Busy Parents Guide

familyNo matter how busy parents are, there are things they can do to help their children. Parents of first- and second-graders in the “School Transition Study,” conducted by the Harvard Family Research Project, have discovered creative ways to stay involved in their children’s learning and development. Researchers conducting the survey learned important and useful tips to share with busy parents.

Use Your Time Well

  • Organize your time. One single parent of four who is going back to school tries hard to organize her class schedule so that she has time with her children. She is able to be home with them in the afternoons on most school days. In another family where the mother and father both work full time, they are able to organize their work schedules so that one of the parents is always at home with the children. One day a week after school, the children walk to their mother’s workplace where they wait a short time with her until their father picks them up.
  • Do a few things at once. One father arranges to do quiet household chores right beside his daughter who does her homework at the kitchen table. Then the father is there to answer questions. Another mother has her daughter start her homework in the family’s car while they are waiting for her older brother to get out of school. The car is a quiet place where they can talk together.
  • Find other people to help. One single parent who cannot be home in the afternoon or evening has the babysitter help the children with homework. Another single parent who works two jobs during the summer arranges for her son to get taken to his neighborhood summer program every morning by his grandfather, who lives nearby. When the program is over, the mother’s friend takes the child to football practice and then back home, where the mother serves everyone a late dinner.

Balance Work Schedules and Family

  • Do some school things at the beginning of the day. One single father in the study who works a late shift uses the morning when he is home to check over homework with his son. Then he takes him to school. Sometimes he will sit in the classroom and watch or chat with the teacher before he goes to work.
  • Make breakfast the big family meal. Another mother who also works late has her high school-aged daughter make a simple dinner for the younger children. Then the mother cooks a big hot breakfast every morning when she is home before the children go to school.
  • Do things differently on the weekend. One mother leaves for her job every morning before the children are up. But on Sundays she wakes them up early, so she can share time with them before she goes to work. A special thing for this family is eating lunch at the restaurant where the mother works.


Ways to Stay Involved with Your Child’s School When You Are Busy

Being involved with school is an important way to show you care about your child’s learning.

  • How busy parents stay involved at school. One mother, who cannot volunteer because of her work schedule, finds it easier to go to meetings at night, and has been to some school council meetings. Another mother volunteers to help keep things organized in the halls at the end of the school days, when she is there picking up her child. In a family where the mother is taking care of a baby, the father is able to help out in his older son’s classroom two hours a week.

Source: Early Childhood Digest, Sept. 1999, National Institute on Early Childhood Development and Education, and U.S. Dept. of Education, 202/219-1935.

40 Ways To Say “Good For You!”

starEveryone knows that a little praise goes a long way.  But a little praise really needs to be something more than the same few phrases, repeated over and over.  Students need more than the “traditional” teacher comments (good and very good), especially if you are trying to encourage a student.  These are phrases that parents can use, too!  Try these……

That’s really nice.
Wow!  That’s great!
I like the way you are working.
Keep up the good work.
That’s quite an improvement.
Much better.
Keep it up.
What neat work.
You really outdid yourself today.
I am pleased by this kind of work.
Good for you!
I’m proud of you.
You’ve got it now.
You make it look easy.
Your work is coming along nicely.
Excellent work!
I am impressed.
You’re on the right track now.
Very creative.
Now you’ve figured it out.
Superior work!
You’ve made a very good point.
I appreciate your effort.
That’s “A” work for sure.
You put a lot of work into this.
That’s the right answer.
Nice going!
Very interesting ideas here.
Good thinking!
That’s clever.
Super Job!
You should be proud of this.
Congratulations on the good score.
Right on!
Quality effort went into this work.
Fine job!
* Source:  N.S.E.A.

Practice Math Online


Number Cracker Game    http://www.funbrain.com/cracker/index.html

Measurement     http://www.harcourtschool.com/activity/choose_the_unit/

Interactive Thermometer  http://www.mathsisfun.com/measure/images/thermometer.swf

Practice with Measurement  http://www.teachingmeasures.co.uk/menu.html   

Measurement with Ruler  http://www.harcourtschool.com/activity/length_strength1_inches/

Which is Heavier    http://www.harcourtschool.com/activity/heavier/

Telling Time    http://www.harcourtschool.com/activity/telling_time_gr1/

Gumball Greater and Less Than http://www.harcourtschool.com/activity/penny_prizes2/

Seashell Round Up    http://www.janbrett.com/piggybacks/rounding.htm

Whack a Mole Counting Patterns   http://www.ictgames.com/whackAMole/index.html 

Balloon Probability  http://www.harcourtschool.com/activity/balloon_bonanza/

Space Arrays  http://www.harcourtschool.com/activity/space_arrays/ 

Read a Magazine Online

Reading Comprehension Tips

Here are some tips for families to help their children become better readers. Reading Comprehension Newsletter

Reading Comprehension – How to help your child

Are you familiar with Reading Rockets website?  It has a lot of great information and activities for students, families, and schools.  Check out this webpage with information about helping your child with comprehension skills:


Touch Math

TouchMathAre you familiar with “Touch Math” or “Touch Money”?  Here’s a great explanation of how it works.


Reading Fluency Practice

Fluency Ideas

The Best Thing In The World

(This passage contains all of the 220 Dolch Basic sight Words. Please practice reading nightly for one week.  Time your child for one minute on this passage).

Once upon a time, there were four brothers who lived in a far away land.  Their father was an old king.  One day he said, “I will not live long now.  Today you must start out into the world.  In a year, bring back the best thing you have found.  The one who can pick the best thing shall be the new king.”  The first brother said, “I will look in every city or town.  I will buy the best thing I can for my father.”  The next two   brothers said. “We will both go on fast ships over the sea.  We will find something better.”  The last brother said, “I am going to ask the people here in our own land to tell me the best thing.”  The other three brothers began to laugh.  “Then you will never be king!”  They said.

The last brother started off.  When he had gone about six miles, he met a man.  “What do you carry in those big bags?” he asked.  “The best thing in the world,” said the man.  “These are full of the good nuts which fall from my five nut trees.”  “I don’t think that would work,” said the brother to himself, I must try again.”  The brother went on another seven miles.  He found a small brown bird.  It had been hurt, so he put it in his coat where it could keep warm.  As he went on, he saw a little girl crying.  He ran to meet her.  “Why are you crying?” he asked.  “I want to get some water from the well,” she said.  “We use so much.  We drink cold water.  We wash the clothes clean with hot water.  But I do not know how to pull it up.  Please show me.”  The brother said, “Hold this bird and I will help you.  It does not fly around any more because it got its wing cut.”  “Thank you.  What a pretty bird!” she said.  “I wish you would give it to me.  If you will let me keep it, I will always be very kind to it.  I will take care of it myself.  I will make it grow well again.”  “Yes, you may have it,” said the brother.  So he gave her the bird and went on.

At night, he went to sleep under a round yellow haystack.  When it was light again he walked on.  Every day he would walk eight or ten miles.  He asked the people about the best thing in the world.  Some said it was best to sing.  Some said it was best to run and jump and play.  Some said the green grass was best.  Some liked the red and blue and white flowers best.  One man said the best thing was to ride a black horse.  He always stopped to help people who needed it.  Soon he made many friends.  All the people began to like him.  They would say, “See there goes the king’s son.  He would be just the right kind of king for us.”  Every door was open to him.  The people would call to him to stop.  They would ask him to come and eat with them.  After he ate, he would sit down and read to the children.  After he read, he showed them how to draw and write.  Months went by.  He still had no beautiful thing to take to his father.  Just before the year was done, he went home again.

The time came when the king called his sons together.  “What did you bring?”  He asked them all.  The other brothers had many beautiful things.  “And what did you bring?” said the king to the last brother.  “This is too funny!” said the other brothers.  “He has nothing!”  But the king was kind to the last brother.  “What did you bring me?” the king asked again.  “I bring only the friendship of your people,” said the last brother.  “That is the best thing!” cried his father.  “You shall be the new king.”

Reading Sight Words


Sight words are words that a reader can recognize and read without sounding out each individual letter.  Many sight words are hard to sound out phonetically and must be memorized.  I suggest printing a copy of the sight word list and practicing. It is expected that second grade students can read most of the 1,200 words on the list without hesitation. Spelling the sight words correctly would be an added bonus since these words are used frequently in students’ writing.

Here are a few suggestions for how to practice learning sight words. boy_reading_1

  1. PRACTICE!  PRACTICE!  PRACTICE!  The more a beginning reader sees words and practices reading them, the easier reading becomes.
  2. MAKE FLASHCARDS  Flashcards work well for many students.  Each word should be written neatly on an index card.  Write large enough so the reader can touch each letter as they are saying the sounds.  In the lower right corner of each card, write the list number that the word is from.  Keep the cards for review.
  3. WRITE THE WORDS THAT ARE TRICKY Although learning to read sight words IS NOT a spelling activity, some people memorize things by repeatedly writing them down.
  4. USE COLORS With a colored marker or crayon, outline the shape of the word.  Pay close attention to blends, such as th, wh, sh, tr…  Blends should be underlined or boxed together so the reader has a visual cue to remember to say the sounds as one, not choppy as two.
  5. VOWELS Usually, when two vowels are together the first one does the talking, the last one does the walking. In the word coat, the o makes a long o sound and the a is silent (the first one does the talking, the last one does the walking.) An e at the end of the word is silent because it is tired from helping the other vowel say its name.  For example: In the word TAPE, the a says its name (a) and the e is silent.

(Reprinted from Karen Powell’s website)

Math Games to Play at Home

Check out these fun math games!

Family Math


All you need is a deck of cards or a pair of dice. If you don’t have any dice, click here for some you can use online!

Concentration (add, sub, multiplication, division)
The object of the game is to find pairs of matching cards among an array of face down cards. Help your child write addition, subtraction, multiplication, or division facts on one set of index cards, and the answers on another set. Shuffle the cards and lay them out face down. The first player turns over two cards. If they match, the player keeps the two cards and takes another turn. The next player continues by trying to find two matching cards. When all cards have been collected, the player with the most pairs wins.

Dice Games (addition)
You will need 2, 3, or 4 dice and one score sheet. Tally to so many rolls or to a preset score such as 50 or 100 points.
Vary it by adding the sums of the dice together, and the greatest or least score wins!
Vary it again by rolling 3 colored dice and 1 white die. Subtract the number on the white die from the sum of the colored dice, and the greatest sum wins.

Prepare flash cards from 0-10 (3 sets of each number). Play “Go Fish” to add numbers up to 10. (Ex: Sally has the number 4, so she asks her mother for the number 6 because 4+6=10.)


Card Games (addition)
War: Divide the deck of cards evenly. Each player will put out two cards and add them together. Whoever has the highest total will take all cards. The object is to take the whole deck.

Pig (addition)
Players take turns rolling two dice. A player may roll the dice as many times as he/she wants, mentally keeping a total of the sums that come up. When the player stops rolling, he/she records the total, and adds it to the scores from previous rounds. BUT if a one is rolled, the player scores a 0 for that round, and it’s the next player’s turn.

Race for $1.00 (money addition)
You need 30 pennies, 10 nickels, 20 dimes, 1 quarter, a dollar, 2 dice, and a partner.
Take turns. On your turn, roll the dice. The sum tells how many pennies to take. When you have 5 pennies, trade for a nickel. When you have 2 nickels, trade for a dime. When you have 2 dimes and one nickel, trade for a quarter. The first player to reach $1.00 is the winner.

Guess My Number (number logic)
You need: paper, pencil, partner
Player one picks a number from 0-99 and writes it down. Player two makes a guess and writes it down. Player one gives a clue: “Your guess is greater than my number” or “Your guess is less than my number”. Continue playing until player two guesses player one’s number. Switch jobs and play again.

The 1 to 10 Gam
e (addition)
You need: 2 dice, 1 deck of cards, and a partner
Use only the ace, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10 cards.
One of you takes the red cards, one of you takes the black cards. Take turns. On your turn, roll the dice and figure out the sum. Remove enough cards from your hand to add up to that sum. For example, if you roll a 5 and a 3, you can make 8 in many ways (5+3, 4+4, 4+2+2, 8, etc…). If you can’t make the sum with the cards in your hand, roll again. If you can’t make a sum after three rolls, you lose the game. You win if your partner can’t make a number in three rolls or if you use up all of your cards.

Number Family Rumm
y (fact families)
Use a deck of 40 cards: Four suits of ace through ten. The goal is to make families of three cards that are related by addition or subtraction. For example: 5, 5, and 10 are a family because 5+5=10, and 10-5=5. 6, 3, and 9 are a family because 6+3=9, 9-6=3, and 9-3=6.
Shuffle the deck and deal 6 cards to each player. Place the remaining cards face down in a pile. If you have any families of cards, place them aside. If you don’t have any families, you may draw one from the pile and discard one of your own. You may also discard the one that you picked up, if you don’t want it. The first player to get rid of all 6 cards (2 fact families) is the winner. Remember that the ace equals one.

Grab Bag Subtraction
Choose a number of things to work with, and put that many objects into a bag. You can use crayons, coins, beans, buttons, etc…) Grab a handful of the items and count them. Use subtraction to figure out how many items are now left in the bag. So if you put 100 items in the bag and pulled out 20, then you would write 100-20=80. Let your partner have a turn, and whoever leaves the least amount in the bag is the winner.

Lineup (number order, multiples)
Prepare number cards from 0-50. If more than two players are going to play, you might want to prepare two decks. Shuffle the cards and deal 8 to each player. Players place their cards face up in a horizontal line in front of them in the same order in which they are received. Players may not move their cards around. The object of the game is to be first to have your cards in the right sequential order from smallest to largest. A player does this by taking a card on each turn from the top of the undelt deck, and using it to replace any of the cards in his lineup. He discards the card that is replaced. Whenever a player’s lineup of numbers is in the correct order from smallest to largest, he calls out LINEUP and wins the game.

You can vary this game by using multiples of numbers. You still have 8 cards, but are trying to get multiples in order from smallest to largest. So you can do multiples of 2 (2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, 14, 16) or multiples of 3 (3, 6, 9, 12, 15, 18, 21, 24). You can even have numbers such as 12, 16, 20, 24, 28, 32, 36, 40. Those are multiples of 4, but they don’t necessarily have to start with the number 4. They are however, still in order from smallest to largest.

Card Capture (addition, subtraction, multiplication, division)
Use a set of fact flashcards. Divide the cards equally between the two players. One player attacks, while the other player defends. The defending player shows his cards (problem side up) one at a time to the attacking player. If the attacking player says the right answer, he captures the card and adds it to his own. He can continue capturing cards until he answers incorrectly. When this happens, the defending player becomes the attacker, and gets his chance at capturing the cards. This continues with cards being captured back and forth until one player winds up with all of the cards, or has the most cards when time is called. You can even set the rules to the first player to capture 20 cards, or any number you’d like.

Addition and Subtraction Turnover (addition and subtraction)
Each player is given 11 cards numbered 0-10. These are placed face up in a row. Players roll two dice on a turn and may choose to add or subtract the two numbers shows on the dice. If the resulting sum or difference equals one of the number cards still face up, the player can turn that card face down. Next player then takes a turn. This continues until one of the players wins by turning all 11 of his cards face down.

Subtraction Pig (subtraction)

Two or more players start out with 100 points each. Players in turn roll two dice and subtract that number from their points. A player on a turn continues rolling the dice and subtracting the resulting number from his remaining points until a 1 appears on any dice rolled. That player’s turn ends, and the next player takes a turn. When a player has lost all of his points, he is out of the game. The last player in the game, is the winner.

What’s Your Favorite Number? (Challenging multiplication)
Ask someone his/her favorite number between 1 and 9. Then multiply the favorite number by 9. Multiply that by 12345679 and you know what? Your friend will be surprised when he sees you writing his favorite digit over and over again in the answer. That is, if you multiply correctly!

Slot Card Races (addition, subtraction, multiplication, division)
Cut an open slot in a card or blank piece of paper. The slot needs to be large enough to see only one math problem or fact at a time written in a column on another piece of paper. The problems should be such that the player can work the answers out in his/her head. Each player in turn tries to work the problems as fast as he can while being timed. The card is slid down from one problem to the next as he correctly answers each one. If a problem is answered incorrectly, the leader moves the card back one problem. Each player’s time is written down. Players may re-challenge each other. A variation would be to move the card at a certain speed for all players to see how many problems they can do accurately at that
speed before making a mistake.

Multiplication Trick (Multiplication)
Here is a quick way to multiply a two digit number by 11. Write the number to be multiplied, but leave a space in between. Add the two digits, and write the sum in that place. You have your answer.
Example:  If you wanted to multiply 11×36, write the 3 and the 6 with a space in the middle. 3+6=9, so write a 9 in that middle space. Your answer is 396.