In grade school, your child with learning and thinking differences spends most of her time in a single classroom. She usually gets homework from one teacher, and you know exactly who to go to with any concerns.
But when your child starts middle school or high school, things change. Kids shuffle from class to class throughout the day. They may get daily homework from as many as five or six different teachers. How can you make sure everything gets done? And what’s the best way to communicate with these teachers about your child’s learning and thinking differences?
In my experience, a good strategy is to use a single tool to manage homework and send notes to teachers. I suggest a digital backpack app.
This lets teachers post homework assignments and due dates that both you and your child can view on a computer or other device. Your child can also add notes to what’s assigned. For instance, if she’s assigned a book, she might add the link to the audiobook version. (Audiobooks are available for free on Bookshare for kids who qualify.)
You can also use a digital backpack app to send and receive notes from your child’s teachers. The great thing is that everything is in one place.
Ask your child’s school if it has a digital backpack app for students to use. Or you can suggest one. My favorite digital backpack app is Backpack—Homework Planner, which is free and available for iOS and Android. Another one is myHomework for iOS and Android. A basic membership is free, but you can upgrade and get more features for $4.99 a year.
Whatever app you use, make sure you, your child and her teachers know how to use it.
If you can’t or don’t want to use a digital backpack app, you can use a daily planner instead. Ask your child to write down her daily homework for each class in the planner. You can ask her teachers to sign entries to make sure she includes all assignments, and you may want to sign the planner too, so you know what’s due.
You can also leave notes in a daily planner for teachers, like reminding them of an upcoming absence from school. But for more involved issues, it’s a good idea to follow up with an email or phone call to the teacher. Keep in mind that if your child has an , you can ask for an IEP meeting at any time.
Whatever system you and your child use—a digital backpack app or a daily planner—the key is to use a single tool for communication. Be consistent, and make sure your child notes all homework assignments. This will make communication with middle and high school teachers much smoother.
Sallie Spencer is a special education teacher with 22 years of experience as a teacher, principal and professor of education. She was Bookshare’s Mentor of the Year in 2012 and promotes the use of assistive technology to help students succeed. Bookshare is a program of Understood founding partner, Benetech.
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