Dear Mom and Dad, Welcome to Your 1st Year of Teaching!

Are you a first-time homeschool teacher or are you proctoring at-home learning while your child is attending school online this semester? Either way, you are likely out of your comfort zone and feeling (a little) overwhelmed. How are you ensuring that your child is learning what he/she is supposed to learn?  This blog post provides a few pointers and accompanying resources to help you keep your child on track during this school year.  

Use Your State Standards  

The state standards articulate what students are supposed to know and be able to do by the end of each grade level, Kindergarten through grade 12.

States have standards for each of the four core subjects and other subjects, as well.  Some even have Pre-Kindergarten standards. These standards guide teachers’ instruction throughout the school year.

States have standards for each of the four core subjects and other subjects, as well.  Some even have Pre-Kindergarten standards. These standards guide teachers’ instruction throughout the school year. (*See a few tips at the end of this blog.)

Each state has its own name for its standards, and the standards for each grade level may differ from state-to-state. However, all states’ standards require students to have learned substantially the same knowledge and skills by the time they graduate from high school.

You can access your state’s standards on your state department of education’s website. Because state standards often use “academic vocabulary” that is unfamiliar to non-educators, the state websites typically provide resources to help parents understand the standards.  Alternatively. Contact us. We are experienced educators who know and understand the standards well. We will do our best to answer your question(s) and/or guide you to additional resources to provide the assistance you need.

Use Materials That Are Aligned to the Standards

Students cannot learn what they are not taught. The materials your child is using should support you in teaching and/or your child in learning your state’s standards. This will only happen if the materials are “aligned” to those standards. A material is aligned to standards if it teaches the content knowledge and skills the standards require.

Person Writing

Check to see whether the material your child is using is “correlated” to your state’s standards. If it is a print material, the material should include a “correlation” document that shows you on which page(s) each state standard is addressed.  Online materials that have been correlated to states’ standards typically include a “search by standard” feature that produces a list of online lessons/videos/activities that the publisher claims are aligned to any state standard you select.

Continually Assess Progress and Adjust Instruction Accordingly

As the teacher of one – or few students – you have the opportunity to maximize your/each child’s learning by continuously assessing their progress and adjusting the content and pace the instruction accordingly.  The process of continuously checking your child’s understanding of the information being taught is called formative assessment. Research shows that formative assessment increases students’ achievement and motivation.

There are many forms of formative assessment. Most textbooks and online materials contain formative assessments to help you gauge your child’s learning and progress. This blog post contains ideas for other types of formative assessments you could use.

Structure Time to Increase Your Child’s Engagement and Maximize Learning

Family Hiking

The mind can only absorb what the seat can endure. Students do not have to be sitting or even be at home in order to learn. Learning can take place in many places and in different ways.  Virtual field trips, online courses, and walks outside can provide opportunities for students to explore their environment, their passions, and the world.

Good teachers facilitate learning by providing various pathways and opportunities for students to access information.  Here are seven principles and  six strategies to help you structure your child’s day and create an environment to maximize his/her learning.

Gamify Learning

One way to keep students motivated to learn is to turn learning into a game.  Gamification of learning is a relatively common practice that teachers use in their classrooms. Many online materials use games, as well. Some games simply provide enjoyment; others allow students to practice skills they have learned. Incorporating elements of games, such as earning badges, levelling up and ranking among classmates, in instruction may encourage even students who traditionally struggle.

Ask Questions

As students progress through learning, challenging them with more rigorous questions strengthens their critical thinking skills.  Often, even using the same material, but changing the level of questioning can increase learning and deepen your child’s understanding.  This table will help you ask your child increasingly rigorous questions about the concepts they are learning. In the table, “DOK” refers to Depth of Knowledge, which is another way of saying level of difficulty. In other words, a student will find the questions listed under DOK 1 easier to answer than the questions listed under DOK 4.

We hope these tips and resources alleviate some of the fear and anxiety you are feeling.  Professional teachers use these same strategies to keep students on track and engaged in learning throughout the school year. Using the standards as your GPS and your materials as your vehicle will help you keep your child’s education moving in the right direction.

To view the TEKS for each of the four core subjects, click on the button next to a grade level. When the document opens, scroll down to section “(b) Knowledge and Skills.”

State department of education websites provide resources for parents. For example, these free documents on the Texas Education Agency’s website are grade level specific checklists to help parents ensure that their child is learning what state standards require.

 Download the “Student Learning Reports” for your child’s grade level, and use the reports to set goals, check progress, and ensure your child is on track to master the grade level standards by the end of the school year.