Parent Resources

So, what did you do at school today?

The typical response from students to this simple question is “NOTHING.” As principal of the school I want to assure you that teachers are not sitting in their classrooms all day with students teaching “nothing.” Each week teachers prepare lesson plans that teach grade level standards of skills students need to know to be successful in their grade level and to help build a strong educational foundation for subsequent gradesAt our most recent staff development day, teachers collaborated to discuss ways that they can clearly let students know what the standards and objectives are for the lessons they teach in student friendly language so learning can be more meaningful for students. In sixth grade, instead of stating the sixth grade standard for math, Number Sense 1.4: Students will calculate given percentages of quantities and solve problems involving discounts at sales, interest earned, and tips; a teacher might tell students, “Today we are going to learn how to be smart money managers that can figure out a tip for the waiter and figure out how much money our savings can earn.”

Here are a few tips that may help you get past the barrier of students responding, “NOTHING,” every time you ask them what they did at school.

  1. Make a game out of the school day events. Ask your child to tell you three things that happened at school and you will try to guess which activity they liked best.
  2. Play two truths, one non-truth. Ask your child to tell you two things they actually learned or practiced at school and ask them to make one thing up. It is your job to then guess which of the three statements is not true.
  3. Be specific in your questioning. Instead of asking “how was your day?” or “what did you learn?” ask, “what type of math problems did you do in class today?” or “who was one of the characters in the book you read today?”
  4. Do a role reversal and have your child become the teacher and you become the student. Ask your child to try and stump you with one of their vocabulary words that they learned that day – see if you can give a correct definition of the word. In math have your child come up with a word problem like they did in class and see if you can get the right answer.


"Few children learn to love books by themselves. Someone has to lure them into the wonderful world of the written word: someone has to show them the way."


  • Read with your children for 20 minutes every day.
  • Choose a comfortable, quiet, and well lit location.
  • Give children your full attention when you are reading together.


  • Let children choose the books they are interested in.
  • Let children read to you. Or read aloud to the children.


  • Short sessions are effective. You should not make your children read books they dislike.
  • Children can read a number of books; you do not need to finish a book you start.
  • Re-read the child's favorites. Young children often want the same story read over and over again.
  • Be patient!


  • Enthusiasm is important. Give different voices to different characters.
  • Read slowly, and pronounce the words clearly. Use drama and excitement to make the story come alive.


  • Give children time to comment on what they see and hear.
  • Relate the story to your children's experiences. Share opinions.
  • After the story ask questions that stimulate thought.
  • Avoid questions that "test" your child.


  • Praise builds confidence and self-esteem in children. Reading will be associated with feeling good. Learning becomes natural, rewarding and fun.



  • Make a book of your own, and help your children to make their own books!
  • Children learn from example. If they see parents reading they will also want to read!

“Why Does My Teacher Want Me To Read For 20 Minutes?”

Research Shows Why Reading 20 Minutes Per Day Makes Sense

Research suggests that the more time students spend reading independently, the higher their gains will be in reading achievement. Research also indicates that having a strong vocabulary helps students succeed academically because it improves their ability to comprehend text they read and hear (Irvin 1998, 128). When students read a million words of text annually, about 1 in 20 of these words will be learned. This leads to the acquisition of between 750 and 1,500 words a year simply by reading (Nagy and Herman, 1987, 26). It has also been found from multiple, strictly controlled, long-term studies, that reading volume is directly connected to reading success for all students, regardless of ability (Cunningham and Stanovich 1988). The chart below, Variation in Amount of Independent Reading, shows the correlation among reading percentile, the amount of time spent reading per day, and the number of words read per year:

Variation in Amount of Independent Reading

(From Cunningham and Stanovich, adapted from Anderson, Wilson and Fielding 1988)

You can see that a child that reads for 21.1 minutes per day will read 1,823,000 (1.8 million) words each year and will be ranked in the 90th percentile for student achievement. Interestingly, if students were to read for a total of 65 minutes per day, the number of words read in a year greatly increases, but the rank only goes up 8 more percentage points to 98%. 20 minutes per night provides the most student gain with the least amount of effort (i.e. – it gives “the best bang for the buck”).

Only 100 words – That is Out of Sight!

Research conducted in 1995 showed that a mere 100 words make up half (50%) of the total words in written text. This means that if your child can read these 100 words, then they can read almost half of every book that they pick up. The 100 most frequently used words in written language are often referred to in education as sight words. Sight words are words that are used so frequently, students should recognize them instantly and be able to read them on sight! Kids who can read sight words easily and automatically are better able to focus on new vocabulary that they see and generally comprehend more of what they are reading.

Give your kids the test at home. How many of the 100 words can your child read quickly and correctly (with out pause or hesitation)? Any words that your child has difficulty with can be written on index cards and practiced until they have mastered it.

Once your child has mastered the first 100 words, go print out the top 300 words that account for 65% of all written English text (see chart below). By working with your child to ensure that they can recognize and read these high frequency words quickly and fluently you will provide them with the foundation to be an independent reader!

Top 100 Word List is on the next page.

the of and a to in is you that he for was on are as with his they at be this from have or by one had not but what all were when we there can an your which their said if do will each about how out them she many some so these would other into has more her who like him see time could no make than first been its who now people my over did down only way find use may water long little very after words called just where most know

Don't stop here. Make flashcards of these words, play games, and get them memorized. The words should come out of your child's mouth as fast as "mother". They should be automatic. Then pull the next hundred words off of the internet... go for a thousand. The more words your child knows to automaticity, the more successful they will be.

Flashcard strategy:

Provide your student with 8-10 flashcards. Play concentration or speed (how fast can they say the words as you hurry to show them one at a time), as well as, just have them put them in a stack and say the word, making a new stack to start again as they finish for 5 minutes.

You are the "Mighty Tester". When they say they are ready, flash test them. If they know all of the words automatically (No sounding out or pausing), they can put these in their "Wow! Done!" pile and get a new selection of words to practice. Once or twice per week, you can time them for 5 minutes to review their "Wow! Done!" pile. Soon this pile will be so large, they won't be able to get through the pile in 5 minutes.

Rebbeca Sitton has a nice list of the first 1200 most commonly used words in writing.