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Why the First Six Weeks of School Are So Critical and What You Can do to Help Your Student

Updated: Aug 25, 2023

Starting a new school year can create a substantial cognitive load for students as they transition back into routines and rules that they haven’t been practicing over the summer. The beginning weeks of the school year present specific opportunities for families to support their child through this transition and set them up for academic success. By proactively establishing and monitoring your child’s progress and goals, you can begin to create a strong foundation of collaboration and foster academic autonomy.

Although specific academic details and goals can vary with different incoming grade levels, there are 3 common areas families can address:

1. Create a climate of collaboration with your child’s learning team.

  • This may consist of an initial kickoff meeting before the school year begins with the entire learning support team, or just the direct teaching team. This is a time to make introductions, recap areas of strength and challenge for your student, and share future goals.

  • It is important to highlight goals that were accomplished, along with ongoing goals from previous years. Additionally, noting learning accommodations and/or strategies that have benefited your child during that process will be helpful information for the team.

  • Establish a communication plan with your child’s learning team. Work together to schedule when the touchpoints will occur and in what capacity. Ensure that a calendar invite is sent out to secure the next meeting before the busyness of the school year sets in.

Questions to consider:

  • In what academic areas and skills have I seen growth , and where would I like to see more growth?

  • Is my student aware of these areas? Should I check-in with them beforehand?

  • Will the communication plan begin after beginning-of-year classroom/teacher assessments are completed (Mid/End October)?

  • Should the team meet weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly?

  • Should the meetings take place by Zoom, phone, or in-person?

2. Preview academic schedules and school week routines.

  • Allowing your student to participate in opportunities that give them a chance to take charge of their learning experience can be essential in building their academic autonomy and independence.

  • If available, previewing your child’s schedule and touring their physical learning environment(s) can support their ability to self-regulate more quickly during their first few weeks.

  • Previewing, or practicing, morning and afternoon routines before the school year begins can help students navigate transitions which support self-regulation.

Questions to consider:

  • What tasks should be completed the night before? (i.e.: setting clothes out for the next day, homework completed in take-home folder, materials in backpack) In what order should those be done?

  • What are morning and afternoon tasks? In what order should those be done?

3. Consistently check-in with your child the first six weeks of school.

  • Asking your youngster specific questions and prompts can help assess how they are faring with the transition back into school. Your child’s responses can be helpful feedback to bring to the next team meeting you have with your child’s teachers when going over results from beginning-of-year assessments.

Check-in Prompts:

  • What was the most exciting part of your day? What about it made it feel exciting? (This can help identify specific strategies and/or approaches that your student feels engaged by)

  • What felt like the most challenging part of your day? Can you think of one or two details that made it feel challenging? (This feedback can be helpful in creating individualized strategies and goals in areas that your student feels challenged by)

Where it feels appropriate, having your child engage in any of these areas can be an opportunity for modeling proactive planning and goal setting. This can be as simple as creating a visual weekly schedule together or reviewing your student’s hopes and dreams for their learning this year.

MAIA Education Resource Center looks forward to partnering with you to set students up for an exciting new academic year. We hope you are enjoying the last weeks of summer.

Best wishes,

The MAIA Team

Why the First Six Weeks of School Are So Critical
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