Friday, January 21, 2011

How do I help with boring homework?

Ms. Dorothy,
My son is a reader.  I don't know exactly how he taught himself to read, but he just started reading on his own when he was 3 years old.  His Kindergarten class is working on learning letters and sounds, and it is driving me crazy to see the "homework" he gets each week.  I feel like he is wasting his time in school because they are not challenging him at all.  He says he likes school, but he finds a lot of it just boring.  HELP! I don't want him to develop bad habits, or to be bored, but I don't know how to change what they are doing in his class either. 
-Mom of a 5 year old.

You and your son are right to be frustrated with a curriculum that doesn't meet his needs. However, it is going to be up to you to push for the changes that will make it work for him.

It is important that the teacher know what your son can do.  

Record him reading a book at home, and bring the book and the recording to his teacher. Ask for the teachers assessment of his approximate reading level, his greatest strengths as a reader and some possible next steps for his level.    

Talk to the teacher about the specific issues he is having with the homework, and ask if there is some alternative work he could be doing that would be more in line with his individual needs.

Ask about the routine of the day, and how the teacher sees him fitting in and working during the day.  Find out if there are problem spots in his day, and advocate for modified assignments that will help to keep him engaged in learning when the work is not what he needs.

You may want to observe the class - not to see his behavior, because that will certainly be different with  you in the room - but to see the routines of the day, and to see the other children.  Keep an eye out for others who may be bored with learning letters as they could be "mind mates" for  your son - encourage your son to partner with others who are close to his reading level.

It is the teacher's responsibility to differentiate instruction to meet the needs of students in the classroom, but not every teacher knows how to make that work in kindergarten.  
If you are not getting the changes you've requested, ask for a meeting with the teacher and the principal.

Never underestimate the value of being "ahead" of the class, or of getting to "help" others who are not at the same level, but be sure that your child is actively learning too.  

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