Keeping boredom at bay at school — Good Parenting

rsz thinkstockphotos 840404132Dear Dr. Debbie,

My son just started third grade and comes home every day complaining that it’s boring. What can we do to help him enjoy going to school?

Dad

Don't miss last week's column Grandparent on duty — Good Parenting

Dear Dad,

The most common reason a child is bored at school is that it’s too slow paced, repetitive, and or simple. In other words, his intelligence is above the level the teacher and the activities are aiming for.

Ask the teacher for a quick meeting. Explain that your son is not feeling challenged. His second grade teacher may have completed a screening for all students to identify exceptional potential, but even without this assessment, parents have a voice in recommending their child for extra attention and activities. Possibly he experienced an intellectual growth spurt over the summer making concepts easier to grasp. Perhaps he spent the summer reading, observing nature, making things, conversing with his parents, and participating in other stimulating activities while his classmates zoned out with excessive screen time. Teachers tend to start out the year reviewing last year’s material just to find out where everybody is. There could be more individualized teaching just ahead. In Anne Arundel County Public Schools enrichment during the school day is called Advanced Learner Programs. This can be clarified in your meeting. However, if nothing changes, have a meeting with the guidance counselor. You are looking for confirmation that your son’s boredom is due to his intellectual capacity being above the norm as well as for advocacy for a more individualized approach to his day with cooperation from his teacher.

If the teacher doesn’t mind, a doodle pad can allow him to diagram the content of a lesson, or capture the questions she doesn’t have time to answer while other students are struggling to keep up. It can also entertain him with his own creativity after he has spent all the time he needs to gain new information and put it to use on a humdrum worksheet. Daydreaming is one way that intellectually gifted students pass the time during dull lessons. You might encourage your son to make up stories, songs, or inventions to share with you after school.

I remember teaching myself to read and write upside down in first grade and backwards in third grade. Much more of a challenge than the conventional way. It didn’t distract anyone because they didn’t notice while I was doing it. In fifth grade I authored a secret newsletter about the friendships and foe-ships in the class entitled “Social” during Social Studies. I had plenty of time between copying each line of the outline the teacher was painstakingly writing on the chalkboard, then asking a student to read aloud, then explaining to us, then asking students for examples. Meanwhile I had analyzed (and illustrated) a friendship breakup and predicted who would be each person’s future best friend. (I had figured out that the teacher’s outline was straight from the textbook passages we had read the night before. Obviously his lesson plan was directed at those who hadn’t read or hadn’t understood the book.)

There are other strategies for holding the interest of a bright child. Examples include: independent projects, online challenges, and activities that delve deeper into the subject matter. There are always tangents that a gifted child can explore in any subject matter. The teacher need only recognize this need and provide time and materials to support it.

If he is socially comfortable, your son could play a leadership role during class activities, for example, reading ahead to summarize for the class, or to going online to research and report back to the group. He could be paired on assignments with a child who would benefit from his ability to grasp information and make sense of it. Likewise he could be included in a small group of his age mates to participate in a project, such as theater arts or planning a school-wide field day, with older students.

Out of school time can enhance interest and participation in the classroom. If you support a friendship or two or three from among his classmates, your son has more to think about during slack time at school. Lunch and recess can become the exciting highlights of his day while he breezes through the rest. Find out if there are after school clubs and classes specifically for Talented and Gifted students through the school system. He might find a friend there. Note, some of these extracurricular programs require a recommendation from the teacher or guidance counselor. There is also a plethora of recreational activities from Anne Arundel County  and the City of Annapolis  that he can pursue or that you can pursue as a family.

Speak up for your son. School works best when it is a partnership with parents.Parents are also the key to taking advantage of the many resources available in the community to enhance your son’s educational process.

Dr. Debbie

Deborah Wood is a child development specialist in Annapolis. She has a doctorate in Human Development from the University of Maryland at College Park and is founding director of the Chesapeake Children's Museum. Long-time fans and new readers can find many of her "Understanding Children" columns archived on the Chesapeake Family Magazine website. You can find her online at drdebbiewood.com.

Click here for more parenting advice by Debbie Wood.

What do you think? Leave your thoughts in the comments or submit a question to Dr. Debbie at editor[at]chesapeakefamily.com.

© 2018 Chesapeake Family Life. All Rights Reserved.