Supporting Learning image

Supporting Learning

Parent support of children’s learning leads to positive outcomes for young people. Research shows that children of parents who are engaged in their learning achieve better academic outcomes and have a more positive attitude toward schooling. One of the most important ways parents can support their child’s success at school is to communicate high but achievable expectations about learning and education. There are also some other practical ways to help your child at home outlined in these resources.

Supporting Your Child’s Learning: Primary

Homework Tips Primary

When parents and carers support learning, we know children achieve better educational outcomes but families are busy and it can be easy for homework to become a source of stress. These tips will help you to make homework time beneficial and manageable for your family.

5 Top Tips About Homework

#1 Set up a space without distractions for homework.
An area of the house that is away from televisions and other devices is a good place to create a homework space. Some basic stationery like pencils, erasers, highlighters and paper can also be helpful. If your child needs to use a device for homework, check on their progress regularly. It is very easy for children to be distracted by other apps and websites.

#2 Get into a routine of doing homework at a set time.
This can be as simple as reading for 15 mins a day, doing tasks set by the teacher or researching a learning project that they are interested in. Deciding when and how to structure homework time is important too and needs to fit in with your family’s routines.

  • Think about whether your child works best straight after coming home or after they've had a chance to wind down.
  • Younger children can only sustain relatively short bursts of concentration, usually about 15 minutes. At this stage, physical and creative play is much more important than long periods of homework.
  • However homework is structured, it's important to be consistent. Students with a regular routine are more confident and achieve better results.

#3 Ask your child to tell you about their homework.
Explaining the task will help clarify your child’s thinking as well as providing you with a sense of what they are learning and what needs to be done for homework.

#4 Don't jump in and give them the answers.
If your child is struggling to complete the homework, don’t feel like you should try to do it for them. It is helpful for teachers to be able to clearly tell where a child has gaps in their knowledge and understanding.Homework also helps children to be independent learners.

#5 If your child is consistently struggling with homework, consider the reason.
If the content is too challenging, it’s time to talk to the teacher. If it is a time management problem, it’s a good idea to consider how busy your child’s schedule is and help to streamline it. Children need a balance of structure and free play to thrive.

Reading Skills Primary

Reading is one of the most important skills we can help our children to develop. Confident, active readers are able to use their reading skills to access all kinds of information, to follow their passions and to go on a journey of the imagination.

But learning to read is complex and takes time.Children don't learn one reading-related skill and then move on to the next in a step-by-step process. Instead, they are learning to do many things at the same time like understanding the sounds letters make alone and together, absorbing new vocabulary, improving fluency and understanding what the text says. The best thing we can do as parents is to encourage lots of reading at home and to model reading skills and express to children the importance and joy of reading.

You might also find the following strategies can help your child become a more effective reader and are very easy to practice at home when reading with your child:

#1 Understanding
When children read and encounter difficulties like missing out words or reading them incorrectly, it can affect their understanding of the text. If your child isn’t understanding the test then re-reading, slowing down and looking at pictures are ways to help them improve their understanding of what they have read.

#2 Predicting
This is when we use information from the text, images or our own experience to try and predict what might happen next. Stop at certain points in a story and ask your child what they think might happen next in the story.

#3 Visualising
When children create mental pictures as they read it helps them engage with a text and strengthens their understanding of the text. Asking your child to describe or draw characters, settings or the action in a story will help them develop their visualising skills.

#4 Questioning
Asking and answering questions about the text helps children understand it. You could ask them how a character might be feeling in a fiction text or what they found interesting in a nonfiction text.

#5 Making connections
When we connect what we are reading to something in our own lives, another text or something happening in the world, it helps us make sense of what we are reading. When reading a text together, you could ask your child if the story or information reminds them of something that has happened to them or in the world around them. You could also ask them if there are any similarities to another text they have read.

#6 Summarising
Summarising teaches students how to identify the most important ideas in a text and how to combine the main ideas in a meaningful way. Helping your child to summarise improves their memory for what is read. It’s also an important skill for nearly every subject area throughout primary and secondary school.
Download this helpful guide about the six reading strategies that can make a difference to your child’s comprehension.
Reading + Questioning = Understanding
The Five from Five website provides helpful videos for parents looking for further help to support their child's developing reading skills.

Writing Skills Primary

Writing is an important form of communication and a key part of education. But in today’s technology-driven world, there can be less opportunities for children to practise and improve their writing skills. Developing strong writing skills takes time but there are many things that parents can do at home to help improve children’s writing skills.

#1 Create a Writing Kit
A cardboard box filled with cheap and cheerful writing resources is a great way to encourage children to write. Bring out the writing kit once or twice a week and ask children to do a different writing activity. Your kit could include:

  • Pens and pencils
  • Postcards
  • Notepaper
  • Paper stapled together to form a booklet
  • Cardboard to make book covers
  • Pictures from magazines to inspire writing ideas
  • Journal or diary
  • This resource of Writing Starters can be printed and included in your kit.

#2 The Why and the Who of Writing
Help your child to think about who they are writing for and why. For example, there's a difference between writing a letter to a friend about a holiday and a flyer advertising that holiday destination. If your child has to write a particular type of text like a letter, journal entry or advertisement, look at some examples and talk about the type of language and images that are used.

#3 Plan It First
From an early age it is a great idea to help your child get used to planning what they want to write before writing it. Support them to brainstorm some of the main ideas that they want to communicate in their text before they write.

#4 Encourage Sustained Writing
When they have a plan for their writing, encourage your child to stay focused and write down their ideas following the plan. How long your child can write for will depend upon their age, interest and skill level. But try to complete the writing task without stopping to check and edit. It is better to fix mistakes in spelling, grammar and punctuation after your child has completed the task.

#5 Checking and editing writing
Have your child read his/her writing to you. Children will often naturally think of ways to improve their writing when they read it aloud. You can also help identify mistakes in their writing. But rather than fix them yourself, encourage your child to work out ways to correct their own work.

#6 If your child has difficulties with handwriting
Many children struggle with handwriting.Writing is a developmental and whole-body process. This means that writing uses all the systems of the body, including vision, movement and body positioning, gross motor and fine motor skills, social and emotional skills as well as self regulation. These all need to work together in order to achieve the seemingly simple task of writing, so it’s no wonder that many children find learning to write a challenge.

It’s important to talk to your child’s teacher if you are concerned about your child’s handwriting development. There are also some simple things to do at home with your child to help them improve their handwriting skills. Always try these activities only when your child is calm and relaxed.

Visual and Fine Motor Skills: I Spy Bean Bag

Fill a zip lock back with Scrabble letter tiles of magnetic letters along with other small items like beads. Give your child words to spell and write. First they must find the correct letters among the beads and then put them in order. Then they write out the word.Tell your child that when they search for the letters for a sight word (e.g., t-h-e) in an I-spy bean bag, they’re strengthening their eyes and their brain. Then, when they follow up by writing the word, they’re strengthening their eyes and working on their handwriting simultaneously.

Fine Motor Skills: Motor Tool Box

A motor skills tool box is a bin of different fun items (eg. Lego pieces, beads and string for threading, Play-Doh, and coloring books) that, when handled, can help children build up strength in the small muscles of their hands. When your child starts to engage with items in the motor skills tool box, explain to them that doing so helps strengthen the muscles of their hands—the muscles that are important for writing.

Attention Skills: Toe Touch Cross

This is a simple, whole-body exercise to do before a child starts writing, especially if they have issues with staying focused. It’s centred around what occupational therapists call crossed midline input, which means that it allows the two sides of the brain to connect. It also engages the balance system and helps keep the body and head steady in space because the head goes below the level of the heart—a calming body posture.

  1. Stand up with their legs shoulder-width apart.
  2. Spread their arms out.
  3. Cross their right arm, reaching it across their midsection to touch their left foot.
  4. Repeat on the other side.
Gross Motor Skills: Trace the 8

A simple figure 8 or infinity sign can help guide a child’s hands and build gross motor skills. Tell your child to picture an “8” lying on its side. With their right hand they then trace the imagined 8 carefully, using the whole arm and the shoulder as well, and then repeat with their left hand. Then they can take both hands together, with one fist on top of the other, and trace over the 8 with both hands. Repeat a few times.

Numeracy Skills

If you feel that the way your child is learning mathematics is very different from how you were taught, you would be right. Mathematics and numeracy learning and teaching has changed significantly over the years. These different ways of teaching and learning help to give children a deeper understanding of mathematics concepts. Parents don’t need to be maths experts to support their children’s numeracy skill development. There are many ways to help your child with their numeracy skills:

  • Stay positive and try to avoid lowering expectations by saying, "I was bad at maths too."
  • Don't jump in with the answer. Mathematicians take time to think about problems and ideas. Make sure you give your child thinking time. You might say: "Have a think about what this problem is asking you".
  • Encourage your child to use the strategies they’ve learned. Ask: "Which strategy would you use to figure this out?" and "Can you show me how you did that?"
  • Praise your child’s effort and thinking rather than praising correct answers.
  • Incorporate maths into your everyday life such as:
    • measuring when cooking
    • counting money
    • seeing patterns and arrays eg. eggs in an egg carton, biscuits on a tray
    • calculating the distance when walking, or the speed when driving in the car.

To learn more about the way mathematics is being taught in our primary schools, watch this helpful video produced for parents.
A Window into a Mathematics Lesson
How to Help your Child Develop Numeracy Skills

The Australia Government’s Learning Potential site has a huge range of numeracy ideas and activities for families so parents can actively support their child’s mathematical understanding.

Supporting Your Child’s Learning: Secondary

Homework Tips for Secondary Students

#1 Understand the Difference between Primary and Secondary Homework
At the start of secondary school both children and parents can often find the change in homework challenging.

  • Children will receive homework for multiple subjects.
  • Homework includes set tasks but also study for exams and completion of assessment tasks.
  • Some subjects seem more challenging in secondary school.

During this time of transition it can be very helpful for children and young people if parents stay engaged. Teens need to learn good study habits and they need their parents to help support them to do this. Some of the strategies below are a great start for parents wanting to help their young person to achieve their potential.

#2 Help Them Stay Focused
The adolescent years are often a swirl of dizzying distractions just a swipe away. Devices, social media, the rabbit hole of youtube and streamed entertainment all jostle for our teens attention when it comes to homework time. Even listening to music is a distraction. According to the latest research it is a myth that listening to music may help with study. Any type of multitasking will dramatically reduce your ability to recall information. Increase your teen’s chances of staying focused by insisting on a set homework/study space that’s free of digital distractions.

  • Consider installing one of the excellent apps that help families manage screen time use and access. Family Zone is a great tool and comes with a free trial period.
  • Check in on your teen regularly to see how they are progressing and offer encouragement to stay on task.
  • Encourage your teen to arrange their homework or study into blocks of time. Regular breaks help improve focus and concentration. Watch the video below about the Pomodoro Technique - a proven way to stay focused, maximise your time and achieve better outcomes.
    The Pomodoro Technique

#3 Understand Motivation
Homework time would certainly be easy if our teens naturally had high levels of motivation but unfortunately that’s not always the case. If parents can understand the factors that impact motivation, it can help them encourage this powerful force in their children’s lives. Motivation comes from 3 factors: connection, competency and control.

  • Connection: Children who experience warm, loving connections and relationships with their parents are more likely to be motivated by the encouragement and advice parents give about learning and homework. Focus on ensuring your children know they are loved and communicate positively about learning. It’s also worth remembering that positive feedback from people we love inspires motivation too, so praising your child (about their effort or commitment rather than their achievements) is an important motivational resource.
  • Competency: When we have experienced success at a task or activty, we are more motivated to keep working at it. If your teen struggles to complete tasks and experience a sense of competency, remind them of times they have tried and succeeded before and work with them to break the task into achievable chunks. Supporting them to achieve tasks when they are struggling will help lead to the improved sense of mastery needed for motivation.
  • Control: Teenagers particularly are more motivated when they have a sense of control or choice. Determining their own study routine eg. when they will study, how they might reward achieving study goals etc will help increase their motivation.
Support during Assessment Tasks and Exams

In secondary school, assessment tasks and exams or tests can help teachers gain a better understanding of a student’s areas of strength and areas that require more attention. When students receive feedback from assessments it gives them a clearer picture of the topics and skills that might need additional study.

#1 Getting Organised
Helping your child to create a study plan can support them to avoid missed tasks, stress, procrastination and distractions. Parents and children will find the factsheet about study timetables helpful when creating a study plan that really works.

Preparing a Study Timetable

#2 Assessment Tasks
Teachers provide students with the details of upcoming assessment at least 2 weeks prior to the due date. Parents can help their child effectively complete their tasks by:

  • Asking your child about what tasks are coming up and writing these on a planner or whiteboard where they are visible to you both can also help children keep on top of their workload.
  • Breaking tasks down into smaller chunks of work to avoid it seeming overwhelming.
  • Teachers often use lesson time to help support students to understand the task so encourage your child to go back through their lesson notes for tips and ideas from their teacher.
  • Ask your child to read out their first draft to you.This is one of the best tips for helping your child improve their writing at any age. Hearing themselves read out their written responses is a great way for children to self-edit. Reading work aloud helps pick up errors in sentence structure, word choice and clarity.
  • Always encourage your child to write more than one draft. Our first attempt is never usually our best and it’s important for children to learn the value of writing second and third drafts if time permits.

#3 Exam preparation
When a test or exam is approaching, research shows that students who do regular study aren’t as stressed as those who cram at the last minute.

Support your child to prepare for exams by trying the following strategies:

  • Make summaries of the topics to be assessed.
  • Learn the meaning of key words.
  • Create mindmaps or other visual representations of topics to be studied
  • Practise the types of questions that will be in the test or exam.
  • Do short bursts of study in the weeks before the test.
  • Ask your child to explain to a family member some of the concepts they will be tested on. Explaining ideas and concepts helps commit them to memory.
  • Write things that you have trouble remembering (such as names and dates) in coloured pen and stick them in places where you will see them such as mirrors and the back of toilet doors.

Parents can also promote healthy lifestyle tips that will support children’s wellbeing:

  • A healthy diet with lots of water is important during times of study and stress.
  • Ensuring your child is getting enough sleep is also critical as the brain can only function at its optimal level when children get between 7-10 hours sleep a night.
  • No devices in bedrooms is essential to help eliminate sleep deprivation in young people. Read more about healthy sleep for young people.
    Sleep Fact Sheet
  • Encourage daily exercise and relaxation time. Exercise can be a key to keeping stress levels low and help with concentration as it burns away the main stress hormone, cortisol.
  • Help them stay positive.
  • Understand that some children can have a meltdown on the day of a test or exam. Keep positive, encouraging and warm during these times. Point out that in a few short hours they will have finished and gently remind them that exams do not determine their lives.
  • If your child experiences severe stress around test or exam time, speak to your school for further support.
Understanding the Senior Years of Study

As a parent it is helpful to have an understanding of the different pathways of study during the senior years so that you can help your child choose the pathway that will best help them achieve their future study or career goals.

Depending on subject choice, NSW students can graduate with a Higher School Certificate, a nationally recognised VET qualification, credit transfer into TAFE NSW courses and/or an Australian Tertiary Admissions Rank (ATAR).

#1 Understanding the Higher School Certificate (HSC)
The HSC is an internationally recognised qualification for students who have successfully completed secondary education in NSW. The HSC is flexible and accessible to all students. There’s a wide variety of subjects to choose from for the HSC, with more than 110 courses developed by the Board of Studies, Teaching and Educational Standards NSW (BOSTES), along with a range of Board-Endorsed courses. Vocational Education and Training (VET) and TVET (delivered through TAFE) courses are practical subjects that can be studied alongside traditional subjects. All VET and TVET courses count towards the HSC and can lead to a nationally recognised qualification from TAFE NSW or the Board of Studies.

Achieving the HSC is different to getting a driver’s licence or an ATAR. A student does not receive a simple ‘pass’ or ‘fail’, nor do they get a single rank or mark for all courses. The HSC results show the level of knowledge and skills that a student has achieved in each course. The HSC Mark is determined by a combination of the student’s examination mark and their school-based assessment mark for each course. Both carry a 50% weighting.

What does this mean for parents?

  • So this means the assessment tasks students complete during Year 12 are just as important as the HSC exams they sit at the end of the HSC.
  • Parents need to encourage their child to work steadily over the entire course of the HSC rather than relying on ‘cramming’ just before the HSC exams.

What are Performance Bands?

HSC marks for each course are divided into bands and each band aligns with a description of a typical performance by a student within that mark range. The performance bands and descriptions give meaning to the HSC mark. For a 2 unit course, Band 6 indicates the highest level of performance and the minimum standard expected is 50.

Band 6 = 90 - 100 marks
Band 5 = 80 - 89 marks
Band 4 = 70 - 79 marks
Band 3 = 60 - 69 marks
Band 2 = 50 - 59 marks
Band 1 = 0 - 49 marks

The 'average' performance in most courses is usually a mark in the mid-70s (Band 4). Band 1 indicates that a student has not met enough of the course outcomes for a report to be made. Band 1 includes marks ranging from 0 to 49. For an Extension course, the bands are E4 (highest level of performance) to E1.

#2 Understanding the ATAR
The HSC results are used by the Universities Admissions Centre (UAC) to calculate a rank order of students known as the Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR). The ATAR is not a mark or a summary of the HSC. It is a ranking system used to allocate university placements.

The ATAR is a number between 0.00 and 99.95 that indicates a student’s position relative to all the students in their age group (ie all 16 to 20 year olds in NSW). So, an ATAR of 80.00 means that you are 20 per cent from the top of your age group. The average ATAR is usually around 70.00.

Universities use the ATAR to help them select students for their courses and admission to most tertiary courses is based on your selection rank (your ATAR + any applicable adjustments).

Calculation of an ATAR is optional. For example, many students who do not wish to gain entry to university the following year do not request calculation of an ATAR. However, for students who do wish to be eligible for an ATAR, they must satisfactorily complete at least 10 units of certain Board Developed Courses for which formal examinations are conducted by NESA. Visit the UAC website for further information.

#3 Understanding VET (Vocational Education Training)
Vocational education and training (VET) courses play an important role in helping students prepare for further education, training, and employment. Students in NSW have the option of studying VET courses at school or through TAFE NSW or other training providers.

VET courses can only be delivered by registered training organisations (RTOs) that meet national standards and have the relevant qualification and units of competency on their scope of registration.

For NSW school students in Years 9–12 VET is ‘dual accredited’. Students receive recognition towards their school qualification (Record of School Achievement or HSC), as well as a nationally recognised VET qualification (Certificate or Statement of Attainment).

Some VET courses include an HSC examination which provides the opportunity for students to have this HSC examination mark contribute towards the calculation of their Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR).

#4 Life Skills Pathway
All students are entitled to participate in and progress through the curriculum. Years 11–12 Life Skills courses provide options for students with disabilities who cannot access the regular course outcomes.

When it has been decided that a student should access Life Skills, school staff will help to plan a step-by-step programming guide for the student.

Your child will experience assessment tasks that will provide opportunities for students to demonstrate achievement in relation to the selected Life Skills outcomes. It can occur in a range of situations or environments such as the school. Life Skills pathways can be used to gain a Record of School Achievement or a Higher School Certificate.