September 1, 2013 3:25 pm

Back-to-school tips for educational success at any age

New enrollment numbers for Edmonton public schools’ 2013-2014 year show class sizes, specifically for Kindergarten to Grade 3, continue to grow.

Anne Christine / Getty Images

As children and teens head back to the classroom this week, a new school year means students and parents alike have a fresh start to make the most of their learning.

Zahra Rasul, owner and director of Vancouver-based Rasul Learning Group, specializes in educational success and university planning for students of all ages.

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Whether your child is heading to the first day of preschool, or beginning college or university, Rasul said there are specific things parents can do to ensure educational success for their child.

“These are things we teach as education specialists, but that parents can teach at home,” she said.

Early childhood education:

“One of the things we tell our clients with very young children is to not enroll them in too many activities all at once,” Rasul said. “Research shows that the bulk of learning at that age happens in play-based activities.

Rasul suggests scheduling play dates with other children two to three times a week, which allows them to develop social and cognitive skills, self-confidence and use their own curiosity and imagination to learn.

Studies have shown that play provides a strong foundation for intellectual growth, creativity, problem-solving and basic academic knowledge.

Parents should also actively engage with their kids in informal learning exercises at home.

“Take 10 minutes to do active reading with your kids. Ask them questions about what you’ve read together or get them to tell you the story before you’ve read it to them, which allows them to practice using their imagination.”

Elementary School:

Rasul said one of the best things parents can do for elementary school-aged children is to create a homework schedule.

“There should be a set homework time. This gives children a sense of structure, which they really need at that age,” Rasul said.

Homework should be done in the same place every day, but Rasul advises not to lock kids away in their rooms.

“Set aside a quiet, but central place where you can monitor them while also giving them independence.”

Rasul also suggests starting an informal book club with children to encourage them to read outside of school assignments.

“Read a series at the same time and then pick a day where you have an informal book club to chat about the two chapters,” she said.

Secondary School:

“High school kids don’t want to have their parents involved at all in their learning, so make sure you’re active in the parent-teacher interviews so you can check in and get progress reports, especially if your teenager doesn’t communicate with you,” Rasul said.

High school is a key time for students to learn organizational and time management skills, and parents can help this process by teaching their teens to use an agenda religiously.

“iPhones are not effective here, they need to have an agenda,” Rasul said. “Teach them how to plan ahead for tests and papers by scheduling smaller milestones along the way.”

This will help students be organized and turn in higher quality work, which will prepare them for university, Rasul notes.

With more students using laptops in the classroom, specific attention needs to be given to note-taking.

“Note-taking on a computer can become a really passive way of learning,” Rasul warns, adding that students should make a practice of going through their notes and condensing them into key points from discussions and chapters.

College and University:

Moving from high school to college is one of the biggest transitions students make, and can be a very difficult period for many as they move from a smaller learning environment to a larger one.

“Make sure that students are using their course outlines as a bible. Outline every deadline and the worth of a test or paper in an agenda,” Rasul said. “They should spend a proportional amount of time on each assignment based on its worth.”

Rasul also suggests building relationships with professors early on by making the effort to attend their office hours and asking questions about the material.

“Professors want to meet students, but you’re the one who has to take responsibility for seeking it out,” Rasul said.

Rasul said these relationships can be invaluable later on when applying for jobs or internships that require references.

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