My Son Is Not Adjusting Well to Fourth Grade
By Dr. Stacie Bunning, clinical psychologist
My son has been getting C's and D's on his grammar and math tests. He was an A student in third grade. He is also an excellent creative writer. I am baffled as to why he is not doing well this year.
I have had talks with his teacher. She says he appears not to be paying attention and is often caught daydreaming. She even consulted his third-grade teacher from last year, who was surprised and said that was not like him.
My son says he misses his third-grade teacher and that she made classroom learning fun. It seems he is not adjusting well to his fourth-grade teacher's teaching style. How can I get him back on track to being the "A" student he is capable of being?
There's no question that fourth grade is one of the most challenging of the elementary grades, with several important changes taking place. Learning occurs at a quicker pace, with lessons in all subject areas being taught in longer segments (30- 45-minute blocks). The teacher will probably also teach "across the curriculum," using reading, writing and math to augment lessons in other subjects, such as social studies and science. There are added responsibilities, increased homework and greater emphasis on independence. It can be a lot to handle.
On top of those changes, adjustment to a new grade in school is often uneven at first and many children have problems at the start of the new school year. They may miss being home for the summer, or they may miss their friends from their old class. Some students, like your son, miss their old teacher and feel reluctant to connect with a new one out of a sense of loyalty. Your son could be feeling a combination of these issues.
Here are some suggestions:
- Help your son re-establish routines from earlier grades for doing homework and studying. Make sure he has a quiet, well-lit place free of distractions. Review his assignments with him until he is back on track.
- Be aware that children often jump to negative conclusions about a teacher, rules or procedures when everything is new. Go over the classroom rules and procedures with your son, and illustrate for him the similarities between these and those of his past classrooms.
- Resist the temptation to make excuses for your son's attitude. Remind him that throughout life there will be people who are not his favorites. Sometimes those will be peers, other times it will be a boss, co-workers or a teacher. Explain that he needs to work hard and show respect in school, regardless of his personal feelings.
- Speak with the teacher again about her observation that your son was daydreaming and inattentive. Does it occur only during particular subjects, or is it consistently seen? Consider a visit to the pediatrician to discuss these concerns and rule out a health issue. Ask for a hearing and vision check.
If you still have concerns about the teacher, then arrange a conference. A good teacher will want to work with you to make your child's experience a positive one.
Advice from our experts is not a substitute for professional diagnosis or treatment from a health-care provider or learning expert familiar with your unique situation. We recommend consulting a qualified professional if you have concerns about your child's condition.