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Parents may be surprised

Moving to Third or Fourth Grades Can Be a Significant Transition

Parents may be surprised to find out that third and fourth grades are significantly different from first and second. Academic work becomes more challenging. Behavioral expectations change.
Louise Coakley, the IEP (Individualized Education Program) team chairperson at Edmondson Heights Elementary School in Baltimore County, says, “The IEP team gets many more referrals in the intermediate grades.”
She says that the move to third or fourth grade is when discrepancies between a student’s expected performance versus his actual performance may become more noticeable. Also, invisible disabilities such as learning disabilities or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) may become apparent for the first time.
“It’s important for IEP teams to look at the hard data. You want to look at growth—not from grade-to-grade, but how this student has grown within one year versus the expectations for all students,” explains Coakley, adding, “Keeping the student in the least restrictive environment is an important consideration.”
Both Jillian Lewis-Darden, Edmondson Height’s primary inclusion teacher, and Beth George, the school’s occupational therapist, stress that each child is different and that the type of help students need as they change grades or even teachers within a grade also may change.

While some children are ready to be more independent by third grade, others will still require continued adult support to be successful. Lewis-Darden says that it’s important that supports not be removed abruptly. She says, “Some children may fall apart where the school thinks they don’t need assistance… Weaning is important.”
In the intermediate elementary grades, you may find:
Higher academic expectations. School becomes more serious. Higher-level thinking and reasoning skills are required. More independent reading probably will be required, as well as more reading of expository texts. Writing assignments become lengthy.

Different social skills expectations. More mature student behavior is expected.
More responsibility. Increased independent work is expected. Students are expected to follow classroom routines on their own without a lot of guidance from the teacher, and students are expected to resolve many classroom problems on their own.
Larger classes. First and second grade classrooms typically have fewer students than those in the third and fourth grades.
Preparation for middle school. Teachers may begin preparing the student for middle school by teaching note-taking, text-highlighting, binder organization and, for students with disabilities, self-advocacy skills, such as telling the teacher when you’re having a problem. ASE
—Nancy Knisley

© Baltimore’s Child Inc. September 2008

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