The Dear Teacher: Setting a Good Foundation for this School Year

Setting a Good Foundation for this School Year

Dear Parents: The new school year has started. The first few weeks are very important for setting a good foundation for the rest of the year. Here are some steps that you should take right away.

Make sure that the family calendar is in sync with the school calendar. This will help in planning vacation times and times when you may need to arrange for extra care for your children.

  1. Attend back-to-school or meet-the-teacher evenings, along with any other special meetings that affect your children. It's a quick way to become acquainted with your children's teachers and find out what will be expected of your children.
  2. Read the school handbook so that you are familiar with school procedures. You will learn how to report absences, handle medical appointments, drop off or pick your child up at school, and contact teachers to arrange for conferences or to discuss any problems that might be going on at home. When everyone follows the same procedures, it definitely makes life a lot easier for the office staff and will help you avoid making mistakes in dealing with the school.
  3. Take the time to fill out all parent information cards. Make the appropriate changes if you move, change jobs or get a new phone number. Schools need to be able to get in contact with you quickly if there is an emergency. If these cards are out-of-date, time may be wasted in trying to contact you.
  4. Get involved in some school activity. You will learn so much more about how the school operates and become better acquainted with teachers, staff and other parents. Find an area where you are able to participate. Since many parents work, most schools now have functions for parents before school, in the evening and on weekends. Schools also offer opportunities to help with one-day activities such as field trips, sports days and science-fair days.
  5. Visit our Web site ( and search for "back to school" to find additional things that should be done at the start of the school year.

It’s a Great Idea to Read to Middle Schoolers

Question: My son just started middle school. Is it still a good idea to read to him every night? – Avid Reader

Answer: Don't quit reading to your son. All the experts recommend it. Studies even show that it is likely to increase your child's reading scores and his interest in reading. Furthermore, he is being exposed to a more advanced vocabulary. It is also a great way to communicate with him on a wide variety of subjects. And frankly, everyone enjoys listening to stories.

Here are some hints to make your reading sessions as successful as possible:

  • Be consistent in reading to your son every night. You needn't read for more than 15 minutes.
  • Don't just read books. Magazine articles on topics that interest him are a good choice.
  • Have him make suggestions about what he would like to hear.
  • Be sure to choose age-appropriate materials (no childish stories).
  • Try to complete a chapter a night when reading chapter books.
  • For a treat, watch movies or videos of books after finishing them.

The First Steps in Teaching Children about Numbers

Question: My preschooler is having a difficult time with understanding numbers. He sees a group of apples but does not know that the group he is looking at is the same as the number 3. What activities can I do with him to help him learn more about numbers? – Challenged

Answer: Number concept development involves learning words and symbols to describe quantities. Children best learn to do this when they handle everyday objects. Sorting activities will help him develop an understanding of collections — how objects can be joined in collections or separated out and moved into other collections. Ordering activities emphasize the concepts of "less" and "more." Through counting, children come to understand the connections joining the number concepts together. Matching fosters the ideas of likenesses and non-likenesses between objects.

  • Sorting– Sorting involves such simple activities as putting oranges and apples in different piles. When children can place a number of objects together because for some reason they belong together, those children have started down the road to mathematical and logical thought.
  • Ordering– Children first learn about ordering by physically putting objects in size order. Then they are ready to extend this concept to number. Begin by having your child find which object is larger or smaller of two paired items varying in size, such as shoes, cups or spoons.
  • Counting– Teach your child to count so he'll learn the names of the numbers. Then have him count a small number of similar items such as pennies, shoes or plates.
  • Matching– You can't assume that your son understands numbers until he can match sets of the same size. If you have five cups and five saucers then you have one cup for each saucer.

Parents should send questions and comments to or ask them on the columnists’ Web site at

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  • Distributed by King Features Syndicate