8th grade English Language Arts tips: Here's how to help your student

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

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

Ask your teen's opinion

Encourage discussion as much as possible in your house. Ask your eighth-grader for their opinion about political and social issues, or about books, movies, and TV shows. Listen carefully and prompt him 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.

Encourage keeping a diary

Give your eighth-grader a journal or diary and encourage them to update it regularly. Assure them that their privacy will be respected and that you will not read their journal.

Suggest writing projects

Suggest some writing projects for your them that would be of interest to the entire family. Perhaps they could research and write about some aspect of your family’s history, using personal interviews, books, and online information. They could share what they write with other family members.

Encourage reading aloud

Encourage your eighth-grader to read aloud to and tell stories to younger siblings.

Encourage note-taking

There is strong evidence that, despite the popularity of highlighters, highlighting or underlining text as we read is not an effective way of learning information. Instead, encourage your child to take notes of key ideas, perhaps on Post-its or colored index cards, as they read. When they have finished a reading assignment, your child can compile all the notes and they'll have a ready-made study guide.

Discuss the news

Encourage your eighth-grader to become a more discerning consumer of news and information. Have an ongoing discussion with them about how you get your news and how you decide which sources to trust. Point out examples of misleading information you see, such as in ads, so that they learn to be skeptical of some sources. Bookmark some Internet sites that you consider to be reliable and that your child can use as reference or information sources.

Help develop a homework routine

Help your child develop a consistent homework routine. Make sure that they not only reviews what was covered in school that day, but also help them learn how to keep track of long-term assignments and plan ahead. By this age they should have a system for managing their workload, but continue to help them by asking what they're working on, how they're progressing with long-term assignments, and whether they need any help.

To find out what your eighth-grader will be learning in English Language Arts class, check out our eighth 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.