My DD was in first last year, so I thought I'd share my two cents on what to expect...
After the first month, she told people who asked that the difference between kindergarten and first is this: "In first, we don't learn anything new." That was very frustrating for her, and her frustration grew throughout the year. Since kindergarten is not mandatory here, I suppose first has to cover some basic ground that most, if not all, have seen before. If your kids didn't do kindergarten, maybe it can be all fresh and new for them. :)
Originally Posted by MJB
Last year they were in different classes and got pulled out together a couple times.
A few pull-outs happened with DD in first too. The other gifted child was her best friend in kindergarten and they got split up in first, but they got reunited for a mini advanced-reader group. It was a nice occasional thing, but not anywhere near frequent enough or adequate for the differentiation she could have handled.
That friend just moved out of state, so I am a little apprehensive about the upcoming year, but in June I met with the principal and DD's likely teacher about how they can differentiate more in second grade. Prior to that, I left it up to her teachers, and only gave minor feed-back at the regularly scheduled conferences and marking periods, assuming they would find ways to keep DD engaged and making progress, and that didn't really work out well as I would have liked.
If we could do first over, I would have been much more involved in asking for specific goals and adjustments from the first meeting. I plan to meet with her teacher again in between each of the regular meetings (fall, winter, and spring), so a total of 5 parent-teacher conferences, rather than 3. Since DD learns everything at least 50% faster than her peers, I think more frequent reviews are appropriate.
Right now I am trying to help DD focus on how to "show her work" explicitly on paper so that she can demonstrate clearly that she can move ahead. Early on in first grade, when she was asked to show how she got her answer to an addition problem, she drew a picture of herself sitting at her desk with a thought bubble over her head, and she wrote the answer in the thought bubble. For her, that was showing how she got the answer: It appeared to her in her head when the question was asked. Since she knows her multiples up through 12x12 without really thinking, its hard to convince her she needs to spend time writing up different ways to "solve" problems like 5+8 or 15-6, over and over again, day after day, week after week, month after month.
I don't mean to come across as too negative - just want to encourage you all to speak up as needed. Good luck in the new year!
Edited by boston_slackermom - 8/18/11 at 6:37am