Dear Teacher—March 2011 - MetroFamily Magazine
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Dear Teacher—March 2011

What to Do about Two Hours of Kindergarten Homework

Question: My five-year-old daughter has a lot of homework in kindergarten—as much as two hours some nights. The work is on things that I am still trying to teach her, so she isn’t frustrated with learning. We have noticed a decline in her work attitude when it comes to school during the past couple of months. I truly believe it is because the children are forced to do and learn so much that the pressure gets to them when they don’t understand it the first time. How can I improve her attitude toward learning? – Attitude Problem

Answer: No wonder your daughter is not enthused about doing her schoolwork. Two hours is way too much time to devote to schoolwork. You simply can’t spend this much time in one session trying to get your child to do or understand her homework. At the kindergarten level, 15 minutes is the appropriate amount of time for homework, if any is assigned.

You have waited a long time to deal with this situation. Set up a meeting with your daughter’s teacher right away so that you can find out how you and the teacher can help your child master the work. Be sure to discuss in great detail your daughter’s skill level with the teacher. She may simply not be ready to handle the work that she is being asked to do, which could be a result of the trend of pushing first grade content into kindergarten.

In the meantime, put some joy back into learning for your child. When doing work with her, focus on areas where she will have some success to rebuild her confidence in her ability to learn, and try to use games, songs and computer activities much of the time when working with her. Because her kindergarten sounds very academic, you may need to spend time reviewing the work she has done this year during the summer to prepare her for next year.

Preschooler Is Disinterested in Letters and Numbers

Question: My preschooler has absolutely no interest in doing any kind of schoolwork. She doesn’t seem to be learning anything at school. I try to teach her letters and numbers, but she soon forgets them. Otherwise, she is doing well in school and is well-liked by the teacher and her classmates. Do you think that she has a learning disability? I’m afraid that she may have problems next year in kindergarten? – No Letters or Numbers

Answer: Young children change so fast. What they can’t or don’t want to do today, they may easily do in a month or two. We are not saying that you shouldn’t be exposing your child to letters and numbers now. However, keep in mind that she’ll be introduced to them formally in kindergarten.Instead of worrying about teaching her letters and numbers now, do things that are fun and will prepare her to learn to read and handle numbers. Work now on increasing her natural desire to learn. Plan diverse activities that will let her learn what the world is like.

Forcing your child to work with letters and numbers now could turn her off learning them before she even gets to kindergarten. Instead, read to your daughter every day and teach her rhymes. It is also a good idea to read signs to her when you see them. And call her attention to words in storybooks so she begins to get the idea that print has meaning. As far as math goes, the first steps to learning this subject are the sorting, ordering, matching, and counting of objects.

Your child is actually learning a lot in preschool. She has learned how to get along with the teacher and her classmates, and she is learning how to behave at school. When she gets to kindergarten, you will find that some children are very skilled with letters and numbers, and others are not. Let her set the pace in learning them for now.

Help in Solving Math Story Problems

Many children can’t solve story problems because they can’t visualize the numbers. They are too big for them. This difficulty first appears in second grade, and if it’s not addressed early, it just gets worse as they go up in the grades.

Here’s my way to handle big numbers in story problems: If the problem has three numbers, have them substitute 2 for the smallest, 6 for the largest, and 3 for the other. If four numbers are used, they should substitute 2 for the smallest, 12 for the largest, and 3 and 6 for the others. By using these numbers, the answer always comes out even with no remainders.

Many times, students get the answer but don’t know how they did it. Perhaps it’s just intuition. By writing the equation and their answer, the students can figure what process they used to get there. Then they can substitute the original numbers in the equation and get the correct answer.

For example, if John is going from Miami to Naples, a distance of 150 miles, and traveling at 50 miles an hour, how long will it take him to get there? Because the numbers are large, it can be tricky to solve. If the students substitute 6 for 150 miles, and 2 for 50, the answer (3) becomes apparent and so does the process (division). So they would write 150 divided by 50.

Is My Child Right- or Left-handed?

Question: We’re still not sure if our child who is going to preschool soon is right- or left-handed. Is there any quick and easy way to determine this? He uses his left hand for most tasks. – Lefty

Answer: There’s no quick and easy way to determine completely and accurately if your child is left- or right-handed. Usually, a child favors one hand over the other by the age of three.

Many of us use different hands for different tasks throughout our lives, and this includes children. However, a task like handwriting (something that takes a lot of practice) is usually done by a preferred hand. And we guess that this is your concern.

Just observing your child might not give you the answer to which hand your child prefers. However, you’ll get an idea by noticing which hand is used to throw balls, fit puzzle pieces or hold a spoon. If you want to be a bit more scientific, measure the difference in accuracy and time for him to put pegs in holes using each hand.

Dear Teacher is written by Peggy Gisler and Marge Eberts. Do you have a question? Send it to dearteacher@dearteacher.com or visit dearteacher.com.