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Moving Ahead in Mid-Year
Q: My gifted son is in first grade. He reads at about a third-grade level, and his math skills are at a second- to third-grade level. His teacher has been fairly good at keeping him challenged, but lately he's been asking about moving on to second grade. Obviously, I wouldn't have him switched halfway through the school year, and I'm reluctant to have him skip a grade at all. But what do you think about having him work with the second graders part of the day? (His first grade teacher has suggested this.) Will this make him happy now, but cause problems later? Our school is only K-2. The gifted/talented teacher only meets with his kids for 20 minutes a week, by the way.
A: Letting your son work with a second grade class would be a good idea except that he would face the same curriculum next year when he is in that grade. If you and the teachers can find a way to work around that, this would be a viable alternative.
Ask the teachers if there are some second grade lessons or workbooks from a curriculum that is not currently being used in your son's school. By giving him assistance in using those activities, your son could have some more challenging work to do while not running the risk of making him repeat the same things next year. You and the teachers could also search for software programs that would challenge your son in reading and in math, which he could do while the other children are doing the standard first-grade lesson.
Unless they are extremely gifted (five or six years or more ahead of their classmates), it does not benefit a child in the long run to let him or her skip a grade. Almost all children are better off staying with their same-age peers who are on the same level developmentally, rather than being placed with children who are older.
You may also want to lobby with the principal and the school system's central office to increase the time that the teacher of gifted children is able to work with the first-graders.
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Barbara Potts has worked as an elementary school counselor for many years. She has a BA in psychology from Wake Forest University, and an M.Ed. in Guidance and Counseling from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.