1St Grader Having Trouble in School

Updated on September 19, 2013
M.L. asks from Erie, PA
19 answers

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.

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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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answers from New York on

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.



answers from Austin on

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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answers from Washington DC on

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.

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answers from Chicago on

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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answers from San Francisco on

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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answers from New York on

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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answers from New York on

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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answers from Pittsburgh on

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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answers from Wichita Falls on

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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answers from Washington DC on

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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answers from Chicago on

At our school, a lot of the first grade teachers bring the kids out for a morning recess if the class has done well with the morning lessons (few disruptions, generally well-behaved). They realize that it is a hard transition from Kindergarten to First.

As the weather gets cooler and they can't go outside, they'll take little breaks during lessons. They'll have the kids stand up and stretch. Do a few balance exercises and breathing exercises and then they'll resume the lesson.

We also have the green/yellow/red respect card system. When kids get enough reds, they are given a card where they are graded on their behavior during the day. The more points they get, the better. They are also given a goal to shoot for and if they reach it, they get a reward. It works very well. Recess detention is a last resort.

I would talk to the teacher and ask for her suggestions. I'd also continue to talk to your son and what I'd emphasize is that he needs to learn how to be bored. That when he's bored in class, that's when he has to pay better attention and not be disruptive.

Sitting still and paying attention is skill. Sure, it comes easier to some than others, but it is in his best interest that he learn how to do it.

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answers from San Francisco on

By trying to "make it better for him" you are going to do him more harm than good. Parents who are always trying to make things good for their kids end up with kids with entitlement issues. Time for your son to learn that it's work before play and everything in its own time.

I believe you have to enforce good behavior at school at home. If his card moves to red, he spends the afternoon and evening in his room - no playing and he must work on school work, even if you have to make it up for him. He has to learn that if he plays at school, he works at home. If he wants play time at home, he must do his work in school and he must behave himself.

Business before pleasure - good life lesson.



answers from Harrisburg on

My oldest daughter used to do similar things when she was in those early grades. She would talk about things in class that weren't on topic. She didn't want to sit/stay still. She would blurt thing out, off topic, in the middle of a lesson. At her teacher's suggestion, I contacted the pediatrician. The pediatrician had me and the teacher each fill out a survey about the things we had observed in her. Then I had a face-to-face appointment with him. During the appointment, the doctor told me that she was borderline Asperger's. This would account for the behavior issues. Even at that age, she was a very smart kid. She just had problems with the social aspect of school. I told this information to the school and she was set up in an IEP (Individual Education Plan) to help her with these issues. In this program, she would be pulled out of class to work on these issues. It really helped her and those classroom disruptions started to become further apart.

I think that this may be something that you could explore with his teacher and his pediatrician. Now, just remember, even if this is the case with your son, although it may explain his actions, it doesn't excuse it. He needs to have further consequences at home for his misbehavior at school.

I hope this helps you decide what to do.



answers from Washington DC on

Talk to the teacher again about letting him have some table based activities that he can do at his desk or at a corner table. Similar to math games. That way, he gets to play, but he is really learning.

We had a kid in my son's class that was bored easily. This type of thing helped. The key is that he has to finish the current work first, and it must be correct. If it was, then he could pull out the other activities.

It could be drawing in a composition book, reading a book, sorting blocks, etc.



answers from Washington DC on

I think the way schools run Kindergarten leaves the kids totally unprepared for first grade. There's so much "creative free form" time that the kids never learn to just sit and behave. My dd had similar problems, but probably to a lesser degree. She's gotten better through elementary school, but she still has a hard time sitting still. She's usually a top performing student, but she doesn't fit the mold of what the teachers consider wonderful behavior. I encourage her to make the most of her recess...run around, scream and play and get it out of her system. I frequently tell her...sit still in class but know that you can play at recess. The last couple of years, her behavior was in the "wonderful" category for the majority of the year.



answers from Philadelphia on

My daughter (also in first grade) loves to talk. She knows full well that if we ever get a bad report from her school that she is talking when she's not supposed to be, there will be serious consequences at home. These consequences have been levied at least twice. (All of her stuffies were removed from her bed and she had to earn them back... this is big time for her) We remind her once a week about keeping her mouth shut when the teacher is talking. Of course I expect the teacher to be redirecting her in the moment, but I want her to understand that I know what's going on and she is to behave in a certain way.

I agree with Leigh R 100%. He absolutely has to understand the link between home and school.

But don't be discouraged... its on the second full week of school and K to 1st seems like a pretty big adjustment.

And hugs to you, because I'm sure you're worried sick about him. Hang in there Mom!



answers from Chicago on

This sounds like it is more on the teacher to find what is going to work. As a parent, you need to back her up.

It sounds like she tried one thing, and threw her hands up and said.. I am done.. It is her job to get her kidscapitivated into learning . Teaching consequences etc.

Instead of shortened resess, make him work during recess. IE, writing letters, cutting paper , reading etc..

They need to try differnt things to help keep him paying attention..
Piece of velcro on his desk
scrap paper- to doodle on
They need to come up with something- Even putting him in the coat room when he being disruptive. etc.. Or just simply ignore him ..



answers from Oklahoma City on

I would tell the teacher that you don't have the educational background or teaching experience she has and that you're going to rely on her to find a way to deal with this. She should know how to handle this and him.

I have seen so many times where the teacher just doesn't want to deal with a kid so they leave it up to the parent to manage them at school. This does not work.

She needs to stand up and be his authority figure at school. If she doesn't do this she's going to continue to have issues with him the whole year.

Talking to him about his day, encouraging him, etc....is always good. BUT taking his behavior at school and bringing it home where he is punished or disciplined for it....just's just not right. He needs to have logical consequences. It's not logical for him to get into trouble at home for stuff he did at school. He needs instant consequences.

She's standing there watching him start acting out and evidently not able to understand she is responsible for stopping this action right then.



answers from Chicago on

If you can, like getting up and getting everyone out the door isn't hard enough. Get up a bit earlier and go for a bike ride with him or play in the yard or have him do an exercise video with you. Gets a bit of energy out so he can start off well, make sure he has solid nutrition all day little or no dyes,preservatives and high sugar items. Then work with him and see if he can easily read with you and explain what he is reading, math could be reviewed with games. Limit computer and video game time. Make sure he is fed a lot of positive attention so negative attention becomes a thing of the past. Its hard to grow up. I certainly don't want to.

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