We all want to pull out that report card or log into the school site and see lots of good grades staring back at us. We want to see that our child is succeeding and understanding the material in their classes (and turning in their homework). Though at times low grades indicate that your child needs extra academic support, and may need to fill some gaps, sometimes a few tweaks can help get that grade back up to where it should be.
At Hoffman Tutoring Group, we tend not to focus on grades very often. We instead focus on academic growth, filling gaps, student mindset, and self advocacy. Surprisingly, we often see our students' grades rise after we help them make a few adjustments in these areas.
Not seeing the grades you would like on your child's report card? First, ask yourself if your child might need academic support. If your child is doing okay academically, but still not seeing great scores, try these five unconventional things to help your child get better grades:
1. Take the pressure off
It's very common for students to feel pressure when it comes to grades. Whether the adults in their life have told them to get good scores or not, our society seems to give kids the message that getting a bad grade is an experience near the end of the world.
When kids get wrapped up in the worry that they might get a bad score, that stress and tension can actually make them get a worse grade! Studies have shown that when students experience anxiety while performing academic work, the anxiety and fear can actually block their working memory which leads to lower performance.
Have an honest conversation with your child and try to take the pressure off when it comes to grades. Tell your child what's really important (trying hard, learning, growing, and making improvements). Communicate that if they get a bad grade you won't be angry. Sometimes it even helps to walk your child through a worst case scenario (so...if you did get an F on a test...what's the very worst thing that could happen?). Taking the pressure off can reduce your child's stress when taking tests and doing assignments, which can help them perform their best.
2. Teach them how to ask questions
Teachers and parents often don't explicitly teach kids how to ask questions about academic material. We just assume that as kids age they will figure out how to speak up about what they don't understand. The truth is, a lot of kids don't know how to raise their voice when they are having a problem with a concept. These kids often suffer a dip in their grade because they are unable to ask for the help they need.
Teach your child how to ask specific questions about their school work and encourage them to do so with teachers, parents, and other adults in their life. These lessons can often occur organically as your child works on school work at home. When they struggle with a concept or get stuck, model for them what asking for help would look like. Require them to be specific in their questions to you at home (ex. saying "I don't understand how to get common denominators" instead of "I don't know how to do this"). When they come home complaining that they didn't understand what their teacher taught them, encourage them to follow up and approach their teacher with questions about the lesson.
3. Practice breathing and stretching
Relieving tension and taking a short break when things get tough can help your child stick with difficult tasks for longer. Practice how to take a good deep breath (in through the nose, out through the mouth) and how to stretch while sitting in a chair. These simple stress relief techniques can help your child when they feel tension during big tests, or when they're attempting difficult tasks in class. Relieving stress, refocusing, and sticking with it will help your child get a grade that reflects what they know instead of a grade that reflects their anxiety.
4. Help them develop a growth mindset
When students focus on stretching themselves and improving upon their own performances, they are less likely to be stressed about the grade on the paper (which, as mentioned above, can lead to better grades). Help your child develop a growth mindset by focusing on their effort and growth instead of their fixed "smarts" and by helping them write and work toward academic goals. When the focus is on growth instead of grades, your child is more likely to be less afraid of making mistakes and more motivated to improve, no matter where they're starting from.
5. Help them get organized
Sometimes poor organization can result in poor grades. Missing assignments and not knowing when important assessments are coming can cause scores to slip quickly. If your child is struggling with staying organized, consider dedicating a few evenings to getting things under control while teaching them some organization techniques. This may look like purchasing a new binder or backpack that will help keep materials from different subjects separated. It also might look like sifting through mountains of papers to put them in their place.
After helping your child get a handle on their organization, check in frequently to see if things are staying tidy. This skill may take time to develop, and your child may cycle through many organization techniques before settling on one that works for them.
How do you help your child get better grades? We would love to hear your tips in the comments!
The Hoffman Tutoring Group