By Allison Gardenswartz, Consulting Educator
My son went to kindergarten in a public school and has now started first grade in a private school. He is having a hard time finishing his work on time. Most of the kids in his class have attended this school since preschool and they are already writing in cursive. He calls himself "slow poke" and so do others. I have a hard time trying to get him to focus on his homework at home.
At times he writes some of his numbers like 2, 5 and 6 backward.
He is a smart boy, and the majority of his work comes home with A's, B's and one or two C's. He loves to read. But at times he looks at the first couple of letters and guesses at the words instead of sounding them out.
I'm afraid that he is going to dislike school and homework. We spend at least an hour and a half every day after school doing work that he didn't finish in class and his homework. Is there something that I can do help him?
You bring up several issues worth discussing. First, be aware that moving to a new school at any age is challenging. Allow your son some time to adjust to his new environment. Perhaps some of his slowness is due to his lack of familiarity with the system and process of the new classroom.
I would certainly chat with his teacher to see if she perceives him as being a slow worker and where she thinks he fits in, relative to his classmates. I would ask her about his focus in the classroom as well.
Next, it is important to note that poor focus and reversal of numbers and letters are in the normal range for first-grade boys. It is common practice to "guess" at a word that is challenging to read in hopes of just getting something out. The key at this age is to make learning a positive experience and school an enjoyable place.
I think you need to make sure the teacher is aware of the amount of time you are spending on unfinished class work and homework each night. Together you can decide upon an appropriate amount of time that is the maximum your son should spend. My recommendation would be no more than 45 minutes per night in first grade, and that should include some silent reading time. As long as you can verify that your son spent an active 45 minutes working, then you should be able to cut off the homework at that point. If need be, the amount of work can be modified for your son so that he is doing the same content as his classmates, perhaps just fewer problems.
Finally, make sure that the time he is spending on work is active, productive time. Use a timer at the kitchen table and denote specific amounts of time to spend on specific tasks. Tell your son, "We will spend the next seven minutes on this math worksheet," Then set the timer and go. When the timer is finished, move on to another task, even if the worksheet is not complete. Young children usually like working with a timer, and it should help his focus.
Examine each assigned task and determine the amount of time that you think is appropriate. Then add a few extra minutes to assure his success and assign it that way. Gradually, you can decrease the allotted time per task and get him working up to speed.
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.
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