Teachers know that much time and energy is focused on making sure a student reaches and stays at grade level for his academic benchmarks. Yet all good teachers know that supporting and challenging an above-level child is equally as important!
Here are ways that parents can help support a child who has already achieved or surpassed grade level requirements:
If your child is a gifted reader:
Enhance this skill by helping him identify areas of interest. Then collect books, children’s magazines, etc., that are at his appropriate reading level. You can borrow these from your public library, school library, or from friends with older children.
Encourage him to read both fiction and nonfiction stories about the same subject. For example, borrow books regarding the actual discovery of dinosaurs, then mix with some fictional dinosaur stories. With your help, encourage him to compare and contrast the similarities and differences.
Combine reading with science, cooking, art, or other “hands-on” experiences. For example, if he loves snakes, let him read both fiction and nonfiction stories about them. Then, roll colored balls of clay into different types of snakes to make his own collection. Let him write simple labels, using index cards, to identify the types of snakes and two or three of their characteristics. Help him set up a place in his room to display his labeled collection.
If your child has advanced math skills:
Help her expand her homework. For example, challenge her to write a word problem to explain how she arrived at the correct math answer.
Help her practice estimation. Fill a clean, small jar with marbles, or any other small objects. Ask her to guess how many marbles are in the jar. Have her write down her guess. Then open the jar and count the marbles together. See how close her estimation came to the actual count. Do this often with different items,of different sizes, such as pennies, Lego pieces, Goldfish crackers, etc. This will also help her understand how different-sized objects can take up more or less space in the same size jar.
Bring math into everyday life. If she would like to get a certain small toy, have her do two or three simple jobs around the house to earn some money. Count the coins together until she has enough to purchase the toy.
Simple creative strategies like these can keep an above-level student excited about learning!
Connie McCarthy is passionate about her work as a teacher of young children. She has devoted her entire career to making sure that her students do well at school, right from the start. Connie has an undergraduate degree in Elementary Education, and a Master’s Degree in Special Education. She has been teaching first grade in East Providence, R.I. for 23 years, where she received the distinction of “Highly Qualified Teacher” by the Rhode Island State Board of Regents. Connie also taught nursery school for four years, and published numerous articles on early education in East Bay Newspapers in Bristol, R.I. She’s also been published in PTO Today Magazine. She lives with her husband, Brian, and has a daughter and a son, both young adults. Connie enjoys reading, writing about elementary education, and taking long walks with friends. During summer vacations, she likes to travel with her husband. She also loves reading readers’ comments on her weekly blog posts.