Part 1 concentrates on what to teach for learning-ready behavior (academic and social).
Part 2 concentrates on the ethical characteristics of successful students.
Part 3 concentrates on knowledge and skills students may or may not receive in school, so it is essential that parents make sure children have a solid foundation in these categories.
22. Teach them to connect with what they are hearing: Students may be in class and show all the signs of listening, but if they aren’t connecting with what they are hearing, they might as well be somewhere else. Asking children to repeat information given to them is a good start, but then ask them to apply what it means: “I need to clean my room before I can hang out with my friends. That means, when Joey knocks on our door in a half hour, I won’t be able to play basketball with him if my room isn’t clean.” That’s a simple parenting directive. What does it look like in class? In English class, it may look like this: “I need to put a comma and a conjunction between two independent clauses. That means, I don’t need a comma in the sentence, ‘Sam went to the park and then to the store’ because it is only one independent clause.” Listening is a good start; however, they need to connect and apply what they are hearing.
23. Teach them to ask good questions: Asking questions and asking “good” questions can be two very different things. Questions that help students connect to the information are good questions. Why were the Puritans so stupid? vs. Why didn’t Hester Prynne just move to another town or state? We want students to move away from the judgmental, silly questions and move towards the clarifying questions that bring understanding. Asking good questions is a sign that students are connecting with what they are hearing.
24. Teach them to write things down: It is never too early (or too late) to teach your children to do this. Note taking is an integral part of learning; students should start every class with opening their notebooks with pen/pencil in hand. At all levels of high school teachers still have to remind students to take out their notebooks. That should be a given, not a daily command. Parents can show children how vital this is by asking them to write out to-do lists, to take notes on the things they are responsible for at home, to write down places they hope to visit someday or jobs they’d like to have some day. Anything that will show children that writing down thoughts will make them concrete and unforgettable, or at least accessible.
25. Teach them to be curious: Curiosity goes beyond the required material in class. Teachers do their best to present the most important information, which leaves a world of information teachers cannot teach; however, that extra information may be the hook that sparks a child’s imagination and/or passion. Reading Ben Franklin’s Autobiography is essential in helping students understand Franklin’s role in American Literature, but a student’s curiosity might push him to research the different inventions Franklin created in his lifetime, which could spark a child’s creativity. Teaching children to look up these interesting elements help them to discover who they are and create a love for research.
26. Teach them to love learning: If I could ban any sentence spoken by students in school, it would be “This is boring.” It is more and more common to hear students say that. I often reply with, “Only boring people get bored.” But seriously, how can knowledge be boring? How can opening the minds of great thinkers and delving into their philosophies numb young minds? Simple, they’ve never been taught to love learning. Unfortunately, those students who remain bored throughout life will also be boring people; they will have nothing interesting to talk about. On the contrary, a love for learning will give them plenty of fodder for class discussions, essays, and future office parties.
27. Teach them to love language: Young children are primed to love language. They get excited over big words or silly sounding words or the beauty of the sound of words. They love to learn foreign languages for the same reasons. However, somewhere down the road all that excitement disappears. Language stops being fun. It’s never too late to encourage that love again. Find words together that are fun to say and break them up into their stems. Find sentences that are beautifully written and talk about why they evoke that response. Learn foreign languages together. Students who love language will easily build an immense vocabulary. They will have a better grasp of grammar and written language, which will transfer into their oral communications.
28. Teach them to love numbers: The understanding of math concepts will determine children’s placement throughout school. If they are strong math students, they will be tracked with the strongest students in the school. How do students become math wizards? They learn to love numbers! Play dice games; create fun with fractions; have contests with addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division facts; teach them fun ways to remember math facts. Chances are if parents are having fun with their children, children will be having fun as well, which will lead to a love for numbers.
29. Teach them to memorize facts: Memorization is essential to a successful education! Without memorization of key facts, students will spend an inordinate amount of time looking things up or using calculators. Students are coming to high school without knowing their math facts or the dates of the Civil War. They can’t remember the chemical compound for salt or who said, “Give me liberty or give me death!” Without these facts memorized, they can’t get to the next level of synthesis and/or application. Simple memorization games help build that muscle, but quizzing children on their facts can also create a fun car activity on road trips, showing them that knowledge is important and fun.
30. Teach them Biblical references: For some parents, this might be where they draw the line. But please, hear me out. Students who have a working knowledge of Biblical references (notice I am not saying Biblical faith) do better in school. Why? Because so much of what we read and study in school has its foundation in Biblical teaching. Almost every piece of literature has a Biblical allusion. Our country’s and world’s history sits on a Biblical foundation. The fear that teaching anything in the Bible might lead to forcing a religion on a child has kept teachers from discussing the important stories, which has created reading comprehension problems in students of all ages. Here is one example: While reading Patrick Henry’s “Speech to the Virginia Convention” (“Give me liberty, or give me death” speech), high-school juniors could not comprehend the beauty of Henry’s persuasive speech because they could not decipher the Biblical allusions—in fact they didn’t even know they were allusions. One such allusion he uses comes from the stories of Jesus: “Trust it not, sir; it will prove a snare to your feet. Suffer not yourselves to be betrayed with a kiss.” Without the working knowledge that Jesus said that to Judas, a beloved friend who sold Jesus’ location to his enemies, students could not understand Henry’s emotional appeal to the patriots about the British ministry’s betrayal of the colonies. At least 90% of my juniors do not understand this reference, most of which admit to being struggling readers. After I explained the allusion to them, I could see light bulbs turning on all over the room.
31. Teach them mythical references: Once again, there may be parents who will draw the line here, but my argument is the same for mythical references as it is for Biblical references. Students will struggle as readers if they don’t understand the allusions. There can be no denying the necessity of knowing who Medusa, Zeus, Achilles, Pandora, etc. are. If parents want their children to be successful students, they have to see the connection between religious, spiritual, and mythical references and reading comprehension, which together will result in a solid educational foundation.
32. Teach them the original versions of fairy tales: Disney and Pixar have some entertaining versions of fairy tales, which are good things to know in the modern world, but their original counterparts can be very different. Knowing the original fairy tale versions can also help with reading comprehension. Many allusions in literature refer to the original stories of “The Little Mermaid” and “Cinderella.” If children don’t know these stories they will miss the allusion.
What do you think of my list? Is there anything you would like to add?