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How Do I Help My Child be 95% Correct?

Your child will learn fastest if she or he is working with you on things he or she is 95% correct with.  To help turn your child’s homework or reading into something she or he can do with you at 95% accuracy, try the following:

  • When you are in control of what your child is working on, choose things that are in line with your child’s skills.  When working of spelling words, flashcards and other memorizing tasks, give your child 10 to 15 words he or she is comfortable with, 5 recently learned and one new.  This way you are building automaticity with previous learning (and making sure it is not lost) and keeping the short-term memory open for new learning.  If your child has 20 words for spelling, but that is overwhelming, It will be better for your child to work on 10 words, know them well and remember them forever, than work on all of the words, maybe get 14 right on the test, but remember only 2 a few weeks down the road.  Talk to your child’s teacher about issues like this.  Teachers can often adapt tests, or just know about the study plan so your child won’t feel they are not following the teacher’s directions.  Always keep in mind that getting an A on a spelling test means little in the long run, being able to spell well enough for people to be able to read your writing throughout life means a lot.
  • When you are not in control of what your child is working on, build up support until he or she is mostly correct.  When doing this, think about the goal of the homework.  If the goal is to understand a scientific process, then reading it out loud while helping your child draw/diagram/take notes of the concepts is in order.  If the goal is decoding, then be there to read words that are not decodable, and help your child work on a few words they can figure out.  (You can note words you think your child will see often, but was unable to decode to work on separately later.)  If the work is just too much, think about modeling some of it and helping your child do the rest. If it is reading chapters, read some out loud to your child. If it is worksheets with many, many problems, do some yourself while talking out loud about everything you are thinking and doing to answer the questions. (“For each of these we have to pick the sentence which goes with the picture. Wow. Both sentences look a lot alike. In fact I think only one word is different: The dog jumps over the fence. The Hog Jumps over the fence. Well the picture is definitely of a dog, and even if I couldn’t read the word fence I bet I could have figured it out knowing the dog is jumping over something, and there is a fence in the picture. I think it is definitely the first sentence. Do you agree?) This helps teach your child the process of figuring out the particular type of question, your child is reading the words with you, your child will be more confident when approaching his or her own questions, and your child won’t end up in a sobbing discouraged puddle of anxiety and frustration on the floor.

Identifying words that are being misread is a big step to good reading.  If your child can point to a word he or she is having trouble with and ask you to help, I would encourage you to help immediately in a way that is positive for your child.  The biggest difference between good readers and struggling readers is that good readers identify when the text is confusing and solve the problem (usually by the quickest means possible – if re-reading doesn’t do it asking the closest person usually does).  Please reward your reader for asking about a word/sentence with praise.  Think twice about how it might feel like disapproval or punishment if you question why your child doesn’t know the word, say that he or she already read it, or ask your child to sound it out (which was probably already done without success).