I had a working title for this article, How to Survive Your Child’s Upper Grades Years in an Elementary School, and I think that the working title, although long, pretty much says it all. Children change dramatically in upper grades. They certainly mature. With maturity come other changes that we do not always welcome; children transition to prepubescent, also known as tween years in upper elementary.
Fifth grade especially can be a very stressful year for the unprepared. Some fourth graders transition to fifth graders some time in the middle of fourth grade, and we need to be ready for it. The change that students experience affects their learning, grades, and ultimately education overall.
After teaching upper grades for a few years I noticed some strategies that make school upper grades easier and more enjoyable. This advice is not only based on my own experience, but also on the conversation with the parents whose children did remarkably well in
fourth/fifth grades. I learned from those families quite a bit, and I would like to share their advice with you.
1. Establish a time in the evening when you child will show you the IPOD Notebook or, as we sometimes call it, a Planner. Sign the Planner, look through any possible letters that may come your way, sign the Reading Log if your child already read. It is better not do this in the car in the morning because you may forget to sign some papers or read important information, and you child will be upset later.
2. Have your child pack his or her backpack in the evening. Packing a backpack in the morning does not work.
3. It is often difficult to transition from the carefree summer to the busy new school year. Please schedule at least 30 minutes every day for checking the Planner and packing backpack in the beginning of the year. If you do it daily, it will quickly became a habit, and you child will do it on his own at the end of the year.
4. Make sure that I have your e-mail where I can send the grade reports. You will receive them every week on Monday. It is a very convenient way to find out how your child is doing on a weekly basis. I can provide paper grade reports during the week if I have time but students usually “forget” to give them to the parents. Make it a habit to check your e-mail every other day. I maintain communication with the parents mostly via e-mail. Remember that my e-mail is email@example.com, and you can also e-mail me from the web site.
5. Please schedule the time at least once a week to check our web site http://www.mrsdonskoy.com for any new updates.
6. If your child has problems with completing homework on time, you may have to add one more item to your evening routine. You will have to check the web site and see what the homework is, and then check that everything is completed.
7. Please allow your child to do homework in the room where you are. It is okay for a child to do homework in the kitchen while Mom or Dad are cooking or in the room where the parents are quietly working or reading. Make sure to turn off a TV and a phone, even your cell phone should not ring if the child is doing homework in the same room where you are. Show your child that you respect the work that he or she is doing, and at the same time provide the comfort of allowing him/her to be with you. The beginning of fourth/fifth grades may be stressful. Where do kids go when they are stressed? They come to their Moms and Dads, they come to you. So let them sit and do homework in a place where you are working, too.
8. Please do not plan trips during the time we are in session. School nights must be a sacred affair! No gatherings can be scheduled for school nights because it disrupts your child’s work routine. There are five school nights during the week. They are Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday nights. It is very hard for a young child to plunge into math word problems on Monday
morning after an especially joyous wedding on Sunday night! If you absolutely have to attend an event on a school night, please leave early and make sure that a child goes to bed on time. The only nights when your child can stay up late are Friday and Saturday nights.
9. There should be no exposure to any kind of electronics one hour before sleep. A room for a child of this age MUST NOT have a computer, TV, or video games. Please take away their phone before bed, or make sure that there is a place for the phone, and this place is not the bedroom. Children of this age must use electronic equipment in a room where other people can see them. It is very important that parents know what their child is watching, or what your child is checking out online. I have met a number of families who turned off the TV completely during the work days, but they allowed it on Fridays and Saturdays; in many cases it completely changed their child’s progress in school for the better. It is incredible to see how all of a sudden a child begins to read just because the TV and the games are off limits…
10. Considering everything that is said above, a fourth/fifth grader must have at least 30 minutes access to a computer every day in a room where other people can see him/her in order to learn how to check their grade reports, search for information online, e-mail the teacher (they can use your e-mail), and download handouts from the class web site if necessary. The California Standards Test now assesses students’ abilities to use the Internet. We teach them these skills in school as well.
11. If there is a problem with the homework, please do not do it for your child. Direct him or her to come to the teacher. Or have them e-mail me. Do not let them leave the paper blank. Students usually have some idea of how to complete the assignment. It may be the wrong one, but it is the thinking that really matters when it comes to homework. The homework must be completed to the best of their abilities.
12. Children in fifth grade change drastically in the middle of the year. Some of them will begin to change earlier than that. But they will all change. They begin to curse, sometimes profusely…raise their voice at adults, talk back, and they become increasingly critical of the adults around them. Do not hesitate to tell them that it is not okay to be disrespectful and remember to create consequences for undesirable behavior. If your child displays a number of undesirable behaviors, be careful not to criticize and punish every behavior. Pick your battles. Think about the behaviors that go over the line and create consequences for those behaviors only. Whenever you reprimand a child, state very clearly why you are unhappy.
13. Upper grade students sometimes become increasingly cruel to their own peers. They become elitist, they gossip about other children and sometimes even harass and bully them. It does not mean that they are mean spirited children, it means that they are learning how to fight back and sometimes attack; these have been the vital parts of survival for the humankind for quite a few centuries after all!
Considering that our society has reached a consensus that some ways of treating each other are just unacceptable, we will have to stop these behaviors. If you know that your child is being harassed in school, you must let me know immediately!
14. Please note that among other characteristics that upper grade students display, they also become very secretive. In order to appear grown up, they begin to conceal things from their parents, and they suffer in silence. It leads to tears, nervous break downs, and other upsetting situations that we would rather prevent than deal with later. In my experience, parents intuitively feel that something is wrong
with their child… When you get a feeling like this, please drop by and talk to me.