Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Expectational Awareness

School is easier for all children if they know what teachers expect. This post is about behavioral expectations in the classroom.

If a teacher likes you, or at least doesn't dislike you, the day will be better. You can help your child have a good day.

School is a group activity. Have you ever been to a birthday party with eight screaming children running around?  That is usually less than half the number of students in many elementary classrooms. Good teachers are excellent group managers. They spend a great deal of time at the beginning of the year showing children what to do and rewarding their efforts. Unfortunately, your child is not guaranteed a great teacher every year, any more than a teacher is guaranteed a great class. Your child can, however, contribute to making a positive learning environment.

Some major expectations for a student are to listen,  follow directions,  try to do the classwork independently, and to ask for help if it is needed.  

Listening is a prerequisite to following directions. When children are spoken to by an adult, they need to stop what they are doing and look at the adult. This simple act helps a child understand what is being said. 

Listening to directions, however, does not always mean a child can follow them. The younger the child, the simpler the directions need to be. Children who don't always stop another activity immediately and look at the teacher may end up missing the first part of a direction. Many  teachers repeat directions once or twice and/or write them on the board. This still requires a student to pay attention.

If a child has no idea what an instruction means, she needs to know to raise her hand and ask what to do. Tell your child to glance around before they ask. The actions of others may give a hint about what the teacher just said. Maybe the child didn't realize everyone had a spelling book out, but once he sees that, he knows what to do.

Every classroom seems to have one child wondering when recess is or unaware that math class is starting. The purpose for a day's schedule seems obvious to adults, but some children have no idea what a schedule is for.  By second grade a child should know that math follows lunch or that recess is in the afternoon. If there isn't a schedule posted in the classroom, the student should have one on their notebook or binder. 

Finally, remember  'school is a group activity', and a teacher cannot repeat instructions individually to every child in the class. A child needs to attempt the work on their own.

Some home hints to help your child:

  • Games such as Simon Says
  • Asking your child to look at you when you say something important
  • Asking your child to repeat what you said
  • Telling your child to look at his teacher when she talks to the class

Follow directions
  • Giving your young child simple two-step directions at home and have her repeat the directions 
  • Give your child oral (and if they are old enough written) directions on preparing to do homework. Example: Have two pencils that are sharp. Have your books and papers. Check to make sure you have other materials such as crayons or markers if needed.
  • Teach your child not to argue about every request. It is a bad habit to get into and whining or complaining will not be appreciated at school. A child who argues about a simple request usually is thinking about their argument rather than listening.

Attempt to complete work without help
  • Some children are very tentative about new things.  Encourage your child to try something that he has not done before, but give him help if he needs it.  
  • Praise your child for neat and complete work. Have reasonable age-appropriate expectations, but have expectations.
  • Encourage your child to do things on his own. He can work at getting ready for school, preparing a sack lunch or  rinsing his breakfast dishes. 
Ask for help
  • Most children have no problem asking a parent for help. but asking a teacher for help is difficult for some children. The easiest way to help a shy child is to give them some practice talking to adults outside of family members. 
  • Talk to the teacher if your child is very shy. A smile of encouragement, or praise when a child asks an appropriate question goes a long way to encourage asking for help. 

If a child is having problems in school, talk to the teacher about the above behaviors. If the child appears to be doing everything right, other areas need to be checked. Perhaps your child has difficulty hearing or seeing. Children with learning differences often have trouble following directions. Perhaps the teacher is new to teaching or new to teaching that age group. Perhaps there are major behavior issues with some other students in the class. 

Yes, there are several factors to consider if your child is having problems with learning. You need to be your child's advocate, but first make sure your child is aware of and follows classroom expectations.

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