Even though the calendar still said “July,” back-to-school supplies were stacked high in nearly every store, and parents were seeking the best buys on crayons, markers and tissues. Whether we are ready or not, the beginning of another school year is upon us.
With the start of a new school year comes a great deal of anticipation for a lot of kids. What will my room be like? Will my teacher be nice? Will my best friend be in my class? Parents try to keep their kids calm and upbeat, but reality is even parents can sometimes feel a bit of anxiety as that first day approaches.
For over three decades I watched kids file into my room on that first day of school with a variety of expressions on their faces. Some would dart to the desk with their name printed on a colorful name tag. They’d squeal with joy when their best friend also entered Room 24.
Others were a bit shy and unsure if they really wanted to be there. Typically, however, by the end of the first week, most were convinced their teachers weren’t going to bite; and they were ready to tackle whatever their teachers asked of them.
In sending kids back to school, it might be helpful to know a few things that are typical of most teachers’ expectations. Here are some ideas that you might want to consider:
Kindergarten is now full day for most children. Most classes are very structured as children learn to read and write short stories by the end of the school year. Often, they work in stations and in small groups. Many times, they will have homework, such as reading a book with a parent or writing a few words. They are learning responsibility.
In first grade, students pick up where kindergarten left off. They spend time memorizing math, addition and subtraction facts and often have timed tests to see how well they are doing. They spend a great deal of time reading and writing and learning to answer questions in complete sentences. They too, have homework.
Second grade picks up where first grade ended. Kids are now familiar with reading books at home and studying for spelling tests. Writing is easier for them, and many can now write lengthy stories. Most teachers will assign homework to get the students accustomed to completing a project at home and returning it to the teacher. Students will learn to regroup in math, begin to solve word problems and gain a better understanding of telling time.
In third grade, the curriculum becomes harder. Many students now have a communities book and science book to master content from. Writing from prompts has become a major part of the curriculum as students learn to develop their ideas into lengthy stories. Mastering addition, subtraction and multiplication facts is also vital. Students work at length to understand place value, count money and solve multistep word problems. And for most, there will be homework.
Fourth grade is typically seen as the year the curriculum takes a pretty big leap. Science texts present difficult vocabulary that takes time to master. Indiana history chronicles the regions of Indiana, the Native American tribes living in Indiana, and the eventual settlement of others from Europe, Africa and Asia. Students are expected to begin reading novels on their own time. Many teachers no longer read selections from reading books aloud page by page. Instead, students are expected to read the selections on their own and be ready to discuss with the teacher the content of the story. And there is homework.
By the time students enter fifth grade, they are the leaders of the school and are expected to show that leadership in a variety of ways. Many teachers work to prepare fifth-graders for middle school by assigning more independent projects that take several days to complete. Group projects are also common. By the time kids enter fifth grade, they are expected to read on their own. Novels are often assigned and discussed in class. Math is much more difficult as students work a great deal with fractions, geometry, and complex multiplication and division problems. Writing is vital.
Perhaps the thing to best remember is that every teacher is different. For some kids, it may take as much as a month to adjust to a new teacher and new expectations. But for the most part, kids have adjusted quite well by the time the first quarter has ended even if they had a tough time in the beginning.
And do they have all of their homework done on time without excuses? Only time will tell for sure.
Carol Edwards is retired after a 30-year career teaching elementary school students at at Greenwood schools. Send column ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org.