1st grader really not getting it - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 12 Old 10-23-2004, 11:01 PM - Thread Starter
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My DD is a 1st grader, and she really doesn't seem to be getting reading/writing/spelling. I do think part of it is lack of interest, but really, it is just not happening. She doesn't sound out words, can't reliably connect a letter to the sound it makes, and the only way she can spell is by rote memorization...

Her teacher has them doing 10-12 word spelling tests each week - last week the 'regular' words included "mother" and about half with silent e's at the end - pretty tough, I thought.

DD has also been put in the lowest reading group, and knows it. Teacher said, "You guys are only at level 5 and you need to be at level 14 by the end of the year, so you have a lot of work to do." Friends in the same class are reading chapter books...

Her teacher has also kept her in from recess a number of times because she hasn't finished her work. Not because she's goofing off, just because it takes her a loooooooooooong time to do it. Teacher told me this, with DD there to hear...

I feel like we're teetering on the bring of seriously crushed self-esteem and disillusionment with school and/or learning. My mom keep bringing up dyslexia and extra tutoring, but I'm hesitant to do anything that will stygmatize DD.

Part of me says I just need to chill - standards are getting ridiculous, and kids will read when they're ready -DD just might not be ready yet. But part of me is freaking right out and ready to do testing, tutoring, etc etc etc.

I'm going to have a chat with DD's teacher this week to see what she thinks...

Anyone have similar experiences, or words of wisdom?

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#2 of 12 Old 10-23-2004, 11:25 PM
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This is what my DD's kindergarten teacher told me: That children born in May, are still really young, and they almost need that extra year at home or pre-school. My DD was born 5-20-95, and was almost 6 weeks preemie. Ok, maybe, but I didn't buy it. She was so clueless in kindergarten, but I moved her on to 1st grade. I had a conference with the 1st grade teacher at 3 weeks into the year, and she was not getting it at all. I struggled and struggled with her. I should have held her back RIGHT THEN AND THERE to either a program called Pre-1st, or back to kindergarten. But, I didn't. And so therefore, all in 1st grade she was again clueless, and not getting it AT ALL. So, I had her repeat 1st grade. She got into the HOST reading program, and had a good year. Reading level and writing was getting better, but not great. She went into 2nd grade, and started struggling again with reading. I looked into all options, and decided to have her tested for dyslexia as well. I suggested the testing in November...AND IN APRIL, they finally got her tested!! IT TOOK THAT LONG!! She only had 3 weeks of help. She did get on the honor roll for her 5th 6 weeks, so I was happy, and her last 6 weeks, she had 1 B and rest A's. So, now in 3rd grade, she got 1 B and the rest A's this past 6 weeks, and she is in the dyslexia lab and HOSTS reading program. She doesn't get any special treatment; just extra help with reading. Her reading level is only 2nd grade. Her 2nd grade sister is reading soooooooooo much better, and I try not to say anything, but sometimes it's so frustrating!! But, I know she is getting help. She also goes to free after-school tutoring, provided by the school, 2 days a week for an hour. CHECK INTO EVERY SINGLE PROGRAM THAT THE SCHOOL OFFERS!! And if she qualifies for something that the school does not offer, then the school has to provide her a school with the program. It's the law!

And also, if you feel that she needs to be held back, trust your instinks (sp?), and do it now. Believe me, it's a lot better being held back now instead of 6th grade, like I was (for the same problems, but not the help...whole different story though), and was teased by everyone who knew. I was embaressed to say the least, and would never wish it upon any of my children at that age (11-12yrs).
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#3 of 12 Old 10-24-2004, 12:01 AM
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In my opinion, It is way too hard on kids to expect, to push, and to then di-allow play-time(recess) just so they can try harder. This is not what children need to learn. It's so wrong.
How did this happen?
I say trust your instincts mama and talk to other parents who are in the same boat. Maybe with pressure enough parents can convince these teachers to back off. I know theres a whole lot of standards and tests to measure up to state-wide and yet I cant help but feel there needs to be a revolution of sorts. these are children, NOt MACHINES!
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#4 of 12 Old 10-24-2004, 01:20 AM
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I would have her tested. Most 1st graders I know (and I have one so I know a few right now) can do at least some of what you describe. I would worry about her thinking of herself as dumb, etc. and hating school because of her frustrations. And it is far better for her to be held back now than later. Because of this "She doesn't sound out words, can't reliably connect a letter to the sound it makes" I would have her hearing tested as well as testing for learning disabilities. It sounds very similar to problems that my (much younger) sister had in kindergarten and 1st grade due to hearing problems.

I would also have a long discussion with the teacher about things I could do at home as well as ways she could help your daughter in the classroom. She doesn't seem very compassionate, are there factors that complicate her job? For example, in my experience, older teachers often burn out and seem to develop a 'protective layer' and just pigeonhole kids. Not all older teachers, just a good number of them. I agree with the pp that recess is a time for chilling out and is too often abused by teachers. Could she complete her work at home?

Is this new for 1st grade? What was kindergarten like for her? Did the kindergarten teacher have any concerns about her performance?

I was speaking with a teacher recently about learning disabilities and she said that most are not diagnosed until 4th grade because parents are reluctant to test even when the teachers recommend it. That is a long time to think you are just stupid, you know?

Maybe she just isn't ready, maybe the standards are driving your teacher and your school nutso. But unless you are willing to remove her from that environment, then you are going to have to find a way to help her survive it.
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#5 of 12 Old 10-24-2004, 03:28 AM
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I think that getting some extra help and doing well in school is far less stigmatizing than being the child everyone knows "can't read", feeling bad about it, and possibly working even less hard because she knows she won't do so well anyway and it's so hard.

If she does have a disability then school is required to provide her with the help she needs to overcome it. If she doesn't, at least the assessments will show exactly what her problem areas are and then the teacher will know what to focus on with her. (There are VERY specific tests for the many skills embedded in reading and writing.)

Early intervention specialist and parent consultant since 2002.
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#6 of 12 Old 10-24-2004, 01:40 PM
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Maggie May,

I could have written your post except that my first grader is on the opposite end of the reading spectrum, yet she is having the same struggles with working fast enough, missing reccess & feeling like she is not smart. Her teacher, too, has spoken to me in front of my dd telling me that she could do more faster. It is very frustrating.

I remember being worried in preschool b/c my dd's teacher told me that she thought that something was wrong since Angelina was one of the few children in her class who could not write her name. After investigating it further, I found out that 1) she was wrong - a number of the kids couldn't write their names, 2) Angelina had by far the longest name in the class, and 3) she was the youngest child in the class (her bd is at the end of August). One of my friends with much older children told me not to push her b/c it would only make her feel bad & turn her off to the education process. Her dd didn't learn to read well until well into 2nd grade & she is in all honors classes now (she's in jr. high). She's a wonderful reader, as well, she just wasn't ready in kindergarten & first grade.

That really was great advice for us. I stopped trying to push Angelina to do things that she wasn't ready to do. She turned 6 in August & is in the "top" reading group in her first grade class. The teacher has told me that there is only one child in the class who is reading better than she is. None the less, the pressure is still way too much. My "top" student still isn't doing enough by their standards & is kept in at recess so that she can do more. I, personally, feel that they are pushing the students too much & focusing on academic achievement at the expense of individual development and emotional health.

By all means, have your dd tested if you feel that something may be wrong. However, if you think that she just needs more time or the testing finds nothing wrong, fight for your kid. Tell them that you value her emotional well-being as much as her academic achievement and that you want them to back off. I am having that arguement with my dd's school at the moment. She had two days with no missed recess at the end of last week, but I don't feel that they are totally taking me seriously. The principal doesn't return my calls & the teacher told me basically that Angelina's learning is more important than anything else. They are trying to change my child to fit their expectations rather than the other way around & I don't think that this is appropriate. I have a phone meeting scheduled with someone from the district tomorrow to see if I can get somewhere there.

I hope that everything works out for your little girl. No one should be crushing the self esteem of a child so young. It makes me wonder what they are teaching the teachers!
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#7 of 12 Old 10-24-2004, 03:21 PM
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Originally Posted by Maggie Mae
DD has also been put in the lowest reading group, and knows it. Teacher said, "You guys are only at level 5 and you need to be at level 14 by the end of the year, so you have a lot of work to do." Friends in the same class are reading chapter books...

Her teacher has also kept her in from recess a number of times because she hasn't finished her work. Not because she's goofing off, just because it takes her a loooooooooooong time to do it. Teacher told me this, with DD there to hear...
I'd have some serious concerns with the sensitivity of this teacher. It does not sound like she is being sensitive or conscientious in bolstering the children's self-esteem.

My older ds in in 1st grade as well. He does not read or write yet (and that is okay by me.) However, the school he attends does not expect any child to read or write before 1st grade (Waldorf). I know if he were in our local public school, he would be in the very same boat as your dear one.

The teacher should individualize your dd's work. Can she have fewer spelling words this fall? Can less work be required of her? Why does she have to do all of the work if it's overwhelming instead of mastering smaller pieces? You might consider having her vision/eyesight and auditory processing skills tested as well.

You will really have to advocate for you dd. A teacher has many children to work with and it's a real challenge to try to individualize. Maybe offer to help the teacher any way you can to help individualize the work for your dd.

Sincerest best wishes to you
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#8 of 12 Old 10-24-2004, 10:53 PM - Thread Starter
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Thanks to all of you for sharing your experiences and advice.

We've been talking about hearing testing recently too, so in addition to talking to her teacher tomorrow, I'm going to call the pediatrician.

I totally agree that the teacher seems a bit (!) insensitive and realize I'll need to fight for DD in this environment...

We spent all summer talking and reading about homeschooling, but mid-August DD announced, "You know, I'm only going to be in 1st grade and I haven't had enough of public school yet." But I so badly wish I could have her at home to do learning at her pace.


Looks like this may be a long road, but I'm confident we'll make it through. Thanks to you all for your support!
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#9 of 12 Old 10-28-2004, 01:31 PM
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My oldest is in grade 1. I had her parent/teacher interview last week. The grade is reading at a level 5, which here is mid-grade 1 level. The end of the year is a long ways away. A month ago my dd didn't want to read because she said it was boring, now she comes home and reads books herself. How often do they get books to bring home? They have a reading program for the school. The kids get 1 book a week to bring home, the parents sign the card in the back and at the end of the year they get certificates for reading. They also bring a library book home once a week and every day there are classroom books they can sign out and bring home or leave in their desks to read between work.

What does the teacher do to teach the kids which sounds go with what letters? Here they do action sounds. For each letter of the alphabet they do an action that matches the sounds. For example one of the "b" sounds they pretend they have a guitar and are playing it, the sound they make is buh. I can't remember the others but it's very animated to watch.

This week my dd's spelling list is things like tug, rug. They have had lists with longer words that have silent letters like light, fright. It depends on the letter that they're going through that week. The way the teacher taught it they understand the silent letters.

The reading you can help her with yourself, it is hard when they don't want to cooperate. My dd and I argue alot.lol What helps is if I read 1 page and she reads the next with me helping her with words she doesn't know or is too stubborn to try.

For spelling her teacher has the kids printing the letters they know and then doing a squiggle line if they don't know they next letter. It gets them understanding that there is a next letter and when they do know it they can write the letter instead of the squiggle.

For work that isn't finished before it's time to move on the kids either go with a parent/teacher helper to finish or they are allowed to leave it until the next day.

Getting her moved to a different spot in the class may help.

My dd has eye problems. She's between far sighted and near sighted. Her vision is normal but it's moving towards near sighted and it's too early for glasses but sometimes her vision goes foggy. What helps is I move the book to a few inches in front of her face and she can see them better.

Is it possible for you to help out in the class(even just 1 day) so you can see what else is going on?
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#10 of 12 Old 10-28-2004, 02:03 PM
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The kinds of work being done in this first grade are very similar to what is done in my dd's school.

ITA with Kari Mom. If you intend to have her continue in public school, I would have her tested, and look into any and all programs available for getting extra help now. In addition, I would read to her a great deal, which you may already be doing.

It is unrealistic to think the teacher is going to relax the district's standards. She can't.
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#11 of 12 Old 11-07-2004, 06:31 PM
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It is unrealistic to think the teacher is going to relax the district's standards. She can't.
I would start by asking the district for a list of their standards and go from there.

Within our district there is the very obvious goal/expectation of kinders entering 1st grade as fairly good readers. The actual stated goal, though, is much, much, much lower. A good friend's daughter was basically traumatized w/the emphasis on getting to a certain level through kinder, summer school & 1st grade until my friend found out the following:

1) The "goal" that was being pushed was NOT in line with district standards.

2) In a kinder class of 20-25 EIGHT children had been identified as in need of summer school before going to 1st. Friend's daughter was the only one who attended. IMO, if around 33% of kids are being identified as "failing" there is something wrong w/the expectation or the teacher... not the student.

I would also talk to the teacher about not removing recess time for going slow/something your child cannot help (well, I don't believe in removal of recess/punishment).

Gotta GO!



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#12 of 12 Old 11-07-2004, 07:31 PM
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Maggie May- You described to a tee my dd's 1st grade experience last year, it honestly is like I wrote your post. Same thing being in level 5 and being told all year she has to get to level 16 by the time the school year ends. My dd stayed inside all the time from recess because she had to finish her work. In fact she missed circle time because she had not finished her morning busy work, which led to her missing out on alot of circle time learning also like days of the week and months of the year stuff.
They put my dd in an one on one tutoring program during school hours that helped alot, but dd came home with 3 hours of just reading homework, not including her math homework.

We came up with a solution, she is being homeschooled this year. She is thriving and doing well. I will say by the end of the year my dd caught up, I knew she would, my dd's learning style is that she has to get and understand it all in her head before she will try it. Like some kids will do things in bits and pieces and you can visually see their progress. My dd holds off until she fully gets it and then one day she is reading at her level sounding out words and caught up. I tried to explain her learning style to her teachers last year with no success, so instead of battling with it again this year I homeschool her. For us it was the right decision and has worked so well for her. I am not saying this is your only option but just wanted to know I understand your fustration, maybe if you look back at how your dd learned other concepts like her ABC's maybe you too will see she has a special learning style that is not like her classmates and by the end of the year she will be caught up.

Also wanted to add that this year when her school was going to place her in her 2nd grade class, they wanted to put her in a 2nd/3rd grade combined class. they said in the letter because her reading was at above level, was an independent learner, self sufficient and dedicated to the elarning process. I thought it was kinda funny after all the stress that we went thru last year, they said all that.

I hope all works out for you and your dd
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