Just like adults make intentions for the new year, students can do the same for the new school year. O’Connor, the 3rd grade teacher, recommends choosing a “focus word” with your child every month that represents their intention.
“Since children are still learning the concept of time, set a word for each month,” she says. “To reflect their back-to-school experience, September words might include friendship, perseverance, or kindness.”
Parents can then use this word to start conversations at home about your child’s classroom experience and progress.
“This allows parents an entry into conversations with their child,” O’Connor says. “Ask questions like, ‘What's one way you lived your word today, friendship?’ Your child might reply, ‘I saw someone standing alone so I went over and asked her if she wanted to swing with me.’”
Set up a book nook at home over the summer to develop a reading routine by fall. This way, you and your child (or just your child, if they’re already reading independently) will have a place to read when they get home from school.
“You definitely want to keep it clear of any distractions,” suggests O’Connor. “Make sure the space includes a shelf or basket with books that your child may want to read next. Consider books in the same series or from a variety of genres: Poetry, graphic novels, historical fiction, mysteries, and biographies are all important for your exposing your child to new words and worlds.” Here’s how to set up a reading space for your child this summer.
In addition to providing access to an array of literary options, be sure to keep a paper and a pencil nearby so your child can draw or write about their book if they wish.
O’Connor suggests this special touch to let your child know you're thinking about them.
“Sometimes parents draw quick sketches of their child's favorite book characters or a joke from their favorite funny book to guarantee a smile,” she says.
You may want to make this a daily practice to help with the transition from summer to semester. But heed O’Connor’s advice: “Use a sharpie so that the ice-pack doesn't smudge your words.”
Designating items as “back to school,” like an outfit or backpack, makes preparing for the school year a ritual and can stoke excitement.
You and your child can pick out new books during this time as well — and the titles don’t necessarily have to be about school. Refreshing their library at the start of each school year can be an annual tradition with the intention of starting anew and resetting your child’s mindset.
“Your child might inscribe the inside cover with what they're most excited about in the new grade,” O’Connor says. “At the end of the year, they can add some of their favorite grade-level memories. Now you have a keepsake.”
Gauge your child’s interests at the end of summer to see how their curiosity has evolved and what’s new. Ask them what topic they really want to learn about in the school year ahead.
“This opens up another opportunity to create excitement around learning,” O’Connor says. “Ask your child what they already know and what they wonder about. Your child can research the topic to become an expert.”
Most teachers will build in time for their students to showcase new learning, O’Connor adds.
Find more expert-approved kindergarten books, tips, and resources at our guide to getting ready for kindergarten, including summer activities for preschoolers going into kindergarten.
Shop books to get ready for the first days of school below! You can find all books and activities at The Scholastic Store.