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Pre-adolescent Roller Coaster

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

Q: This year, our sixth grader's grades have been on a constant roller coaster ride, up and down. We have discussed this numerous times with her and her teachers. We have tried various approaches (punishment and rewards) with limited and short-lived success. She is a great kid and very open with us. We discuss everything and are involved with her life. Her teachers praise her and have worked with her after school to help. We are at a loss on how to help her move forward. Any suggestions would be appreciated.

A: Moving from elementary school to middle school or just entering sixth grade is frequently a bumpy road for preteens. Faced with more teachers, more homework, new grading standards, greater responsibility for their work, longer assignments, and keeping track of mountains of materials; kids' grades often take a nosedive. On top of all these educational challenges, they are facing the social, emotional, and physical changes of adolescence.

You've definitely been on the right track by being so supportive of your daughter and working with her teachers. Rather than expecting her to turn things around all by herself, you can do several things to put her on the road to success in sixth grade.

The most important lesson that your daughter needs to learn is that she now must spend one hour studying at home each day. This works best if it is the same time every day. The hour must be used to review or work ahead if she has no assignments. Just devoting this much time to schoolwork can really improve grades. It's quite possible your daughter has not been studying as much as she really needs to.

Because there's so much more work in sixth grade, your daughter needs to be well organized. Besides using a notebook to list assignments, she needs a calendar to organize her time. Test and report due dates, as well as appointments and activity times, need to be written down. Go over the calendar with her every day until she learns how to plan her time. need to be written down.

Finally, academic troubles often emerge in sixth grade because of weaknesses in basic skills. If necessary, have your daughter work with a tutor or go to a learning center or summer school to improve her skills.

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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.


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