Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Cold spell

As AJ's first trimester of first grade at the local public school draws to a close, it seems like a good time for an assessment at how the school and I are doing at getting AJ work at his level.

I've had the chance to be in AJ's classrooms several times in the last few weeks for various things which has allowed me to see how things operate. AJ is in a class of 26 kindergartners -- huge by district standards, but the first grade is an anomaly this year. Every other grade has three classes. AJ's grade has four. And the classes, on average, have 4 more students than classes the rest of the grades. AJ's class is lucky in that there is a state-funded assistant because one of the students has a visual disability. But she helps all the students and they all benefit from the increased attention.

One of the things I've been curious about is how AJ's separate lessons are integrated into the class work. So far, it appears extremely smooth. Their reading assignments are all different anyway, so that is not a problem. AJ's teacher and I have been working together to provide the books he needs. They all do the same spelling words in class, but AJ has a separate list that AJ, his teacher and I put together from his reading assignments. When he's done with the regular list, he works on his own list. On spelling test day, AJ takes two tests, one with the rest of the class, and one on his own words. He is pulled aside in the classroom for this, but since each student has some one-on-one time with the teacher each week for reading and other things, this does not single him out. AJ seems to be enjoying the challenge -- we make silly games to practice spelling at home -- and he feels like a normal kid.

The one thing that isn't working out as well as I would like is math. AJ is just not getting enough challenge. Math is more difficult because unlike reading, the whole class works together. AJ is bored out of his wits. A little boredom never hurt anyone, but AJ is, as a result of the boredom, getting sloppy with his work. He doesn't always read the instructions carefully. He is supposed to be getting challenge assignments, but it has only happened once. Math is harder for me to supplement because the material AJ should be working on has little to do with the assignments the rest of the class is doing and because I don't have access to a standard curriculum. I need the teacher's and school's help, but I haven't quite figured out how to get it. I don't want to push AJ's teacher too hard. She does so much on her own initiative, much more than we expected and I don't want to take advantage of her. She's got a huge class, a huge job. I also don't want to overstep my bounds too far by telling her too much of what I want for AJ at once. We have parent-teacher conferences coming up in a few weeks and I'm hoping by then I'll have figured out a way to talk about all this without causing trouble.

AJ is also loving his extra-curricular Spanish class. It's given him a whole new lease on life. It helps that it's a smaller group this year and mostly of first and second graders -- last year included K-4 and was a little diffuse. Overall, AJ is still enjoying school, loving his teacher and fitting in well.

It's all feeling like I'm trying to walk a tightrope blindfolded.

1 comment:

FreshHell said...

I've been thinking along the same lines as the first 9 week period has ended. You might want to ask the teacher for some upper level math texts or perhaps tap into the homeschooling world in your area for some curriculum ideas, places to go. There must be something out there. But, the parent-teacher conference is the place to start, I think. That, and the internet.