View Full Version : Does this day look alright for grade 3?

03-22-2015, 05:17 AM
I'm terribly worried that I've missed something important. This schedule is for a 9-year-old boy, grade 3, who has mild brain damage and is about to be pulled from public school. The goal, at this stage, is for him to eventually go back to public school, so we need to try to maintain/develop the skills he'll need there before anything else. Each day will only be about 2 hours long. I know that he'll make progress with this, since it's similar to what we're already doing, but the question is, is it enough? And are there any gaping holes I've not noticed?

Cognition exercises (60 minutes)
I've been doing these particular exercises with him for 3 months now, and they have worked well (at first, he could only speak in single words, but now can use short sentences, describe feelings, tell me about his day, etc.) so I am not giving this hour up for anything.

Maths (20 minutes)
2 worksheets (both A5) of basic maths facts and a few simple word problems. He does these against a 3-minute sand timer, so he finishes both in a little over 6 minutes. I want to gradually make these worksheets more and more similar to school materials, and eventually switch to using school-type things entirely.
1-2 revisions of maths facts with flash cards. He's still on addition at the moment. He has to get through the whole lot of cards before the sand timer runs out. I've been adding in more cards as he starts recognising maths facts in worksheets (writing answers from memory instead of actively calculating it, which usually happens after he's seen it enough times). Once his addition is stable enough, I want to work up to doing another bunch with subtraction, and so on with multiplication and division.
1 set of activities with his imaginary number line. He used to use a metre ruler for this. I'd tell him to find a certain number, then to step up or down by certain increments (e.g. "Start at 24, and step upwards by 2s"). Once he was good enough, he'd use the blank back of the ruler, turning it over to peek if he wasn't sure if he was correct with something. Once he didn't need to peek, we upgraded to a purely imaginary number line. Bizarrely, he loves these activities.

English (20 minutes)
Spelling. His school has spelling lists which they give out at the start of each year, so I plan to just keep using the grade 3 spelling list so he isn't behind his peers. He's good at memorising and spelling is pretty easy for him.
Dictation. He's not so great at this. I've been working on it with him, and instead of struggling to remember one word, he can do 3 or 4 in one go now. I want to keep increasing this number until he can do whole sentences at a time. It's also a good way to revise old spelling words :)
Handwriting. I found a font (http://fontzone.net/font-details/vogue-normal-hollow) that I plan to use. His fine motor control isn't great, but is improving.
Grammar. Things like verb tenses, noun plurals (especially irregular ones, like foot-feet), punctuation, etc. are all heavily assessed at school. I've found a few good exercise books that will work well, I think. Maybe I'll use the sand timer for this as well.

Science (20 minutes)
2 worksheets of basic science facts, made with a random generator in excel like the maths ones, and also done against a sand timer.
Grouping exercises (a big part of the syllabus). I'll give him several animals/plants/things and ask him to group them into certain categories (wings vs no wings, mammal vs non-mammal, etc.) Once he's better at this, I'll elaborate the activity a bit more (I group them and he guesses the grouping rule, use of subgroups, flow charts, etc.) but he's not there yet. Ultimately I'd love to do experiments with him, but it's not part of the school curriculum, annoyingly, so I need make sure he knows that stuff first. Also, I think he'll better understand and appreciate the fun of experiments when his cognition improves (assuming it continues to do so).

Misc/Story (5-10 minutes)
There are a few random things he still needs to learn outside the main school subjects, so I want to spend a bit of time on them. Things like reading a calendar, using a dictionary, and so on. But most of the time I like to read a storybook (with pictures) to him. I'll pepper it with questions like, "Oh my! Why did he do that?" or, "What could be making her feel so sad in this picture?" or, "What do you think will happen on the next page?" and so on. Part of this is helping him become an active and thinking listener, instead of just switching off when people speak to him (a very strong habit to break).

I don't think there's anything major I've missed, but would love to know if I have a blind spot :p Thanks in advance to anyone who has any feedback!

03-22-2015, 12:25 PM
Welcome to the forum!

By all means, when you are doing something (like what you categorize as cognitive work) that works, and youre seeing progress with him, and youre both happy, then keep it up!

Do you have access to a tablet for him? Motion math makes apps, including a number line game (called zoom) and an adding / subtration game (called hungry fish). It might be a fun way for him to hone his math skills, other than repeated worksheets.

Im not sure where your son is at with categorizing, but we bought a little tub of plastic animals from Lakeshore Learning intended as a counting manipulative, but use it all the time now with my little one for categorizing and tweezer work. (Its in my fine motor skills box.) You could make a sensory bin with dried beans, and it could double for categorizing, fine motor, and math skills. Presenting material as a game instead of a drill or test may keep his interest and enthusiasm.

There are a lot of non-fiction picture books, which are science education. You can also read and discuss books that hes not yet ready to go at on his own. Youre the parent, you can gauge whether he is engaged, interested, and following along or not. PBS is full of great science shows - even when things may go over your kids head, theyre still learning about the world around them in an engaging way.

You may also consider that once his academic skill set is up to level, then is when you could transition him to the more disciplinary aspects of mainstream schooling - filling out worksheets, reading when hes bored, answering disparate facts on standardized tests.

But most importantly - do what works for both of you. People on this forum are here to help and support!

03-23-2015, 08:53 PM
Thanks, AnonyMs and alexsmom, for your replies!

I was worried for some reason that 2 hours was too short. I mean, at the moment he's doing 7 hours of public school and learning literally nothing, so even 5 minutes of actual learning would be an improvement, but I still struggle to get my head around the whole "school doesn't actually have to take that long" thing.

He generally gets outside each day (swimming lessons in an outdoor pool, going with his mother to get groceries, etc.) But I think I'd like to have a few walks with him as well, so we can talk about stuff we see. Hopefully it'll be a good transition to helping him become accustomed to talking in noisier places as well (traffic and so on).

The trouble is, alexsmom, I'm not the parent here (tutor only), so I'm massively stressed about screwing up somehow. I know that planning can only help so much, but it's hard to stop myself doing too much. At the moment, his parents hope to put him back into public school at the start of next year, so I need (at least for the time being) to be aiming to improve the classroom skills he completely lacks. Things like, "writing your name on submitted work" and, "filling out a worksheet without someone constantly prompting you to not switch off and stare blankly into space for an hour between each question". The public school system here is almost entirely built on worksheets and tests (as in, most days that is all the kids ever do, without any exaggeration), so practice with worksheets is strongly needed. I know it looks like a lot of worksheets (I think it's waaay too much for any kid that age), but it's nothing compared to what he's expected to do at school each day. Maybe I should start with less, though? So far, they're still kind of a game for him, because he has to race the sand timer, and they're super easy (get him used to actually doing them first, then raise the standard to his level--one thing at a time!)

I like the advice for focussing on reading and cognition on tricky days. Yesterday was pretty tricky, actually (the Father of Singapore died and the whole country is in mourning). The poor kid, while not really understanding what was wrong, picked up on the general feeling of gloom and was subsequently non-verbal for the first half hour I had with him. I had him laughing by the end, though.

I love the idea of using toy animals for categorising! I've been using little printed pictures, but they sound much more fun. There's no tablet, but I've been reading him a lot of animal picture books, which I agree are excellent part of the foundation for science. Even some of the slightly didactic ones have been working well--have you read Chickens Aren't The Only Ones? My favourite science book :)

04-01-2015, 03:52 PM
I think the thing that it missing is reading and reading and more reading. I would have at least 20 minutes for him to read. My son is an OK reader but he doesn't love it so we tag team read during that time (you read a page, I'll read a page). Being able to obtain information from text efficiently is a key skill for classroom success moving forward. The other piece that is missing but might not be realistic is writing, not handwriting but composition. If the plan is to return to PS in 4th grade, some work on the writing process should be covered. If need be scribe for him, but using some visual organizer and planning a paragraph or two on something he likes is a good idea.

We use games in place of standard worksheet a lot. 2 card war is a favorite, once 2 cards was easy we did 3 cards. Adding dice is fun. After he can do it easily, then let him have a look and then cover them so he has to use working memory to do the sum. For kids that have cognitive challenges the more senses you can use the better. For my son, we are flexible with time. If something, goes quicker fine, if it takes longer fine. If the family is only willing to pay you for 2 hours and then your time is up, that puts a lot of pressure on both of you. I would see if they are willing to give you a 30 minute buffer when needed.

Good luck

04-02-2015, 12:51 AM
momto2js, thanks! I had totally forgotten about reading. Aloud reading, I mean. He speaks in short sentences now, which is a big improvement from before, but I think reading aloud might help this a bit, too. As well as help his flow and stuff when reading--he pauses in all the wrong places and so on. That is definitely something we should practise!

Part of the cognition exercises we do is to build him up to the point where he can glean information from text, but he definitely isn't at that stage yet. He's only recently at the stage where he can consistently understand a whole, long sentence verbally, after all. Before, anything more than 2 or 3 words was wasted on him. "Sit down" was fine, but, "Could you please sit on the chair for me?" wouldn't be understood. Now he can do it, though :)

One of the big problems he had was not connecting text with things. He would read the word "horse" and not be able to point to the picture of the horse or describe the animal that the word said. Now he can do that, and even do it for a few words ("walking brown horse"), but isn't quite at the sentence level yet. Very close, though. We'll keep building up until he can do sentences and then multiple sentences. And then reading books for content will be great. But he just isn't there yet. It is such an important skill for the classroom (and life!) and it's one of the things we specifically work on. Writing, obviously, is related, and will follow, but can't until his reading is up there.

As a side note... Relating abstract concepts is improving as well. We were doing a picture book the other day about animals with eggs vs those with live young. I was reiterating that mammals, who have hair, don't lay eggs. He went all quiet for a bit, and then said the name of his brother, "Timmy". I asked him to "tell me more" (one of my many standard prompts to encourage him to speak more), and he actually told me a whole story. "Mummy has a big tummy. Timmy is in there. She go to the hospital and doctor take him out. I go see. Never have any egg." I was pretty ecstatic. It's the most he's ever said in one go. Also, he was only 3 when Timmy was born, so it was equally impressive that he could remember all that. (I'll point out that his language and grammar, while appearing to be lacking, are pretty much the standard for Singapore, even among adults, and aren't a source of worry or in need of improvement for this country). I'm thinking his cognition is close to where games would be meaningful to him, now. I hate all these worksheets.

They pay me for 2 hours, but sometimes I go over anyway by 10 minutes or so if he's close to achieving something and just needs a little bit more. I'm not too strict with that sort of thing--2 hours' pay for 130 minutes is fine. But I tutor other students, too, and can't always go over as a result. Ugh... what I would give for more time.

04-02-2015, 09:18 AM
I think this is perfect for grade 3. Read and read and read. Put on audio books in the car. Let him play and experience his world (get messy, cook, etc).

04-02-2015, 10:36 AM
I think giving the additional details you have given I would add that I think it is important for both you and the parents to sit down and outline his STRENGTHS. Make sure that you use those strengths when ever possible to support the relative weaknesses. It might not be a reasonable goal that this child return to school next year at the same place as his neurotypical counterparts. I have a raising 3rd grade boy in my house. He loves fart jokes, anything messy and otherwise mostly inappropriate. Find ways to make the cognitive work interesting. He will get so much more out of it. If memory is an issue, try having him memorize silly knock knock jokes. It sounds like most things in this kids academic life (and I'd guess life in general) are a struggle. Spends some time each day on things that make him smile.

Loose some of the worksheets, and get dirty. If he can't make sense of a concrete game then worksheets are worthless. Start with a plan that is developmentally appropriate for this kid, and that likely doesn't have anything to do with his age or grade. Make abstract concepts concrete they will stick better. If reading is an issue then find things at his reading level and then read to him or use audio books of things that are beyond that and interesting. More than anything, he needs to be loved where he is right now and not for where he may or may not go.

Good luck