By the time I meet my SAT students, they are about sixteen years old and have ten or more years of education behind them. I can help any student boost his score a couple hundred points, but the most successful SAT students are the ones who have spent years honing their literacy skills, math skills, critical thinking skills, and work ethic. Here are a few ways to help your young child develop these important foundations for later SAT and college success.
Read together! Reading with your child is the single most important thing you can do to ensure her school success and, later, SAT and college readiness. Even children who already know how to read benefit from reading with a parent. By continuing to read with your child, you continue to emphasize reading as an important aspect of your family life. You also can introduce your child to books and articles with ideas and vocabulary that are too difficult for him to read on his own, but that you can help him understand. Remember to stop and ask questions to make sure your child is understanding what she is hearing you read.
Do daily math. Encourage your young child to use math skills in everyday activities. Your child can count the plates and forks you need in order to set the dinner table. She can help you count your change at the store. You can ask him to tell you what time it is and then help him figure out what time it will be in five minutes, ten minutes, twelve minutes, etc. Help your child practice using mathematical vocabulary words such as more, fewer, bigger, smaller, adding, and subtracting to describe everyday occurrences. Make up number stories (word problems) with your child, and then help her solve them. Remember to keep math practice fun!
Talk with your child.Good verbal skills will give your child a boost in later literacy and critical thinking. Talk with your child about the books your read together. Ask him what he thinks about the characters, and why he thinks those things. Ask her what she thinks about the world around her — the weather, the ducks, her teacher, her classmates, her schoolwork, etc. Encourage him to speak in full sentences in order to express his thoughts completely. Teach your child new vocabulary words and congratulate her when she uses them in her own speech.
Praise hard work and achievement, rather than “smarts.” Recent studies (http://nymag.com/news/features/27840/) have demonstrated that kids are more willing to try new things and develop new skills when the adults around them praise their hard work and achievement, rather than their intelligence. Kids praised for “being smart” often develop a fear of not living up to the smart label, so they stop trying new things that they might not be good at right away. Kids need to learn that they can develop their intelligence by practicing difficult skills until they seem easier, and by trying more and more challenging work every day. Praise your child for trying new things, and especially for trying again and again. Point out to your child the things he used to think were hard, but now finds easy. Remind her that she can do hard things!
Well-developed academic skills, critical thinking, and a solid work ethic will give your child an edge on the SAT. Remember that it is never too early nor too late to start working with your child on these areas. Check back here soon for future blog posts about how to develop your child’s skills continually, from kindergarten through high school!