2017-10-15 / Viewpoints

Chalk Talk

By Edward S. Graham, PhD
Montrose Schools

The work of schools is important business, especially when we consider that children are our primary customers. Schools that understand the moral imperative of “getting it right” also understand that the key to achieving better results is to work smarter - not harder, and to rely on what research tells us about the strategies most likely to produce positive results.

One of education’s leading researchers, Robert Marzano, has summarized decades of studies and concluded that schools control only 20% of the factors that affect student achievement. With that, most of the influences that impact student success occur beyond the schoolhouse doors with home environment and life experiences topping the list.

Studies suggest that it is not the parent’s economic status, level of education, or occupation that has the greatest impact on academic success. Rather, it is the encouragement and expectations parents communicate to their children about school. Communication between parents and children should include frequent and planned discussions about schoolwork, as well as encouragement to persevere and complete school assignments. Here are a few practical tips adapted from a publication from The Parent Institute (compiled by Dr. John Wherry) that may help:

Making Time Count

• Use car time to talk to your children. There’s no phone or television to interfere and no one can get up and leave.

• Try giving children television tickets. Each week, every child gets 20 tickets, which can be used for 30 minutes of TV time. Consider redeeming any remaining tickets at the end of the week for cash or a special treat.

Reading to Your Child

• Try holding D-E-A-R times (“Drop Everything and Read”) at your house. During DEAR time, everyone in the family sits down for some uninterrupted reading time.

Building Self-Esteem

• Help you child discover their roots by talking with family members during holidays and other visits.

• Help children learn from problems and to not be devastated by them. Instead, of using the word “failure”, try “a glitch,” “a problem,” or a “snag.” Remember, even when something doesn’t work out as planned, successful people try to learn something from the experience.

Solving School Problems

• Make report cards a positive experience. Ask, “What do you think your report card will tell us?” Find something to praise and focus on how to improve.

Motivating Your Child

• Encourage children to read about successful people. As children learn about the traits that made others successful, they are often motivated to adopt those same patterns in their own lives.

• Motivate children in math by challenging them to figure out how much change you should get back from a purchase. Play a game of “Beat the Cash Register.” Perhaps if they win, they can keep the change.

Reinforcing Learning

• Estimating is an important math skill. Help children learn to estimate by estimating the distance to a destination and how much time it will take to get there. Use the odometer or map to check your estimate.


• Try playing “Beat the Clock” with your child during homework time. Look over the assignment and figure out about how long it should take to complete. Add a few extra minutes and set a timer for the estimated amount of time. Children can learn the satisfaction of completing work on time.

• Try having your child teach you the homework. The teacher almost always learns more than the student.

While teachers strive to make the most out of every school day, the influence of parents and home environment remain the leading influences on student achievement. With the time demands and hectic lifestyles that afflict almost every household, it requires an extra effort to carve out the time needed to build those routines that support school success. Start slow and give one or two creative and fun strategies a try this week to see what happens – you’ll help your child make the most of school today and in the future.

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