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October 27, 2015

Finishing the marking period strong and starting the next even stronger!

As the end of October approaches, so does the end of the marking period for many students. Grades close, final assignments get turned in, and students have fewer and fewer chances to raise their grade. While this can be a stressful time for many students, the transition between first and second marking periods provides an excellent opportunity for your child to practice skills he will need all year long. Beginning with the end in mind, or practicing “Backward Design” as explained in last week’s blog, can help students finish with strong grades and start their new quarter fresh and confident.

Mastering the End

At least a week before grades close, it is important for students to assess their progress and take action, if needed, to improve their grades. Ideally, students should track their assignments all semester long, but, for many students, the end of the semester provides added incentives to self-assess and self-advocate. Using their homework websites, or checking in with teachers, students can often find comprehensive lists of the assignments they have completed, their grades, and any missing work. If possible, sit down with your student, review these progress reports, and look for the following opportunities to troubleshoot before grades close:

  1. Missed Assignments: If your child is missing assignments, try to find out why. Did your child lose his completed assignment in the transition from home to school? Did he forget about completing it all together? Does he believe he turned it in and should get credit (and can he prove it)?  Was your child absent? Depending on the reason for the missed work, some teachers will allow their students to retake exams or redo assignments by the end of the marking period. Although your child may receive a penalized grade for lateness, he should always seize the opportunity to pass in missing work. After all, his new grade will certainly be higher than a zero and examining the reasons for his missed assignments can help your child set appropriate goals for his next quarter.  
  2. Retakes and Revisions:  Some teachers offer their students the opportunity to retake or revise a previously completed assignment for a higher grade before the end of the marking period. If your child’s teacher allows revisions, refer to your student’s progress reports and decide together which assignments are worth re-doing. While some instructors allow infinite revisions and retakes, others will allow only one re-do, so choose carefully and schedule your retakes right away!
  3. Extra Credit Opportunities: Does your child’s teacher assign extra credit work? Has your child completed it? If your child is worried about his grade toward the end of the semester, seeking out an extra credit assignment, to boost confidence and marks, can be a great solution. But- your student must self-advocate in order to ask for and complete extra credit work, so push your child to step up and ask for what he needs!
  4. Trends in your Student’s Grades: While reviewing your student’s progress reports together, also look for trends in your child’s grades. Perhaps he got full scores on every homework assignment, but struggled on tests or projects. You may even discover that certain types of exams (like a multiple choice test) are trickier for your student than others (like a short answer test). Taking note of your child’s strengths and weaknesses this semester, and reflecting on his progress, can help your child understand what strategies to keep using and what areas to target for improvement next quarter.

After completing these four steps, and finishing the marking period with all his “ducks in a row,” your child can transition his focus to what lies ahead.

Acing the Beginning

When beginning a new semester, it’s important not to forget about everything learned in the first semester. Your child should continue employing habits that worked, and start building new ones if necessary. Using an assignment notebook or other assignment tracking method is an especially important habit to practice from the get-go; when your student checks his progress throughout the semester, there will be no surprises when grades close, and he will not have to scramble to retake, revise, or turn in work at the last minute. An executive function coach can help your child build strong assignment tracking habits, make a smooth transition from semester to semester, and use the combined power of goal-setting, forward thinking, and organizational strategies to achieve his goals. Consider the following strategies to support your child at home while he continues moving forward:

  1. Set up an organizational system for stored materials: If your child is still working with concepts he learned in the first quarter, suggest that he keep those notes at the ready for easy access. However, notes that are no longer in use should NOT stay in his locker or everyday binders to be lost, torn, or thrown away by mistake. Decide on an organizational system to store past work, so that your child can more easily keep his new assignments tidy and accessible. Sort his first quarter work into subject-specific, chronological folders or binders, make sure to note what each test or unit covered for quick reference later on, and store all of those materials somewhere safe at home for finals studying.
  2. Create goals to address and support first quarter weaknesses: If, for example, you and your child discovered his tendency to forget new vocabulary, then develop a system to prioritize his vocabulary work. Try a new strategy or employ a familiar one in a different way. For example, your child may respond well to flashcards, but not use them often enough to master his word lists. So--add more time to his study goals for second quarter. Perhaps your child studies all at once the night before his exams. The solution? Incorporate short and frequent periods of study to improve retention. Whatever your child’s new goals, put them in motion early and often. Then, practice those goals until they become regular habits.
  3. Set aside time for progress check-ins to build self-monitoring skills: As recommended above, your child should be tracking his grades and assignments all semester long. If, at the end of his fall quarter, your child is unfamiliar with his progress thus far, consider scheduling frequent binder checks or progress checks as an addendum to his regular routine. Reviewing and/or reorganizing his school materials together can alert your child to missing work, help him stay on top of his current assignments, and allow him to prepare for upcoming deadlines. When your child gets in the habit of monitoring his own progress and grades, he can respond more quickly to areas of concern before it’s too late!

When your child understands how to finish strong and begin even stronger, he can avoid costly grading penalties that affect confidence and performance long-term. He gives himself a chance to check in with his teachers, develop their communication, finish his work to the best of his ability, and set new goals to make his best even better.