7th grade English Language Arts tips: Here's how to help your student

Here's how you can help your seventh-grader master reading and writing outside of the classroom.
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By Aisha Labi

Hoping to help your seventh-grader with reading and writing skills? Here are some basic tips that experts suggest.

Foster conversation at home

Encourage discussion as much as possible. Ask your child for their opinion about political and social issues, or about books, movies, and TV shows. Listen carefully and prompt them to express their ideas thoughtfully, backing up their claims with evidence. Having dinner together as a family may be harder to do as they get older and there are more demands on their time, but this is one of the best ways to stimulate these kinds of conversations.

Use texting

Several times each week, have your seventh-grader text you a full sentence summarizing a theme of something they are currently reading. Ask them to do this in a full sentence and not with texting shorthand.

Help with time management

As your seventh-grader's workload and extracurricular interests increase, the way they manage their time will become increasingly important to their academic success. Most kids aren’t naturally good at time management and have to be taught effective strategies. Help their plan ahead and make a schedule of when assignments are due, so that they aren't always racing to complete things at the last minute.

Help with study strategies

Do your best to figure out how your child learns. Have they always been very visual, relying since early childhood on images to help retain concepts? Or does your seventh-grader seem to do a better job processing information they have heard? As their schoolwork becomes more difficult, helping them figure out the study techniques that work best for their will be key to their future academic success. These could include preparing flashcards or reading texts aloud to himself.

Encourage note-taking

There is strong evidence that, despite the popularity of highlighters, highlighting or underlining text as we read is not the most effective way of learning information. Encourage your seventh-grader to take notes of key ideas, perhaps on Post-its or colored index cards, as your child reads. When they have finished a reading assignment they can compile all these notes and have a personalized study guide.

Help develop a homework routine

Help your child develop a consistent homework routine. Make sure that they not only reviews that was covered in school that day but also help them learn how to keep track of long-term assignments and plan ahead.

Plan a movie night

With so many popular children’s books having been made into films, there are plenty of opportunities for movie nights that allow your child to practice some of the reading skills she’s learning in school. Plan an evening around watching the film of a book they have read and ask them about the differences between the film and the book. Were key details of the plot changed? Did the characters remain true to the way they were described in the book? Why does your child think these changes were made?

Have conversations about historical events

Pay attention to upcoming historical anniversaries and try to view several media pieces related to the event. For example, there are many documentaries about the Kennedy assassination and the 9/11 attacks. As you watch these, have a family discussion about the event as well as the various interpretations of its exact sequence, contributing causes, and lasting significance. These conversations will help develop analytical literary skills.

Encourage accurate descriptions

Word precision becomes more important as teens move through middle and high school. Encourage your seventh-grader to regularly describe items, locations, and events to you. Identify words that you find vague in these descriptions and ask them to think of better, more descriptive, or more accurate words to express what they are thinking.

Promote reliable online information

Help your child become a more discerning consumer of online information. Teach them to identify reliable websites by examining where their information comes from, who sponsors them, and how current their content is. Discuss why some sites are more informative and more reliable than others. Take a look together at some sites, such as Snopes or TheStraightDope, that examine online rumors, urban legends, and other stories to see examples of how inaccurate information can become widely accepted.

To find out what your seventh-grader will be learning in English Language Arts class, check out our seventh grade English Language Arts skills page.

Parent Toolkit resources were developed by NBC News Learn with the help of subject-matter experts, including Joyce Epstein, Director, Center on School, Family and Community Partnerships, Johns Hopkins University; Pamela Mason, Program Director/Lecturer on Education, Harvard Graduate School of Education; and Denise Walston, Director of Mathematics, Council of the Great City Schools, and align with the Common Core State Standards.