Wednesday, October 3, 2007


AJ has been in first grade for a little over a month now. This past week, his teacher started him on a new approach to reading. Now that he’s had a few challenge books, mostly brought from home, under his belt, she’s been giving him some non-fiction chapter books that he picks from her classroom materials or supplementary materials provided by the school’s Gifted teacher. With these new books, AJ has worksheets to complete which try to focus him on summarizing what he reads. AJ has been finding this challenging, because up until now he’s been largely reading for speed not for retention. The first book he brought home in this series was about paleontologist Sue Hendrickson. AJ liked this because the T-Rex skeleton “Sue,” which was discovered by and named for Hendrickson, is in the Field Museum in Chicago and AJ has seen it. When AJ finished the book, which consisted of three chapters with lots of pictures and “Did You Know” boxes, he had to pick one chapter, outline it, and write a summary. I have trouble teaching these skills to some of my college students, so I was amazed to see an assignment like this in the first grade. But with help, AJ managed it. It helps that the books are organized in such a way that make them easy to outline.

AJ’s next book is longer and is about the space race and the eventual moon landing. This worksheet asks him to create a timeline of events mentioned in the book, giving each a name and date and a brief 1-2 sentence description. AJ loves timelines and is excited about doing this one. Still, although he’s responding well to the new challenges, he’s also dragging his feet a little about having to work harder.

“I like math homework,” he says. Or “I wish all we did in school was recess.” Well, that last one’s understandable. Who among us hasn’t wished that at some point? But I pressed him on it. “Why? I thought you liked math.”

“I like math homework. Math class is boring.” And now we’re at the crux of the matter. AJ is having a little trouble adjusting to the pace of the classroom. He comes home from a day of counting, gets out his copy of G is for Googol and a calculator and tries to figure out which is the better deal: a lump sum of a million dollars for allowance, or an allowance that starts at a penny and doubles every day for a month.

But his teacher is spending a lot of time with him. Yesterday they sat down and talked about the 50th anniversary of Sputnik.

“I hear you and Mrs. M. talked about Sputnik today.”


“What did you talk about? Did you learn anything?”

“I don’t remember. Can I go play outside?”

And off he goes through the door, screaming like a banshee for his friend next door.

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