[Grades 6-8]

Learning Recipes

for Parents and Children
Grades 6-8

"Parents and families are the first and most important teachers. If families teach a love of learning, it can make all the difference in the world to our children."
Richard W. Riley
U.S. Secretary of Education

Educational research has made it clear that parents who are actively involved in their children's learning at home help their children become more successful learners in and out of school. During the early adolescent years, adult guidance is especially important.

Here are some reading, writing, math, social studies and health Home Learning Recipe activities. These have been developed by the Home and School Institute. Parents of sixth to eighth graders find them to be easy and enjoyable ways to work with the school--using materials they have at home to build their children's skills. These activities will also help preteens and parents talk together about matters both care about, which improve family communication at this crucial time.

Reading Activities

Read All About It--Introduce your child to the many kinds of information in the daily newspaper. Ask your child to find the pages containing news about government leaders, editor's opinions, weather reports, car sales, house and apartment rentals, and want ads. Discuss how to use this information.

Follow the News--As a family, choose an important news event to follow for a day or two. Ask each person to find as much information on the topic as possible--read newspapers, listen to the radio, watch TV news. Then talk about what everyone learned.

Writing Activities

Nice Words--Make someone happy. Write each family member's name on separate sheets of paper. Add a note or a drawing--for example, "I like the way you make breakfast," or "You make me happy when you do the dishes." Fold the paper and put them in a bag. Ask each person to choose a paper from the bag. Place the notes where they can be found by family members. And watch for the smiles!

Looking at Advertisements--Take a closer look. Help your children improve their thinking and writing skills by looking carefully at newspaper, magazine, and TV advertisements. What is the main point of the ad? What details does it use to communicate its message? For example, a strong, handsome man holding a soft drink in an expensive car with a beautiful woman at his side is telling us something about the soft drink.

Pro and Con: What Do You Think?--Make a family game of discussing a special issue--for example, "Teenagers should be allowed to vote," or "There should never be any homework." Ask your youngsters to think of all the reasons they can to support their views. Then, ask them to think of reasons against their views. Which views are most convincing? For variety, assign family members to teams and have teams prepare their arguments pro and con.

Math Activities

How Much Does It Costs?--Put math skills to work. Help your children understand living costs by discussing household expenses with them. For example, make a list of monthly bills--heat, electricity, telephone, mortgage or rent. Fold the paper to hide the costs and ask your youngsters to guess the cost of each item. Unfold the paper. How do the estimates compare with the actual costs? Were they close?

Math Marks--Are they really necessary? Ask your children to look through the newspaper to find and list as many percentages and decimal numbers as possible--sale prices, sports scores, bank rates. Ask what would happen without those marks?

Living Within Our Means--Teach children who have allowances or regular spending money how to budget. Ask them to make a two-column list of expenses and income. Under expenses, they list what they expect to spend for movies, bus tokens, lunches, etc. Then, have your youngsters add all the expenses and subtract the total from the income. Ask them to think of ways to reduce their spending. If their income is more than their expenses, talk about a savings plan.

Social Studies Activities

Expanding Horizons--Help your child learn about people from different countries. Suggest talking to neighbors from foreign countries, reading library books about other cultures, reading newspapers, and watching TV specials. Let Your Voice Be Heard--Promote good citizenship. Help your child write a letter to the editor of the local newspaper about an issue affecting children. For example, suggest that a bike path be built near the school or that a city event be planned for youngsters. Children are citizens and their ideas are worth hearing.

Health Activity

Stretch, Run, Bike--Ask your child to do at least one kind of exercise every day. For example, run or walk briskly for 10 minutes. Walk, when possible, instead of riding, for any distance less than a mile. Have your youngster make a week-long exercise plan. Try to think of a modest reward for sticking to the plan and exercise right along with your child.

Remember--keep the talk flowing. It's the stuff high test scores are made of and it's the basis for parent/child closeness.

Think of these as starter activities to get your ideas going. There are opportunities everywhere for teaching and learning.

Take a little time to do a lot of good!

For more information on other publications to help your children learn call:

U.S. Department of Education

These home learning "recipes" have been tested and developed by Dr. Dorothy Rich, author of MEGASKILLS ®, for the National Education Association. Reprinted with permission of the National Education Association and The Home and School Institute, 1994.

Reproduction of this brochure is permitted.