Ask the Teacher

My sixth grader started out the year so strong, but now she is struggling to get her work in on time. She keeps good lists of what she needs to do, but it doesn’t seem to help her. What can she do to manage her time better?

There are two basic challenges for staying on top of the “to do” list. The first is determining how long something is really going to take to accomplish. Your daughter needs to jot down the steps required to complete the work at hand, estimate how long each step will take and then compute the total amount of time she will need. After she completes the work, she should review her estimate to see how accurate she was to help plan better for next time.

The second challenge is to find the time to accomplish the work; time that has not already been committed to something else. Planning to complete two hours of tasks in a twenty-minute homeroom is planning for frustration. Have your daughter use a calendar planner that has a place to write daily appointments in half-hour increments. She should write in her commitments, e.g. music lessons, church activities, sports practices, etc., and then standing assignments like weekly vocabulary quizzes. Each time she gets an assignment, she should estimate how long it will take to complete and write on her calendar when she will do it.

This process will be cumbersome in the beginning, but over time your daughter will develop the time management skills she needs for success.


I don’t know how to help my fourth grade son do better on tests. I see how much time he studies, but the results just aren’t there. Should I have him tested?

Before having your son tested for learning disabilities, really take a look at not just how much time he puts in, but how he is actually studying. For some students, reading over study guides is enough to get content to “stick.” For others, that type of quick review is not going to do the trick. Consider the options below.

Have your son can create flash cards, using index cards and a pencil rather than using a computer. Some students need the tactile experience of writing information down to help them remember it. On one side have your son write key vocabulary words, concepts, names or questions likely to be the test. Then have him write out the answer clearly and concisely on the opposite side.

If your son is more of an auditory learner, it will help him to read his notes and study guides aloud. Chanting or singing the questions or ideas along with the answers will help him retain the information. Check his understanding by quizzing him orally at first, then have him give the answer aloud as he writes it down.

Another approach might be for you to create a mock test using your son’s notes, book and past tests. Your son may think he has mastered the material, but seeing that he is not able to answer the questions on the practice test may show him that his current method of studying isn’t working and he will need to find other strategies that are more effective.


My daughter is in eighth grade and struggles to comprehend the literature she is assigned. I know she is expected to do this without much help from the teacher, but she just doesn’t get it. Are there things I can do at home to help?

The focus of reading in upper middle school is on the nuances of character and plot development rather than on the basic understanding of the material. For students who struggle with comprehension, this can be frustrating. Fortunately, several tools are readily available to ease this frustration.

Many books and stories typically studied in higher grades are available in auditory form online, for example through LibriVox. Try having your daughter follow along as she listens. This method of reading will take a bit longer than silently reading a text, but often hearing the material allows better understanding of complex vocabulary and sentence structure.

Find SparkNotes or CliffsNotes or other summary aids for the books your daughter is assigned. These are free online. Your daughter should start by reading the summaries so that she has a good idea of what is happening and then read the actual text. One note however, only reading the shortened versions without following up by reading the assigned text will not help her overcome the comprehension struggles she is having.



Ask the Teacher is written by Deb Krupowicz, a mother of four who holds a Master’s degree in Curriculum and InstructionDeb has over twenty years of experience teaching preschool, elementary and middle school students. Please send your questions to her at [email protected]


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