19 answers

1St Grader Having Trouble in School

Hi all! My 7 year old son started first grade this year. he is having some real issues with transitioning into the first grade "student" role. he of course loved kindergarden when they had free time and played more. he doesn't like the fact that he actually has to sit down and listen and do work. He says he gets bored, wants to just play like last year, hates school, etc. I've already had a conference with his teacher and she said that the normal "move the stick to yellow/red" just doesn't seem to work for him. She said she can tell when he starts to get bored becasuse he starts acting out during class. It seems he loves the attention from the other kids (even if it is negative). If he has to move his stick to red, it doesn't seem to bother him. I guess when the stick moves, it's a certain amount of time out of recess. I'm at a loss as to how to make this better for him. Do I ride it out? Do I try to help him soemhow? I'm just at a loss for how to help him. He seems so miserable when he comes home.

What can I do next?

So What Happened?™

Thanks everyone for all of the great responses! I truly appreciate every suggestion. He has a checkup at the pedi next week so I'm going to see if I can start with some testing. I am wondering if it is something outside of his control because I ask him if he knows what he does is wrong (yelling out in class for no reason seems to be the current culprit) and he said he does but his brain still tells him to do it. I don't know what to think about that. I hate to tie back bad bahavior at school to punishment at home but I don't know how else to tell him that he can't act that way. But I think I want to rule out something medical before I do that. The teacher is great and I bet if I do some sort of sticker program she would be all for it. He says he loves the things he's learning but hates having to sit still. He gets very excited for lunch and recess and that's when he gets a bit crazy with the yelling for no reason, etc.

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Find out what the consequences are exactly for the move to red.
Ask the teacher to give him a very simple behavior chart that comes home every day. At home have a chart to give stickers daily for good behavior charts that come home. 30 stickers= a reward! Maybe an outing with mom or dad or grandma or uncle!! Bad behavior chart= no Tv or no video game.
And I'm so sick of parents calling it "bored" when a kid just doesnt want to work. Call it refusal to work. Call it refusing to follow adult's direction. Call it bad behavior. Call it being obstinate. Being bored is a child who can do long division quickly in his head and doesnt want to waste time doing simple addition. Sorry I know its just semantics but a lot of parents blame boredom for bad behavior when it;s often just refusal to follow directions.

Well, you may need to have some kind of consequence/reward for him at home, also...

If he stays on green all day, then he earns a certain amount of time with a favored activity at home...

If he moves to yellow, then he loses some privilege at home...

And... if he moves to red, even more severe consequences/loss of privilege at home.

At this point, just losing recess time isn't enough of a motivator for him..

If you would rather just have it be reward based, since he is so miserable, that might be good.. points based on the color he came home with... work toward a goal for the weekend?

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As an early poster said -- he is plenty old enough for consequences at home based on behavior at school. Very young children do not yet make the connection between something they did hours ago and a discipline that takes place later, but he is old enough to connect it.

Ensure that you know each day where his "stick" is (red, yellow, green)> Make it the very first thing you and he do when he gets in the door: You know his color; you ask what happened (or what GOOD thing happened that he stayed on green today); and you institute the appropriate consequence, that moment.

Be certain to reward him for green, maybe along the lines of "Two green days in a row is an extra 15 minutes of TV" or whatever, and "Three green days in a row is X, one whole five-day week on green is [some huge activity he really wants like an hour at the arcade on Saturday]." Praise him a lot, and be sure to praise him when he does things at home too. A lot of parents of young kids don't think to praise them for stuff that we adults feel should just get done, like remembering to pick up clothing and put it in the hamper, but young kids do need the reinforcement of praise, so do it even if you feel you're "overdoing" it.

For yellow, talk with him briefly (not at length! You'll lose his attention) about what specifically he will do differently tomorrow if he was on yellow today. Remind him of that specific action at the start of the next day.

Have a real consequence for red. Take away something he really values. Frankly it needs to be something he will truly feel losing, even if it makes him cry to lose it at first. He clearly does not give a darn about losing recess time because it's compensated for by the negative attention and giggles etc. that he's getting when he acts up. Figure out his "currency," the thing that means enough to him that he will work to keep it--and the work means staying on green. It might be TV time or computer time or a specific toy (or even several toys removed all at once if he would just shrug and move on to other toys when you take away toy X). You may have to really sit down and think about what the currency is.

Don't spring any of this on him. Sit down with him when he is calm and has been doing OK at home that day, and let him make a chart together with you -- a chart that reflects the school color scheme. Explain calmly that what he does at school, you always know about at home, and what he does at school is not separate from his life at home. He needs to get that; kids need to understand that their school "life" is not something they shed when they walk in the door of their house. Emphasize that there will be rewards for green and consequences for red, and yellow is not acceptable -- in fact, if he spends more than, for instance, one day in a row on yellow, I'd have a consequence but not as severe as for a red day.

It sounds detailed and maybe harsh, but he might need the structure. Kids need to know what to expect each day and this way, he would know what to expect based on the color he gets for that day. Maybe run the idea by the teacher, too.

It's interesting to see folks on here leaping to "he needs to be in a different school" and "he's a kinesthetic learner" and "you should get him evaluated for ADD and ADHD". While yes, some kids do learn better if they are moving around, you said nothing in your post to indicate that's the issue yet, and nothing to indicate that he has other signs of ADD or ADHD. What you describe sounds like basic, natural immaturity that many a child goes through. A structure for rewards and consequences that links his school-day behavior to what happens at home could help. You would need to stick to it for quite a while, I think, but it's a possibility. If he shows other signs over time of needing a diagnosis of some sort, yes, absolutely have him checked, but what you describe sounds simply like normal adjustment problems transitioning from K to first grade.

2 moms found this helpful

I would look for a charter school that approaches education differently. This school doesn't seem to be a good fit for him. The current model of education is often not a good fit for boys, especially.

Charter schools are public schools. https://www.google.com/search?q=charter+schools+in+erie+p...

Education is the lighting of a fire, not the filling of a pail. Misery is not a good outcome. If there's a school out there that works to your son's strengths, this is the time to change schools. Having school be all about moving a stick to red for him is pointless.

If there is no other public school that will work for your son, then others can give you advice on how to make this situation work.

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I do NOT agree with the removal of recess. Has ANYONE thought that his loss of recess time could be adding to his poor behavior?

I suggest a different discipline plan is to be put into place. I think the movement is a "shame" tactic to a degree, but that does not effect him - he seeks the attention. Kids often do better with a reward system, most schools have in place a PBIS matrix (positive behavior interventions system) and this is rewards based. The way my son's teacher, 1st grade, uses this in class is each student has a chart for "Good Listening" and they get a sticker each time they comply with "Good Listening" and once it is full they can choose from the prize bin. The bin is a small candy or toy, dollar store stuff, but it's enough to keep them happy and motivated. 30 stickers and they get to pull from the bin. Maybe something along these lines will do better for your child in class.

I suggest you look into the possibility of any learning issues. You can do a search for signs of add, adhd, dyslexia, learning disorder to find a place to start. Just because there are signs does not mean that they are afflicted either. If your son is afflicted by any disorder then there are additional supports the school has to offer, but the diagnosis will take time if it is to be done properly.

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He's still in a transition period where he needs to figure out how to deal with the different things in 1st grade. It's a huge change from K. I'd eave it to the teacher deal with in school behavior and not punish him at home if he did something wrong at school.

Make sure he has time to run around once he gets home. You can talk about school over dinner and let him know that you know it's hard to be in 1st grade but you know that he can sit and do the work to be a good student. Give him plenty of positive attention at home.

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I agree with the suggestion of a charter school. I agree with all the critiques of our current education system, and I agree that a loss of recess will likely make things worse, not better. All that.

All I really have to offer, though, is a concrete suggestion: There are "punishment kids" and there are "reward kids." My 7-year-old is a reward kid. He gets very anxious and upset about the prospect of a punishment, but he can't really channel this anxiety into good behavior. It just puts him in a bad frame of mind and leads to more behavioral issues. However, we can get a whole lot of "mileage" out of a promised reward. If this were my son (he's the same exact age as yours), I'd say "If your stick stays green all day, I'll get you a Ninjago Lego set." But it can be any big, wonderful incentive -- you know what makes him tick. And talk with happiness and excitement about getting him this thing -- make him feel like it could really happen.

I always swore I'd never bribe my kids. But when I was swearing that, I wasn't yet a mom.

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I don't think there is much you can do at home other than advocate for him with the teacher and the school. In first grade, most experienced teachers know that kids cannot and should not be sitting still all the time.

My son's second grade teacher wanted to know when the kids started, what sort of learners they are - auditory, visual, kinesthetic or writing/reading preference. She works very hard to help the kids learn the way they learn best - NOT force all kids to sit still.

Punishing a kid who needs to move and talk and discuss the work by taking away his short active time for the day is completely counter-productive.

There are several reasons why a first grader may find school 'boring'. First - they may actually be lost or floundering. It is much easier to be 'bored' than to say or believe you don't know how to do something. Second - he may be bored with the actual work - it is either not presented in an interesting way or he has already mastered the material and it is not challenging. In that case - he needs differentiated attention and enrichment. Third - he is not adapting well to the structure of the particular classroom (too much sitting in one place, not enough emphasis on manipulatives, group learning, hands on work). If that is the case - another classroom may be a much better fit.

Forcing a first grader to sit in one place and be bored does not so much teach him to learn - it teaches him to dislike learning. He is much much too young to learn this lesson.

ETA: I cannot think of many worse things a teacher could do to a child than put them in the coat room or ignore them (except maybe paddle them). How horrible.

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i'm with kristina M, taking away recess, which has already been whittled down to the bare bones, from a wiggly kid sounds insanely counter-productive to me. it's VERY hard for a wiggler to stay present when his body is full of jumping beans!
unfortunately public schools are not set up for kinesthetic learners, so you have to work with the teacher on coping techniques that will make it easier for him (although it will still be a challenge) without disrupting the class. does he like rocks? maybe a smooth polished 'worry stone' in his pocket will give him something to keep his hands busy when he gets restless, but let his brain stay with the lesson. i like maureen's idea of letting him doodle (although not the coat closet). i remember being a young mother and insisting that my boys 'sit still and listen' when i was reading to them, and how much better the experience (and their retention!) was when i got a clue and let them move or draw or play legos during reading times. brainstorm with the teacher on some simple things he might be allowed to do when restless, so long as he's not disruptive. i DO like the idea of putting him to work if he's acting out, so long as the work is physical enough that he can get his yahoos out. but more sitting and boredom will surely not fix what ails him.
i wish that schools, at least in the lower grades, could come up with more creative ways of helping wiggly kids learn without just squashing them. learning SHOULD be fun, and can be in the right environment. that environment just doesn't always come in the form of 30 neat desks and 30 quiet kids raising their hands when they have a question, then studiously bending over their papers again.

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My son has problems transitioning too and it turned out to be dyslexia. His brain didn't work like 90% of the other kids, so he was very frustrated and lost. We knew to look for dyslexia because it ran strongly in my husbands side of the family and we knew the signs.

There are many different ways a child's brain can work that don't fit in with the traditional school system. If you find out what's different early, it can make a world of difference. And save a lot of tears.

Start at his pedi to rule out ADD and ADHD. From there, your doctor should be able to recommend a testing facility for other learning issues. You may also want to check to see what resources are available through your school district. In Texas, if a parent requests testing for dyslexia, the school has to comply and treat if an issue is discovered. Our school has been great with daily one-on-one assistance.

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