How Is My Second Grader Doing In School?

Excerpted from "How Is My Second Grader Doing in School?" by Jennifer Richard Jacoson and Dottie Raymer

From Reading Exercises

  • As you read with your child, ask questions that lead to comparisons and contrasts:

    - Does this story remind you of another story we've recently read? Why?
    - How is the Paper Bag Princess different from other princesses?
    - Which of the Ramona books do you like best?
    - Do you think Templeton the rat is a good guy or a bad guy?
    - How else could this story have ended?

  • Make your child's favorite characters part of your daily life. Ask, "How would the Cat in the Hat go about cleaning up this messy room? What do you think Harriet the Spy would be writing in her notebook right now? If you two don't stop squabbling, I'm going to call Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle for a cure!"
  • Play Before and After. Choose a magazine picture or point out an activity on the street that suggests some previous action: a dripping wet dog, a crying child, a teenager fixing a bicycle tire. Ask your child to imagine what happened just before the picture or activity. Perhaps the dog chased a duck into a pond, was just given a bath, or ran through a sprinkler. Or imagine what will happen after the event: "Watch out, that dog's going to shake water all over us!"
  • Let your child read ahead of you and fill you in on what happened in the story. You may already be finding that bedtime reading no longer ends when you leave your child's room at night. Perhaps you left the book at Chapter 4 last night, but tonight your sneaky little reader is somehow already on Chapter 6! "Jumping ahead," with its faint taste of one-upmanship, is one of the great joys of learning to read independently. Though you may complain loudly about missing good parts of the story, never stop your eager beaver from reading ahead. Rather, demand a recap of what you missed -- especially if he's managed to finish the book!
  • As your child's skill in reading increases, so will her joy in discovering new words. Always be on the lookout for interesting words. Keep a small notebook handy so that you can write down wonder words that you come across on errands or in your reading:

    "'Pumpernickel?' Wow! What a great word! That's a keeper!"

    "'Murophobia?' I don't know what that means. Let's write it down and see if we can find out."

    "Do you know whom teddy bears are named after?"

  • One of the most endearing scenes in children's literature is in E. B. White's Charlotte's Web. The ill-tempered rat, Templeton, goes off searching for a word for Charlotte to write about Wilbur the pig. He returns with a word torn from a soap ad: "radiant." Invite your child to use interesting words to describe the people and things in her world. You can serve as a model by stretching your own vocabulary. Don't be afraid to marvel over the pandemonium of her disheveled room or the clamor and cacophony coming from the backseat of the car.
  • Tack up a large sheet of butcher paper or newsprint on your child's bedroom wall. Help her print her favorite words on the sheet. Don't worry if you run out of room or if her current passion switches from palominos to piranhas. Simply tack up another sheet and begin a new list. You might want to suggest that she also add words that keep stumping her in her reading or writing. Take a moment before bedtime to discuss the words' meanings or interesting letter combinations your child might notice. However, avoid the temptation to use these words to drill sight words or to test spelling. Remember, these are your child's special words. How she uses them is up to her.
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