summer and the upcoming school year? Teachers on Call has you covered with some great questions and conversation starters to have with your child’s teacher, no matter your kid’s age or grade.
1) What did my child love doing in class this year?
Whether it was a particular subject, an inquiry project, a book, or even an assignment like story writing or podcasting or coding, learning what your child really responded to during the year can be so helpful. It will give you insight into what your child’s passions are and may even surprise you (since it can be so hard to get kids to talk about what they actually do in class!). Celebrating your child’s interests and strengths are great ways to focus on building a Growth Mindset as well, which involves thinking about learning as a process to be proud of rather than focusing solely on marks or achievement.
2) What can I help my child improve on?
Instead of starting a conversation solely about weaknesses or gaps, make your question broad, and talk about holistic ways to improve. It could be your child needs help with a particular subject, a concept within a subject, or just needs to work on an important skill. It may also be that your child has a good understanding of concepts but needs to work on a learning habit, like taking more time on their work, or building more independence. Phrasing the question through the lens of improvement gives your child’s teacher the opportunity to provide insight not only on your child’s marks but also on what’s important for the whole learning process.
3) What are the most important concepts my child should have learned by the end of the year?
Learning is a constant process and each grade should build on similar concepts and skills, but at the same time every school year also has a distinct goal. For example: all students should be reading by the end of grade one; students should have a good comprehension of adding, subtracting and multiplying by the end of grade three; and students should know how to write a complete essay by the end of grade nine. Every year has these distinct markers, and your child’s teacher will be able to give you that important information. This is also the opportunity to discuss how well your child has achieved those particular expectations or maybe whether your child needs a bit of summer practice (and maybe even a Teachers on Call tutor!) to help master them.
4) What’s the biggest challenge coming up for my child next year?
Just as every year has distinct curriculum goals, every year comes with something new. Is next year the year that your child will work on equations, is there an upcoming assessment like EQAO, will it be the year to focus on volunteer work for scholarships, or will they start a new subject like French or Geography? Knowing what’s coming up in the next school year can give you the opportunity to do a little pre learning to spark some interest and comfort with the task, and to talk about the learning skills your child might need.
5) What approaches have resulted in my child making the most progress?
Knowing how your child learns best is just as important as knowing what they have learned. Is your child a visual or kinesthetic learner? Does your child work well in groups or need a lot of one-on-one support? Are there tools like graphic organizers or math manipulatives that have really helped? This can be great information for your child to know about themselves, to help them advocate for themselves in the next school year, and to help with their learning practice at home.
6) How is my child doing socially?
This year more than ever has presented huge challenges for kids socially. Talking about fostering wellness, how to create and maintain relationships safely, and how to build social confidence matters. Even if your child has been learning partly or entirely virtually, there are cues a classroom teacher can pick up on that parents might not get to see. Was your child engaged? Did they contribute to class discussions? Did they seem tired or apathetic? During virtual learning did they turn their cameras and mics on? Though gaps in these behaviours are completely understandable and normal right now, they can also be symptoms of bigger issues. The classroom teacher can also help you connect your child to friends they have in the class or offer some ways the class is going to try to stay connected over the summer. We are all so aware after these past two years how much social interactions contribute to our well-being, and that they are worth working on, no matter the age.
7) What’s my child’s reading level?
A report card gives you a lot of information about particular subjects, but often doesn't give you a specific reading level. Did you know that even up to grade 10 every student does reading assessments throughout the year and gets assigned a level? And did you know that in elementary years, the levels in one grade can range as many as fifteen levels? Knowing where your child is helps you understand their progress and areas for growth, but also helps you pick out reading material at that level for some summer reading (an essential habit to help maintain learning and progress during those summer months). If reading is too far above their level, they will be discouraged, and if it’s too far below, they don’t make a lot of progress. Once you know the reading level, there are great websites where you can find leveled reading resources and materials. We recommend Epic Books. It’s great for emerging readers to grade nine. After grade nine, try Toronto Public Library’s Teen Site for recommendations. See this Teacher’s On Call blog if you want more information on reading levels and how to choose the right reading!
8) Are there any big concepts that the class didn’t get a lot of time to practice this year?
There’s been a lot of concern surrounding our kids falling behind as a result of interruptions to the past two school years due to COVID. Wherever you stand on that issue, inevitably education has had to adapt and change this year. Whether it’s because of the pivot to virtual learning or a change in the structure of the school year with quadmesters, teachers will tell you we’ve had to focus on quality rather than quantity. And sometimes that may mean a particular concept might not have gotten the time it would have in a regular school year. So, ask your child’s teacher what they wished the class had more time with- was it division practice? More time on spelling? More time on a particular unit from the science class? And then you can make that an independent or family learning goal for the summer.
9) What practice do you recommend over the summer?
Whether it’s a great website the teacher recommends, or a book series they know your kid will love, or a particular skill students should keep practicing so they don’t experience that “summer slide”, getting even one recommendation will help you and your child have something tangible and practical to focus on so they maintain their learning. For more tips on how to avoid the “Summer Slide” check out this Teachers on Call blog.
10) What am I not asking but should be?
Teachers are the experts so don’t feel like you have to already know everything you’re supposed to ask. Just reach out and start the conversation and you’d be surprised how much you and your child might gain!
We hope these questions will lead to some helpful conversations for you as we all finish up this extraordinary school year! Don’t forget that the tutors at Teachers on Call are all trained teachers- so these are also great questions to ask of your child’s regular tutor, or great goals to give a new tutor to determine for you if you are looking for summer tutoring! Give us a call to talk about how Teachers on Call can help your child this summer.
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