Friday, September 16, 2005

Back in the groove

G's been back in school for two weeks now. She likes her teacher, and so far everything's been good. I must say, though, I'm surprised at how serious and, well, academic first grade is in comparison to kindergarten. Starting next week there will be nightly homework -- not very difficult homework, judging by the samples I've seen, but still a lot more than before. In-class birthday parties are no longer allowed because they take too much time away from instruction. Each kid will receive a behavior report at the end of every week. It seems strict, but G probably needs the extra structure. Like a lot of bright, creative kids, she tends to get distracted and goof around, and I think it'll be good for her to have a teacher who keeps her focused on learning.

Pete and I are both a little bit worried about her being bored, though. Last year she was the only kid in her class who could read at all (not at a high level or anything, but she knew enough words to read "Dick and Jane"-type books). The assignments were easy for her, so she'd sit around and talk to the kid next to her, thereby preventing him from doing his work, and then fill in her own worksheet at lightning speed at the last minute. One of her teachers used to have to set a timer for 30 seconds per page to motivate her. (When I found out about this, I said, "Thirty seconds?" and she said "Trust me, she can do it in twenty." She was right.)

This year it looks like they're going to be working on basic phonics, and that's not what she needs to learn. She knows all the consonant and short and long vowel sounds; all the consonant blends; the common vowel digraphs; word endings like -ed and -ing; the soft -ce sound; etcetera. What she really needs help with is applying everything she knows. She recognizes lots of words by sight, and that makes her a little bit lazy when she comes to a word she doesn't recognize -- instead of trying to work it out with phonics, she just guesses at it (usually incorrectly) so she can move on. If we sound out the first couple of letters together, she'll get it right, but I have to initiate that activity. I think she's realized that sounding out doesn't always work because phonics rules don't apply to all words, so she doesn't bother. I'm hoping her teacher will be able to impress upon her that you always try sounding out first, and maybe give her some strategies to use when sounding out fails. The question is, will he have time to do that when he's busy teaching the other 19 kids in the class how to string together the sounds in "cat" and "hat?" However, he seems very organized and together, so if anyone can do it, he probably can.