To Be, Rather Than to Seem

Ways to Support Your Child’s Independent Thinking at Home

As we continue our virtual learning, please encourage your child to complete his/her work independently so teachers can monitor and provide support as needed. Below are some prompts to foster thinking and independence in each subject area. 


  1. How did you solve this problem?
  2. How did you know to add/subtract/multiply/divide?
  3. What other tools might you need to help you solve this (ruler, counters, number line, etc.)?
  4. What steps have you taken so far to try to solve this problem?
  5. Where can you find the information that you need?
  6. What do you know about this problem?
  7. How do you know that ____ is right?
  8. Tell me more about that.


The Daily CAFE offers a series of videos to help your child build reading stamina at home.

Word Attack Prompts

  • What other sound does that letter make?
  • Look for known word parts and groups of letters.
  • Break the word into parts (using affixes and/or syllables to guide you).
  • What do you notice about the word that can help you?
  • What can you use to help you figure out the word?
  • What are you going to do to help determine the word?
  • What word would make sense?
  • What did you notice wasn’t right about your first try? How can we try again?

Spelling Prompts

  • What is the first sound you hear? What sound do you hear next? What is the ending sound you hear?
  • What letter are you picturing in your mind for this sound?
  • Tap out each sound. Write the letter you hear that matches each sound.
  • Does what you wrote look right and sound right?


First, have your child orally share his/her story/idea with you. Then follow up with questions to add details.

  • Close your eyes, what are you picturing? What/who do you see? What/who do you hear?
  • Ask questions to get your child thinking about sizes, shapes, movement, background, color and quantities of things pictured. 
  • What happened next? What happened at the end?  

From the NYT article, “How to Homeschool During Coronavirus,” by Katherine Hill. 

If they say, “I don’t get it,” or, “I’m tired and I can’t do this,” hear them out rather than telling them what to do next. Once you’ve heard how they’re feeling, ask them to read the directions aloud, or point you to the section that’s confusing. This will show them you are listening and let them make progress.

When teaching, wait for eye contact before giving verbal instructions to kids. After you’re done, ask them to restate the main points of what you’ve said. Get to the child’s eye level to help communication, and limit verbal directions to two steps for preschoolers and three steps for older kids. The remote-learning situation will test everyone’s patience, so remember to take time for yourself.

Structure academic activities around kids’ attention spans. Most elementary-school kids can work on assignments for around 25 minutes before they need a break. Use a timer or time-management software to arrange breaks, which can also become transitions to new tasks. Or have kids do some jumping jacks, get a drink of water, take a short walk, climb stairs or play a game to help them refocus. Avoid online videos or graphic novels until the end of the day. These make good rewards, but can be distracting midday. For preschoolers, try a clean-up song or talking through the next activity to make transitions smoother.

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