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Fourth-Grader Lacks Focus and Attention

Education Expert Advice from Peggy Gisler, Ed.S. and Marge Eberts, Ed.S.

Q: My son is in fourth grade this year. He's always been a good student, but he lacks focus and organization. This year, he is at a new school, and they don't remind him to do things or jolt him back into reality when he's daydreaming. He's gone from being an A/B student to a C/D student. I don't want to waste time or let his self-esteem drop. I try my best with him at home, but he seems to be stuck at this stage. What do I do?

A: Things really change in fourth grade. The workload becomes much heavier as students begin learning such content area subjects as history and science. At the same time, teachers expect their students to take responsibility for staying on-task.

You need to arrange for a conference with the teacher, your son, and yourself so that he clearly knows what is now expected of him as a fourth grader. Hopefully, the teacher will be able to give your son some ideas about ways he can learn to stay on-task better in the classroom. You need to ask the teacher if your child will need extra help to handle the work at this school.

Transferring schools is not easy at any grade level. Your son may be having problems making friends. Also, remember that many things are new to your son, and the adjustment could be affecting his grades. Once the teacher becomes more aware of the problems your son is having, the teacher should be able to ease his adjustment.

You can help your son with his organization skills. Work with him to organize his own daily schedule from the time he gets up in the morning, so he can budget time for study and planned after-school activities. Remember that all schedules need some built-in flexibility. Every minute of a fourth-grader's life doesn't have to be organized.

Establishing a routine for assembling all homework and things that must return to school the next day will help your son be organized. He should also be using an assignment notebook to keep track of all his assignments. A binder with separate subject sections or a folder for each subject will keep his work organized and make it easier to study for tests. Learning to be organized takes time. Give your son small increments of responsibility instead of expecting him to become organized overnight.

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Peggy Gisler and Marge Eberts are experienced teachers who have more than 60 educational publications to their credit. They began writing books together in 1979. Careers for Bookworms was a Book-of-the-Month Club paperback selection, and Pancakes, Crackers, and Pizza received recognition from the Children's Reading Roundtable. Gisler and Eberts taught in classrooms from kindergarten through graduate school. Both have been supervisors at the Butler University Reading Center.

Please note: This "Expert Advice" area of FamilyEducation.com should be used for general information purposes only. Advice given here is not intended to provide a basis for action in particular circumstances without consideration by a competent professional. Before using this Expert Advice area, please review our General and Medical Disclaimers.

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