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Advice please on Star Charts & The "Pasta Jar" ideas

(46 Posts)
fireflyfairy2 Fri 14-Sep-07 13:40:50

I have just had my sister texting me to say the teacher took her aside this morning & told her that her son (J) is behind in work. He is in p3 (he's 6). He is the youngest in his class, has a June birthday & although he is very intelligent, he is also very immature (well, he's 6, but ykwim)

The teacher told sis that it took J an hour yesterday to put one letter down on his page. And my sis told the teacher that she spent an hour with him on maths homework & did she think the work was perhaps too hard. But it seems that the maths homework should have taken 15mins max & that J isn't bothered about homework being finished. It turns out that my sis has been doing his colouring etc for homework when he can't be bothered.

She text me in tears as she doesn't want to tell her dh as he will be very sore on J (He is from a very well educated family, 4 sisters are school teachers & a brother plus their parents were primary school principals).

I suggested a star chart & have said I will call her later on. I was wondering as I have heard about a pasta jar reward scheme... does anyone know what this is? Or if anyone has any ideas as to how her wee boy can catch up? The teacher has said it may be because he is so young, but that it doesn't look good that he is so behind at the beginning of the school year

MrsRecycle Fri 14-Sep-07 13:48:11

Hi FF! I've just started another one for my dd2 who has been somewhat naughty the past week. You basically get an old jar (we have a large coffee jar) clean it out and everytime they are good they get a pasta (a dried one eg fusilli) and everytime they are bad they get one taken away. When the jar is full they get an agreed treat (the last time my dd2 got a guinea pig). It takes a long time to fill up the jar (over 6 months). My dd2 has said that when this jar is full she wants High School Musical dolls. It really works - this morning (day 2) she was helped me out and I said thanks and she asked if she could have a pasta. Also, when they are exceptionally good, I have a supply of very large dry pastas that I give them.

FYI - the naughty step and time-out never worked for my dd2.

MrsRecycle Fri 14-Sep-07 13:49:33

oh by the way my dd2 is the same age as J!

HonoriaGlossop Fri 14-Sep-07 14:11:08

i think I might be a lone voice here but I think trying to encourage him with these things could be counterproductive. The teacher needs to find ways of getting him INTERESTED and/or getting some TA/SENCO suport with him in order to help him catch up/keep up. I take it they are sure there's no dyslexia or other perception issues? We've just found out my ds is colour blind and it's surprising just how much that can affect things, and that's a mild thing! Have they had his eyes/hearing tested?

Other than that i think they should leave him to relax and be himself at home. Set a 15 min time limit on homework and just let him do what he can in the time. (Shame he's even got it, at 6!)

Many people don't flourish in the early years at school. He's from a bright family, he's obviously got support at home; as long as they rule out specific learning difficulties, he will NOT fail long term. They should trust him and believe in his intelligence and work on valuing him as he is.

mummypig Fri 14-Sep-07 14:23:47

Oh I completely agree with HG's comments. I think your sister and the teacher would benefit from talking about what really motivates her son and what might help him to learn - not all children enjoy sitting down and having to read, write or do their maths, although in the end they do all have to get on with it to a certain extent.

There's a bit of information about different learning styles here:
although I'm not sure it's put across in the best way.

I also wonder if a pasta jar or star chart would mean the rewards are a bit too far removed, time wise, from the activity he's meant to finish which he obviously is unmotivated to do. Something more immediate might work better. What about a sticker book instead? My ds1 was very motivated by a Disney Cars sticker book last year - every time he learned to read a new word or did a page of his writing homework he got a sticker to put in the book.

So think about what he really is motivated by, and get the teacher to talk about how she will try to encourage him - I have a feeling the National Curriculum even specifies that teachers are supposed to work with different learning styles.

mummypig Fri 14-Sep-07 14:26:28

oh didn't do that link very well, sorry should have previewed it first

mummypig Fri 14-Sep-07 14:29:40

hope I'm not hijacking this thread HG but how did you work out about your ds's colour blindness? Did you have a test done?

My ds1 definitely has some red/green colour impairment- we worked it out last year at the start of reception, but he hasn't had it officially measured. I did try to book an appointment at an opticians as I thought that was the best place to go - but they said I would have to take him to the GP instead and get referred to a specialist and to be honest I just didn't get round to it.

fireflyfairy2 Fri 14-Sep-07 14:34:41

Thanks everyone

Some very good ideas! (Thanks for explaining the pasta jar idea to me MrsRecycle)

I too think he needs something more immediate, but I'm not sure if a sticker book would work. (It did with my dd when she was apt to throw a tantrum before she started school, but it was new to her, she never had sticker books before) Sis's kids have them all the time, they gets packs most days, infact they get gifts of some sort most days.

I like the idea of just setting him 15 mins & seeing what he can get done in this time.

HG, they never mentioned dyslexia or anything else to her, but if I'm honest, myself & another sister have discussed whether he may have slight attention deficit. We discussed this months ago, nothing to do with his school work. He doesn't sit or listen... he has no routine so may find it hard that he has to follow a routine at school? And get things done by a certain time? I'm grasping at straws here & I told my sis I would call her, I'm not looking forward to it as she is very highly strung & very protective of her boys (as we all are I suppose) She won't have anyone think badly of them & she was mad at the teacher earlier.

startouchedtrinity Fri 14-Sep-07 14:36:05

He's six. Homework is pointless at that age. Instead of spending an hour frustrating everyone with maths he should be running around outside after school. The best thing for J would be for everyone to give him a break and stop wrecking his confidence and enthusiasm. He will do it when he is ready.

fireflyfairy2 Fri 14-Sep-07 15:39:15

Pointless it may be, but from the age of 4 here homework is compulsary

startouchedtrinity Fri 14-Sep-07 16:08:07

yes, but you don't have to get on his case about it. Do 15 mins and hand it in, as he's done it.

The problem is a) he isn't ready and b) he's being made to feel a failure.

fireflyfairy2 Fri 14-Sep-07 16:19:25

Right, have just been on the phone with my sister! (I was chatting to her as I wrote that last post actually blush)

The teacher told my sis that things went "right over" J's head when she was teaching. She said when she told him he needed to knuckle down & work he just grinned at her.

My sister said that he didn't finish homework last week & she sent a note in to say he hadn't known how to do it & my sis couldn't understand it either, so they left it. The teacher said this was unacceptable as J had been shown how to do it earlier in the week. Though when my sis talked to a friend with a dd in the same class, she said her dd had no idea either, but they struggled through it.

Another homework was a box where the child had to draw 2 mammals, 2 reptiles, 2 insects. Sis said J had no idea what they were... and when I asked her if he had perhaps been doing them in school & he was supposed to have known which category they fitted in, she said she didn't know, as he often tells her he learned nothing in school. He often tells her he has no homework & then when he is for bed he will tell her he has

I suggested she went into the school & perhaps asked for a homework diary as she can't trust him to tell her. I also suggested she looked his schoolbag every day to check (seemed like a simple solution to me, I still check my dd's bag. She is 5) I also told her to ask that he be assessed & that she should support him 100%.

I don't know what else to suggest. I don't want him labelled as lazy, especially as we don't think he is, he perhaps just finds it difficult to concentrate. I asked her to ask the teacher what J had been doing in the hour it took him to get one letter on the page & what the teacher was doing for an hour that she didn't notice him (I know they have LOTS to do... but one child sitting for an hour not working... was he disrupting?) The teacher told her he slides down in his chair & waves his hands at her above the desk... I'm worried for my sister too, as she wants to help him, but doesn't know how. She looks to me for advice (I am 8 years younger than her) & I want to help her.

fireflyfairy2 Fri 14-Sep-07 16:21:04

I did suggest that she tells the teacher she will let him work for 15/20 minutes & after that whatever he has done will be handed in. Sister didn't think the teacher would go for it!

She also said that last year he struggled with his reading & so he got assessed & has help with that, plus an extra book for reading practice (heaping on the work in other words!!)

startouchedtrinity Fri 14-Sep-07 16:26:27

Sounds like bad teaching.

Sorry, don't know where you are but your sis doesn't have to get the school's permission. She is the parent, and she chooses how much homework her ds does.

Hand waving seems pretty normal for a six yr old.

fireflyfairy2 Fri 14-Sep-07 16:38:23

We're in NI.

My sister isn't confident enough to go up to the teacher & tell her J is only going to do a set amount of homework.

She told her her dh did his homework a night last week when her other son was in hospital & her dh told her it took them an hour & a half & J had cried...he said he was stupid & never listened

He's not stupid, far from it

startouchedtrinity Fri 14-Sep-07 20:23:13

It really sounds to me like J has disengaged from the learning process. I've read of several different cases of this happening with bright children. It's particularly common in schools with a one-size-fits-all approach and an expectancy of good exam results. The solution has been to move the child either to a more relaxed school that allows them to grow at their own pace (Steiner schools are an example but other schools take this approach too) or to home-ed.

The teacher sounds pretty hopeless tbh. A 6 yr old isn't going to 'knuckle down and work'. And there is more than one child in the class unable to understand the work she is setting. Your bil sounds very stressed (and he is being a moron too, but that is for your sis to sort).

I think that getting his assessed for dyslexia might be a good idea. I was talking to a mnetter recently whose dh sounds very much like J and who now has a Masters and his own business, so you should reassure your sis/bil on this.

For now maybe your sis could try changing the way J does his homework. For example, on the reptile/insect/mammal thing many 6 yr olds would need reminding. Does your sis have books on animals that they could look at together to find pictures that he could draw? Or J may like to look at the internet, or even getting him to roar like a lion, slither like a snake and buzz like a bee might be the way to get the message home. Similarly for maths maybe he could use a hopscotch set or home-made numbered stepping stones to work out his answers.

A good book is called Guerilla Learning, you can get it from Amazon, it's American but your sis might still get a lot from it. It's probably a bit flakey for bil, though!

fireflyfairy2 Fri 14-Sep-07 20:33:32

Thanks rhino

The thing is, and I say this without judgement as I adore my sister & love my nephew to bits, he is very spoiled.

I think that perhaps if my sis stepped back & let him get on with it, he could surprise us all!

Today I suggested she let him do his own research on the internet & she gasped that he was "too young to use the computer".

I will suggest that book to her, thanks

3andnomore Fri 14-Sep-07 20:33:51

have read the posts, and have nothing actually helpful to add to previous posts...just wanted to say, that this post really highlights what I find so rubbish about this country's schoolsystem...this whole blanket approach, if you are whatever age you, wouldn't be so much of a problem if this was scotland, where they start later anyway...but here in England and many other parts of the UK where 4 is the usual starting age, I really do think it's a big issue.
I know that really they don't have to be in school at that age, but they then have to start in year one...and imo, they miss out on some skills if they don't do you can't actually win
MY ys will start next year and he will have turned 4 in the first half of august and start school that september

fireflyfairy2 Fri 14-Sep-07 20:34:02

oh sorry... you're not rhino blush It's the trinity part mixed me up!!

fireflyfairy2 Fri 14-Sep-07 20:35:06

aw 3andnomore, he'll be really young then Is there no way you can hold him back to the nexy year? I was 5 when I started school.

3andnomore Fri 14-Sep-07 21:03:33

well, I could, but then he would have to go straight into 1. year...and , well,I feel I would not be able to home educate him in a way that he would learn all the skills reception children learn...which, I do realise is more a confidence issue on my part...
I mihgt actually ask one of dh's cousins who is a primary school teacher, and dispite getting the timing right, i.e. have november/december Baby's, so they would be nearere 5 by the time they would start reception, she home schools the reception year.

startouchedtrinity Fri 14-Sep-07 22:05:55

firefly smile I've been on mnet for 5 yrs and this is my latest incarnation. Only realised recently there is another trinity around and I hope that she doesn't mind!

Do they not use computers in schools in NI then? My dd1 was using a lap top her first week in Reception! Or is it just 'on his own' that is the problem? However over-indulged he may be, he doesn't sound very happy, at least when it come sto learning and I think your sis could give him the tools to make it fun. The book I mentioned is all about self-directed learning - how to set up your home and lifestyle to encourage a love of learning in spite of the rote learning at school.

3andnomore, there are three August boys in dd1's class. Although they have found some things a bit tough (mostly getting tired, although one has behaviour problems which the school are dealing with very well) with sensitive teaching and a lot of down-time things can be okay. You need to look at the school and spend some time in Reception to get a feel of how much time they will spend learning through play and how much time they will be expected to sit still. Also, if they do get homework don't be afarid to ignore it if your ds needs some down-time or time to run about letting off steam.

I too thought about dd1 skipping Reception just b/c I don't believe in early education but I think it has been invaluable to her in terms of learning about a school environment and making friends. But her school really nurture their little ones - only 14 intake and they have their own special Early Years room and playground. You need to look at the school and get the vibe before you can decide.

HonoriaGlossop Fri 14-Sep-07 22:20:28

mummypig, sorry it's taken me ages to get back on here, been off the pc all evening. We had ds' eyes tested this summer, just at the optician, and they do a standard test for colour blindness. I don't know why on earth your optician sent you to go to the GP, how bizarre! The colour blindness test takes just minutes and is very simple.

firefly, i think you're lovely to be so concerned about your sister and nephew smile

i do think your sister needs to basically protect her ds a bit from this teacher and the system! I think she should feel perfectly able to tell the teacher he'll do so many minutes homework and no more - any good teacher would rather that than have a child who is getting stressed about learning and thus is turning off.

Your sis needs to put the pressure where it belongs, on the TEACHER to teach, not on a little six year old boy. Maybe a meeting needed?

startouchedtrinity Fri 14-Sep-07 22:26:55

If she can't say it face-to-face then maybe a letter?

aviatrix Fri 14-Sep-07 22:40:24

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