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Language Arts Helpful Hints

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Language Arts


The ABCs of Reading

Our children’s futures are determined by how well they learn to read.  You can help your child succeed in the classroom and beyond by helping your child develop the reading skills they need.

Experts have identified five key elements of reading instruction to ensure students learn to read:

  1. Phonemic awareness: The awareness of the sounds that make up spoken words
  2. Phonics instruction:  Teaches the relationship of the letters of written language and the individual sounds of spoken language
  3. Fluency: The ability to read text accurately and quickly
  4. Vocabulary: Knowledge of words and their meaning
  5. Text comprehension: The ability to understand or get meaning from text

Family Involvement

Talk About Reading – Be the Example

In addition to reading along with your child, you can set an example by being an avid reader and writer yourself. Engage your child in conversation about the importance of good reading skills in daily life, and provide a wide variety of reading materials in the home.

Make flash cards to help your child learn new words, and keep a reading progress chart with incentives for success. Whether you and your child are taking turns inventing stories during a car trip, or reading a book in preparation for seeing the film adaptation, inventive approaches to building fluency and comprehension will work well in your home.

Practice At Home

Imagine It! offers a number of instructional strategies that students can practice outside of school. Home Connection Letters, written in English and Spanish, are one way your child's teacher will let you know what your child is currently studying and what home activities you can do to reinforce these lessons.

Home activities might build on the Concept/Question Board, which encourages students to share their existing knowledge about each unit theme while formulating and investigating new questions that come up, or Alphabet Sound Cards (Grades Pre-Kindergarten and Kindergarten) and Sound/Spelling Cards (Grades 1-3), which display letters with pictures that contain the sound to help students connect the written letter to the sound it makes. Students can also practice and apply the phonics and comprehension strategies they've learned with illustrated Pre-Decodable and Decodable Take-Home Books.

Writing Activities

Outside of school, there are also many activities you can do to stress the importance of writing. Take a genuine interest in your child's writing, and encourage him or her to share it with others. Give your child at-home writing opportunities, such as

  • grocery lists
  • thank-you cards
  • keeping a diary

Provide materials to encourage writing at home, such as a writing toolbox that you and your child create together, and always find something specific to compliment.

Learning Games

Learning games can help reinforce the fluency and comprehension strategies your child has learned from classroom and at-home instruction. Along with your child,

  • Memorize and repeat nursery rhymes and advertising jingles.
  • Cut out letters from newspapers and magazines and rearrange them alphabetically.
  • Play the game "I See Something," emphasizing the first letters of words.
  • Say a string of words and have your child come up with an opposite for each one.

Once your child feels comfortable with the initial elements of reading, have him or her dictate a brief story to you, and read it back together.

Remember that learning involves all of us. Parents are teachers, too.

Visit the Imagine It!  “At Home” section to learn more:

This guide provides an overview of what your child will learn by the end of 4th grade in mathematics and English
language arts/literacy. It focuses on the key skills your child will learn in these subjects, which will build a strong foundation for success in the other subjects he or she studies throughout the school year. This guide is based on the new Common Core State
Standards, which have been adopted by more than 40 states. These K–12 standards are informed by the highest state standards from across the country. If your child is meeting the expectations outlined in these standards, he or she will be well prepared for 5th grade.

Why are Academic Standards Important?
Academic standards are important because they help ensure that all students, no matter where they live, are prepared for success in college and the workforce. They help set clear and consistent expectations for students, parents, and teachers; build your child’s knowledge and skills; and help set high goals for all students. Of course, high standards are not the only thing
needed for our children’s success. But standards provide an important first step — a clear roadmap for learning for teachers, parents, and students. Having clearly defined goals helps families and teachers work together to ensure that students succeed. Standards help parents and teachers know when students need extra assistance or when they need to be challenged even more. They also will help your child develop critical thinking skills that will prepare him or her for college and career.

How can I help my child?
You should use this guide to help build a relationship with your child’s teacher. You can do this by talking to his or her teacher regularly about how your child is doing — beyond parent-teacher conferences. At home, you can play an important role in setting high expectations and supporting your child in meeting them. If your child needs a little extra help or wants to learn more about a subject, work with his or her teacher to identify opportunities for tutoring, to get involved in clubs after school, or to find other resources.

Parents’ Guide to Student Success 
This Guide Includes
■ An overview of some of the key things your child will learn in English/literacy and math 
■ Ideas for activities to help your child learn at home
■ Topics of discussion for talking to your child’s teacher about his or her academic progress

Building the stamina and skills to read challenging fiction, nonfiction, and other materials is fundamental in each grade. Your child will continue to learn about the world as well as build vocabulary skills by reading more complicated stories and poems from different cultures and a range of books on history, science, art, and music. Students also will make important strides in their ability to explain plainly and in detail what a book says — both explicitly and what is implied from its details. 

English Language Arts & Literacy
■ Describing the basic elements of stories — such as characters, events, and settings — by drawing on specific details in the text
■ Paying close attention to key features of informational books and articles: these include understanding the main and supporting ideas; being able to compare and contrast information; and explaining how the author uses facts, details, and evidence to support particular points
■ Comparing ideas, characters, events, and settings in stories and myths from different cultures
■ Writing summaries or opinions about topics supported with a set of well-organized facts, details, and examples
■ Independently conducting short research projects on different aspects of a topic using evidence from books and the Internet
■ Paraphrasing and responding to information presented in discussions, such as comparing and contrasting ideas and analyzing evidence that speakers use to support particular points
■ Reporting orally on a topic or telling a story with enough facts and details
■ Writing complete sentences with correct capitalization and spelling
■ Relating words that are common in reading to words with similar meanings (synonyms) and to their opposites (antonyms)

Keeping the conversation focused. When you talk to the teacher, do not worry about covering everything. Instead, keep
the conversation focused on the most important topics. In 4th grade, these include:
■ Comprehending a range of grade-level stories, poems, and informational texts such as biographies, articles, or guidebooks about history, science, or the arts
■ Building understanding of relationships between words and nuances in word meanings — synonyms, antonyms, idioms — and using this knowledge to convey ideas precisely
Ask to see a sample of your child’s work. Ask the teacher questions such as: Is this piece of work satisfactory? How could it be better? Is my child on track? How can I help my child improve or excel in this area? If my child needs extra support or wants
to learn more about a subject, are there resources to help his or her learning outside the classroom?

For more information, the full standards are available at

English Language Arts & Literacy
■ Urge your child to use logical arguments to defend his or her opinion. If your child wants a raise in allowance, ask him or her to research commonsense allowance systems and, based on that research, explain reasons why, supported by facts and details.
■ Talk about the news together. Pick one story in the news, read it together, and discuss with your child what it means.
■ Keep books, magazines, and newspapers at home. Make sure your child sees you reading.
Look for “word problems” in real life. Some 4th grade examples might include:
■ Ask your child to compare numbers using phrases like “times as much.” For example, if the family cat weighs 8 lbs. and the family dog weighs 56 lbs., how many times as much does the dog weigh?
■ Ask your child to help you compare fractional amounts — for example, if one recipe calls for 2⁄3 of a cup of oil, but another recipe calls for 3⁄4 of a cup of oil, which recipe calls for more oil? (In 5th grade, your child will learn ways to determine just how
much more oil.) 

Additionally, here are some activities you can do with your child to support learning at home:
Learning does not end in the classroom. Children need help and support at home to succeed in their studies. Try to create a quiet place for your child to study, and carve out time every day when your child can concentrate on reading, writing, and math uninterrupted by friends, brothers or sisters, or other distractions. You should also try and sit down with your child at least once a week for 15 to 30 minutes while he or she works on homework. This will keep you informed about what your child is working on, and it will help you be the first to know if your child needs help with specific topics. By taking these small steps, you will be helping your child become successful both in and outside the classroom.

Help Your Child Learn at Home
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