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Hard Work Adds Up

March 6, 2018
By Peggy Gisler and Marge Eberts - Dear Teacher , OVParent

DEAR?TEACHER: My son is only in third grade, but he is already having difficulty understanding what the teacher is talking about in math, science and social studies. What can I do to help him handle these classes? - Help

Answer: Quite possibly your son's problem is that he does not know the meaning of the new words that are being introduced in these content areas.

Content area vocabulary begins to emerge in third grade. It is the unique technical vocabulary used to teach the ideas, facts and skills of each content area subject. For example, understanding words like "fraction," "numerator" and "denominator" is necessary to succeed in math.

The essential vocabulary of each content area is not easy to identify. These words are not usually found in basal readers nor on general vocabulary lists.

Most science and social studies and even math textbooks do give students obvious clues about the words needed to master these subjects. Typically, they are found in a list at the start of a chapter or in the end material of the chapter.

When your son starts a new chapter, look over the important chapter words with him. Choose a few each day and help him pronounce them and have him look up their meaning in the book's glossary. Then to reinforce the learning of these words, you may wish to have him read assignments with you and look up again any words that he cannot define for you. It will further help him learn these words if he does all the exercises at the end of science and social studies chapters - even if they are not assigned.

For further reinforcement and understanding of this new vocabulary, make it a point to discuss what he has learned in school every day while trying to use the new vocabulary words.

If learning the content words does not help him, then it is time for a chat with his teacher.

DEAR TEACHER:?My daughter will be starting preschool in the fall. What are some things that we could do over the next few months to prepare her for this new experience? - For a Head Start

Answer: The best things you can do now to get your daughter ready for pre-school in the fall are:

Read as much as you can to her and show her that print stands for words to prepare her for pre-reading activities.

Help her develop social skills by playing with a variety of children.

Make sure that she can easily handle her personal needs.

Have her visit the homes of family and friends so she is emotionally prepared to leave home without you.

Make sure that she has many opportunities to use crayons and other writing instruments that she will be using in preschool.

Take her to library story hours so she knows how to sit quietly and listen.

Help her to develop good listening skills.

Most importantly, do everything you can to develop her oral language skill by talking to her and encouraging her to talk to you.

Send questions and comments to Dear Teacher, 1 North Illinois St., No. 2004, Indianapolis, IN 46204, or log on to, or email DearTeacher@Dear



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