It’s the final term of the school year. How can you help your children to maximise their learning potential?
Are you thinking about school success beyond grades?
Grades offer an indication of one’s progress in school, but it’s the spirit of learning that truly matters. With the many changes (such as fewer weighted assessments, PSLE scoring changes, and subject-based banding) that have been announced for the Singapore school system, you as a parent will need to adjust your mindset about the importance of grades. At the same time, you should examine your responses to your child’s grades, which may have a deep impact on your child’s motivation to learn.
If your child obtains a good overall grade for the year, praise the process while encouraging self-reflection, by asking: “What did you do to get this grade?” If he or she has done poorly for a subject, focus your attention on finding out which study techniques worked — or didn’t work. Ask your child, “What can you do differently next year?” or “How can you improve for the next term?” (Read this article for more responses that you can use for common report card scenarios, such as good attitude but poor grades, or poor grades and poor attitude.)
Do your children know how to work towards goals in small, achievable steps?
During the final term of the school year, students may be having to deal with remedial classes, along with an increased workload assigned by teachers and tutors as part of exam preparation. Are your children easily overwhelmed by their assignments, or do they know how to break their work up into smaller, more manageable portions? You can show them how to use a planner to organise their work week, i.e. writing down what needs to be completed each day, with checkboxes to tick off when each task is done.
If your children have set target scores for the year-end exams, sit down with them to assess if these are achievable goals. (Some educators recommend that students should aim for just a 10% increase in test scores each time.) Here are two questions to ask your children:
Why do you want to achieve this goal? (Reasons could be to gain entry into a better class, or simply wanting to strive for a personal best. If children don’t have a good reason for desiring a particular goal, it’s unlikely they’ll be motivated to work towards it.)
On a daily basis, what are you doing to achieve this goal? (For concrete steps that children can take, read our article on study techniques that educators swear by.)
Have you looked at the big picture when inspecting your children’s school materials?
When children bring home their school materials for you to look at, do you sign away without nary a glance, or do you only pay attention to your children’s mistakes for test and exam purposes? Could parents play a bigger part in shaping the curriculum?
One local mother recently discovered that her primary schooler’s English worksheet contained outdated content, and was written in a manner that could be construed as making light of poverty. This worksheet was shared online, and both the Ministry of Education and the school have since responded to say that they would be removing the worksheet from the curriculum. Another school, upon being alerted to the situation by a parent, created an additional information sheet to provide better context.
Here at KSP, we don’t advocate sharing school materials on social media — do contact your children’s schools directly to give them your feedback. However, this episode underscores the role that parents can play in highlighting flaws in the current curriculum, and working together with the school system to change things for the better.
Do you have a broad or long-term learning plan for your children?
How will you extend your child’s learning beyond what is taught in school? For one KSP member, it’s about encouraging her children to expand their worldview, and she has compiled reading lists for both her children, as well as a video resource list for the family to learn about world history.
Another mother uses board games to challenge her children to think strategically, as well as teach them values, such as dealing with loss or displaying graciousness as a winner. (Download our e-Magazine to read her tips on Page 21.)
For other families, learning outside of school could involve travelling together, picking up a new skill (or developing an existing skill), and setting time aside for volunteer work. All of these activities involve breaking out of one’s comfort zone, and they provide ample opportunity for personal growth outside the school environment.
Do you have guidelines for technology use?
It’s a good time to think about your children’s technology habits for the year thus far — have they been spending plenty of time on their phones and gadgets, to the point of affecting their studies, social relationships, and ability to develop new interests? And just how strict should parents be about technology use for school-going children? Here’s some advice from the American Psychological Association: “It won’t help your child if you set overly restrictive limits or send the message that technology is something to fear. Instead, focus on teaching healthy habits that will stay with your child for a lifetime.”
As a general rule, phones should be kept away from dinner and study tables, as well as at social gatherings. If your children use their phones (or other gadgets) for extended periods — e.g. to play games or watch videos — have a discussion about when and for how long such activities should be carried out. Some families designate specific days in the week for device use, and set a timer for children to help them keep track of time spent. Ensure that your children are clear on what the rules are, and have agreed to abide by them. More importantly, adults should model healthy technology use for children, and practise what they preach.