Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Report Card

Danny got a progress report today. This year, he has been getting all A's and B's, which is why this particular report was so discouraging to me. In every subject except for Spelling, his grade has gone down to a C.

I am not sure why all of a sudden his grades have plummeted. I know math has become more difficult for Danny now that they are progressing into more abstract ideas. Also, they've started double digit addition and subtraction, which he's a bit slow with.

Ever since Danny has started school, I have heard grave warnings that he may start having difficulties with his schoolwork. Teachers, other parents and some therapists have told me that learning disabilities sometimes accompany autism and SPD. It makes sense, really. If a kid has difficulty understanding abstract ideas, he's probably going to have problems in school at some point.

We've been lucky so far, but I'm nervous now that he's in first grade and his work requires a lot more abstract and critical thinking skills.

So, in the last hour or two, I have devised a plan. I know this plan won't eradicate all his potential school problems, but I feel strongly that it will help him make more connections and more progress.

First off, we bought a set of math flash cards. Danny's biggest strength is his memory, and while I know he won't be able to get by on rote memorization alone (nor would I want him to be able to) I do think memorizing some of the basic math problems will help him. It seems like the more he practices, the more he starts seeing patterns. So, not only will the flash cards help him become quicker and more adept at addition and subtraction, but I believe they will help him start understanding what he is actually doing.

The second part of the plan includes Legos.

Yes, when I say Legos I do mean those multicolored little blocks with which my son is currently obsessed. Though I cringe at the thought of bribing my kid to do schoolwork, I know that if I want him to read more, I'll have to make it fun. Since Danny regularly fights me when I ask him to do extra reading, I knew I had to get creative or he would fight me all along the way. And really how do you make a kid read when he doesn't want to?

So, I devised a system where Danny earns 5 points every time he reads a book to me. He has chosen his prize: a Lego Space Police ship that costs about $25. In order to win the ship, he has to earn 300 points, which is roughly the equivalent of reading a book every day for two months.

Danny loves my reading program idea so far, though today is the first day. We'll see how he does over the long haul. I have warned him that it will take a long time to earn the Legos, but he assured me he can be patient.

And I know he's right, especially when it comes to Legos.


Caitlin Wray said...

Hey Patty, the first thing that comes to my mind is this: there should never be any surprises on a report card. Did the teacher speak with you about the differences in Danny's marks prior to the report card? Did he/she have any insight into what he is struggling with specifically?

It can be super disheartening to see a decline, but remember it's just Grade 1 - he's got all the time, love, and understanding in the world to get where he's meant to be.


Heather said...

I think you've got some great ideas about how to help Danny move forward. There are some pretty cool Lego books out there - that may help him get into reading more too:) My son struggles with reading but I've found if he's working on books that he enjoys he's better at it. As long as he's reading I don't care what it is! Hope things start looking up for him soon.

Alysia said...

I love the Lego incentive - I say whatever works and it was something of his choosing so that should have great incentive.
I'm with Caitlin and Heather too, first grade is a huge transition. and they are already doing double digit math? that's pretty advanced for 1st grade. If you're really concerned about it, I would try to check in with the teacher when you can. Maybe she (he?) is seeing something at school (is he sitting with different kids? can his desk be moved to a different classroom spot?) and can keep an eye on how his environment might be affecting his schoolwork.
just a thought.

@jencull (jen) said...

Both sound like brilliant ideas and I hope they go well for you. Just a thought, but maybe at 150 points he could get one of the v small little lego cars or something? in recognition of the halfway point and it might help keep him motivated if he starts having issues with the wait time. The little cars to build are inexpensive.

BTW, I love this idea for my eldest. He is good at reading but not motivated to do it (unless it is a science book) so I might do something similar, just to try broaden his world a little :)


Susan said...

We had a struggle as well with report card. Isn't it discouraging??
Good job mom devising a plan to help him out!

Kate said...

The teacher should have been on top of it. They need to know and have a plan of attack.

D. S. Walker said...

I love using rewards, we have done this too, but I'm with Jen regarding a small prize at the half way point. We found no matter how committed our child was to getting something when the wait was too long it was impossible for her to stay motivated.

Another thought is using a chart with a sticker system for each week he completes so the visual helps him to see how much closer he is to the goal.

Anonymous said...

Building on strengths and using meaningful incentives is still what we're all about with my ASD son even at 15. I think memory is sometimes underrated. You can't learn everything that way, but it's a real strength and provides a foundation for a lot of other learning.

It sounds like you're right on top of things. I like the approach of staying alert and filling in any gaps in what gets accomplished at school, not that you should give up on getting improved help there whenever you can, too.

Our experience is that the incentives need to change from time to time - we're going through a period of that right now - to maintain a useful level of motivation. As my son has gotten older, both he and I are getting better at figuring out where to go with it next to keep him interested enough to push past discomforts. Sounds like you're off to a great start. Hope it keeps working for you.

Mrsbear said...

It's great that you took being discouraged and transformed it to a plan of action. You'll figure out what works best for him.

Ginny Marie said...

Oh, I agree with so many of the comments above! I taught second grade for many years, and I was introducing double-digit addition and subtraction. First grade does seem early to learn that skill to me, but my kindergartener is learning things that I think of as being first grade skills. Education is changing.

When you mentioned Legos, at first I thought you were going to use them as a way to teach him math. Is there a way to use them as manipulatives? Little legos as ones, bigger legos as tens? Maybe you can buy some tens and ones blocks at a teacher store, and Danny will like them as much as he likes playing with Legos.

Trish said...

Lots of great comments here; I can relate to many of the other people who have shared about motivators being great but sometimes needing to be changed or rewards given at smaller intervals to see continued progress.

In fact, it's possible that the difficulty has to do with just how long the school year is.

I had the same thought about the Legos, that you were going to do math with them. That might be a great way to use his interest in something towards learning what he needs to know.

Good luck, and way to go on being so proactive at helping your son in these areas!