In January, more than at any other time of year, there is an expectation of a new start and a real chance to re-set. Whichever way we look, we receive an onslaught of new year’s advice… it’s all about being better, more productive, and starting as you mean to go on. As adults, many of us spend the festive period reflecting on the year that has gone and this culminates in the setting of numerous new year’s resolutions- which are often broken in the first month- but still, it’s a ritual we partake in each year.
It stands to reason that this annual marking of the calendar is something that drip feeds its way down into our children’s thought processes too. Students are often encouraged at school to really reflect on where they are at and what they want to achieve in the remaining two terms of the academic year. The new year provides the perfect time for clear academic goal setting, and it’s worth speaking with your children about the goals that they set so that you can help support them to achieve this. While this may look very different for each student, depending on their age and their own academic journey, we’ve devised six top tips that if implemented guarantee your child to have a smooth start to the new year.
1. Set a routine
Routines are important and have sometimes gone a little awry in the festive period. So, it’s important to re-establish routines from the start of the term to support learning in the home. The key thing about setting a routine is to implement one that works for you and your child. For example, you may want to include a ‘downtime’ period when they come home from school before tackling the homework for the evening, or, you may decide it’s best to complete homework as soon as they get home to leave the rest of the evening free. Whatever works best for you, it’s important to communicate this to your child and to stick to it so that it becomes a good habit. The general view is that something should be implemented for 21 days for it to become a habit.
2. Preparation is key
Being prepared is something that can come naturally to some children while others will need a little more support. For lots of students, understanding what the day ahead will look like helps them to feel prepared, so discussing this (where you know!) is a great way to support them here. Another way in which you can help your child to prepare is with the organisation of items for the following day. Packing school bags the night before and leaving them by the front door, with the necessary reading books, pencil case, or PE kit can save a lot of time and stress in the morning and gets the day off to a calm start which hopefully transfers into the rest of their school day.
3. Time management
This is a key skill that children need in order to juggle the many different tasks expected of them in the school day! This includes everything from being on time to school through to having completed the correct homework for the right day. If they’re not old enough to manage their own diary then creating a weekly plan with your child and asking them to help you fill it can be a great place to start. One tip to implement from January is, where possible, to complete the homework on the day that it’s set so that it remains fresh in the mind and removes the chance of the dreaded homework hand-in panic later on in the week. Some children will demonstrate perfectionist or procrastination tendencies when it comes to completing homework. Introducing a timer can be a good way to encourage children to think about how long a task should take, and it’s always useful to encourage children to set their own time limits without it becoming inflexible.
4. Personal Challenge
January is the time for setting new year’s resolutions and goals. What can help children to achieve these is when they are clear on ‘how’ to achieve them. At recent parents’ evenings, they may have been encouraged by their teacher to do things like putting their hand up more in class. For some children, this will be easy, but for others, this is a real personal challenge. Whatever their intention for the new year, it helps when this is reinforced at home as well as in school. Children can be motivated to achieve a challenge intrinsically (how it makes them feel) or extrinsically (reward or external factor). Checking in on progress towards the challenge can be key in keeping this on track.
5. Share learning
One of the habits you may want to adopt in the new year more is the discussion at home of the learning that is taking place within the classroom. It’s useful to factor some time into the week (this could be on a daily or weekly basis) in which your child can tell you about what’s taken place and what they’ve learned. You may want to divide this into two areas, ‘what’s happened and ‘what I now know’, and for the latter, you may want to encourage them to ‘teach’ you what they know. It’s important to remember that both parts are equally important and being really listened to here will be what is most important to your child.
6. Encourage a love of reading
If all else fails in January and it’s only possible to implement one new habit into your household, let it be this last one. It’s a cracker! There’s a lot of research out there to suggest that reading can help to develop the brain in some staggering ways. Reading regularly at a young age can improve memory, concentration, auditory and visual processes as well as developing language, comprehension and fluency skills. For some students having their noses in a book will be second nature, but if your child is more of a reluctant reader always start by encouraging them to read something they’re interested in, even if this doesn’t seem ‘academic’ in nature. Once children have begun to break down the barriers they may have built towards reading, they may surprise you with what they choose to read next!
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