The story below is about a third grader presenting her independent project to the class:
“Ummmm, I don’t really know why that picture is there. My mom put it in.” *
And looking at the project, it was pretty clear that mom had done most, if not all, of it. How exactly am I, as the teacher, supposed to grade that? Before I had kids of my own, I was completely mystified by this behavior. And, of course, as a teacher, it drove me batty. At one point, in an effort to get parents to stop doing this, I even offered to let parents turn in their own projects if they really felt the need to do them (I even offered gold stars, but alas, no takers).
Now that I am a parent myself, I totally get it. Of course, I can do a better job. I understand sequencing better than my child, and I have better research, art, and writing skills. I’m an adult, after all. And I want my child to do well. But that’s not really the point, is it? The point is for the child to learn these skills, even if part of the process means getting a C- instead of an A+.
So, for your child’s sake (and your child’s teacher’s sake), hands off! That doesn’t mean you can’t help at all, of course. Kids do need guidance – that is part of the learning process, and they can’t very well drive themselves to the library. The trick is knowing when to help and when to steer clear. So, to help discern what is helping and what is doing, I have made this handy-dandy chart, which you can download in printable format here.
|Plan out a schedule with your child with times and days for getting each part of the project done.||Make a plan yourself, and then write the times and dates in your child’s planner or calendar.|
|Take your child to the library. Teach him how to use the catalog to search for books. Tag along as he finds the books he needs.||Take your child to the library and look up the books he needs on the computer while he watches. Get the books while he tags along.|
|Suggest search keywords for computer research. Help her print out the information she finds.||Type in keywords, find sites, and print them out while your child watches.|
|Ask questions about the way your child is organizing his projects. Point out places where things seem confusing.||Organize or outline your child’s project for him.|
|Edit your child’s work by pointing out spelling/grammar errors, sentences that are unclear, etc.||Correct the mistakes in your child’s work and rewrite as you see fit.|
|Buy supplies that your child might need, like a 3-fold display board or art materials.||Create elements for the project, such as pictures, logos, diorama scenery, etc.|
|Ask questions about how your child is choosing to arrange things, about information included, etc.||Require your child to rearrange or add things. Do it for your child.|
|Observe, advise, and help with things that your child cannot do by herself, such as use an electric drill or drive to the library.||Do anything that your child can do herself, even if you can do it better. Even if it will look, sound, be better if you do it. Even if you really, really want to.|
*BTW M. Hopper, if you ever happen to read this (which seems highly unlikely), that was your kid!