in First Grade
2000 by Ginger Gregory
Included here with permission of
first grade in a growing county outside a major metropolitan area,
where the growth in the county is a frequently debated issue in
school and community politics. As the population increases in
the county so does the school population. Hill Square Elementary,
where I teach, is the second of five elementary schools built
in the community in less than eight years.
Due to the
influx of students, school boundaries are redrawn every few years.
The boundary changes combined with the influx of people moving
to the community have created the problem of moving students into
new schools. This moving of students has prompted me to look closely
at the effect of change on my first grade students.
Square there are six first grades. Many of the students attended
Hill Square in kindergarten, but many have transferred into the
school. One of the ways we prepare students for the first grade
transition is to have a kindergarten/first grade switch day in
May. Kindergarten students come to first grade to learn about
the new environment for one day. The first graders go back to
kindergarten to celebrate just how much they have learned since
leaving kindergarten. Those students who have not attended Hill
Square do not have this opportunity to prepare for the transition.
in my first grade classroom range in age from six to seven. I
have fourteen boys and ten girls. Thirty six percent of my students
transferred into Hill Square in September. At the beginning of
the school year the children seemed well prepared for the first
grade experience; however, in the next week it became clear that
some students were having difficulty in making the transition
to first grade. By difficulty I mean that they were not aware
of the expectations that were being held of them. I found that
the new students were misbehaving more frequently and were more
active physically. They had questions about everything. Many of
the children were followers and had difficulty rising above the
examples of poor behavior which fellow classmates set for them.
One child in particular seemed to stand out as the model of transition
memory of Colby (a pseudonym) was on the first day of school.
Colbys mother walked him to the classroom door. He refused
to enter the classroom and fought to hold onto his mother. I was
not prepared for the sheer strength he had as he lunged for his
mothers legs as she tried to leave. I had to restrain him
as his mother walked away. I took the sobbing Colby into the classroom
and held him on my lap as I tried to begin the school year with
the other 23 students. That first day he did not participate in
any class activities. This incident has stuck with me because
it was so unusual. I have seen separation anxiety, and this was
with a small group of peers, Colby was very competitive. Other
boys were quick to yield to him. He lived for recess. He ran and
was very physical. He tripped others, pushed, and tackled the
boys to the ground. Repeated warnings did not have an effect on
his behavior. He was constantly moving, whether standing in line
or playing outside. If Colby did not have a specific task that
was being done, he was off task. He talked to his neighbors or
played with pencils, crayons, or glue at his desk. Once he began
a task, he would not put it away until he was ready to do so.
After countless warnings to clean up, he was deliberate in his
slowness. He moved at his own pace. He would look up at me and
then continue at his own pace.
quick to pick up on action in the classroom. He noticed injustices
but was just as quick to join in. He particularly noticed another
little boy, Ryan, who was diagnosed with attention deficit disorder.
Colby "attached" to Ryan, and the two of them bothered each other.
Colby would make comments like, "you're weird" or "what's wrong
with you?" Colby would purposely touch, trip and try to aggravate
Ryan. Every day was a new battle with Colby. I found that he had
a following of about five boys. The boys did what Colby said,
but at times they would get mad among themselves and vie for attention.
very unsure of his abilities. He refused to do any work at the
beginning of the year. His usual response was, "I cant."
With support and help he tried, but he was easily frustrated.
He was easily frustrated when he didn't know exact spelling. Little
initiative was shown when he didnt know what to do. Only
during math did he seem to be excited. His tongue lolled around
in his mouth and he worked quickly.
if Colbys behavior was an indication of aggression. Jewett
(1992) defined aggression as any intentional behavior that results
in physical or mental injury to any person. Although I saw Colbys
actions as intentional, I did not see that they were injurious
to anyone. What bothered me was the fact that Colby did not see
what he was doing as wrong. When I asked Colby why he pushed or
made fun of others, he answered that that he didnt know
why he did those things, or else he would say he didnt remember
what he had done wrong. I wondered if Colby was not assertive
in his relationships because he was not confident enough in himself
to show a healthy display of competence (Jewett, 1992).
behavior perplexed me since the first day of school. I watched
him and his behaviors throughout the school year. I was given
the opportunity to more closely look at Colbys behavior
while developing a research project. I began my research by identifying
a puzzlement I had in my classroom practice. Puzzlements are questions
about problems or students behaviors that are not understood.
was: Why does Colby have difficulty transitioning into first grade?
was of interest to me because several students of mine over the
years also have had difficulty adjusting to first grade. I was
interested in finding patterns that existed as I reflected on
former students compared to Colby and researched the subject of
transitions. In addition to investigating the puzzlement surrounding
Colby, I was interested in understanding the nature of transition.
is] that difficult process of letting go of an old situation,
suffering the confusing nowhere of inbetweenness, and launching
forth again in a new situation" (Bridges, 1980, p. 5). According
to Entwisle and Alexander (1989), the first grade transition constitutes
a "critical period" in both their academic and social
to Lombardi (1992), many children have problems adjusting to elementary
school programs that have a different philosophy, teaching style,
and structure than those programs in which they participated during
their earlier years. All children enter their formal schooling
through the doors of a first grade. All of the students I teach
have had a year of kindergarten before beginning school. There
is some debate as to whether the hardest transition is the first
break from home to preschool, kindergarten or first grade. Evidence
seems to suggest that first grade is the most critical period
due to the increase of cognitive skills and the changing social
environment surrounding the child (Bronfenbrenner & Crouter,
1983, as cited by Entwisle & Alexander, 1998).
to public school from a small private Christian school. According
to Conway (1994), private schools transmit what they consider
worthy values to new teachers, parents, and students through institutional
rituals and traditions. This school greatly emphasized the need
to have Christian character. Although Colbys parents liked
the academic nature of the school, they found that the discipline
code was too strict for Colby. In light of this problem, Colbys
parents enrolled him in public school.
with his mother and father in a townhouse. He has an older sister
who was in fourth grade. Her behavior was of no concern. She was
a compliant child who was eager to please. Colby and his sister
attended an after school program because both parents worked.
The family was involved in their local church and the children
saw many of their friends at the church. Colbys sister had
a lot of friends. She often played with them at their houses,
or they were at her house. Colby, on the other hand, had very
few friends in the neighborhood. Many of the boys were either
too old or too young. Colby did not participate in any organized
sports programs. He played with his toys and did not like to leave
the comfort of his own house.
assumption was that Colby was having difficulty making the transition
to school due to inconsistencies between home and school. I began
to focus my attention on CIP
question 3.3.2, which states "How might mismatches between
students or groups home culture(s) and the school
curriculum be contributing to the puzzling situation?"
this line of thinking by sending a questionnaire to all the parents
of my first graders in order to understand the effects of routines
and change in their childs life at home. I wanted to understand
what an average home culture looked like in our community. I thought
I could compare Colbys family to a broader sampling of family
routines. Although the information was of interest, the implications
of creating interventions and monitoring were too broad. The focus
would be taken off Colby and would be turned toward students as
a whole. I set up an interview with Colbys mom in hopes
of understanding his home culture better, but after the interview,
I realized that understanding the home culture would be beyond
the scope of my study. In order to understand the family dynamics
presented in the survey, I felt that I would need to look closer
into each family. As a result I feared that I would lose my objectivity
as a researcher. Again, my focus would be taken off of Colby.
In an effort to refocus my mind on Colby and the puzzlement surrounding
his behaviors and performances, I considered several questions:
Colbys experience at a private school in kindergarten
be contributing to his difficulty transitioning into first grade?
Colby understanding of discipline be contributing to the puzzling
a Christian school be contributing to the puzzling situation?
differences in home and school routines and expectations be
contributing to the puzzling situation?
Colbys understanding of his own feelings be contributing
to his difficulty in transitioning to first grade?
Colbys own perceptions of abilities be contributing to
the puzzling situation?
Colbys lack of control be contributing to the puzzling
this process, I found that I needed to understand what was going
on in Colbys head. Only after I understood Colby could I
even begin to propose interventions. I chose to focus on CIP
question 3.5.1, which states "How might individual students
negotiations of home, peer, and school cultures be contributing
to the puzzling situation." In this way, I could look at
my puzzlement of transitions through the lens of Colbys
negotiations of home, school, and peers.
the information by observing Colby in the classroom, as well as
in art, music, and PE (physical education), by interviewing his
mother, by talking to school administrators and other specialists,
by reviewing records from his former school, and by conducting
a home interview.
I had an
interview with Colbys mother on a Friday afternoon. We talked
for about one hour. I learned a lot about Colby through our interview.
I asked questions about routines and behaviors. His mother revealed
that Colbys main areas of contention were mornings and homework.
He did not like to choose what he wore in the morning. He wanted
mom to pick out things. At homework time, Colby resisted sitting
down to do his work. At times, his mother would wait him out for
two hours as he cried and complained about being hungry and tired.
Colby was quick to say, "I cant!" In response,
mom said, "Yes, you can!" She would spend two hours
parents had tried to involve him in outside activities. They enrolled
him in karate because they thought it would be good for his discipline.
Colby complained about going to class. He told his mom that he
"just wants to be at home." When she asked him why,
he stated that he liked to relax and do what he wanted. Colby
was not thrilled about being made to go to school. Several times
his mother needed to physically pick him up and bring him out
to the car in order for him to leave the house.
As a younger
child, he would not use the bathroom at preschool. Hed wait
until he got home. According to mom, Colby got into a lot of trouble
in kindergarten. Apparently the school environment was vastly
different from that of Hill Square. His mother commented that
the colors were so much brighter in first grade and that Colby
had more options there. In kindergarten he did not have any choices
in his activities. In first grade he could go outside and he had
art. In light of the behavior problems he'd had in preschool and
kindergarten, his mother noticed that his outbursts were less
severe and less frequent in first grade.
In our discussion
about Colbys behavior problems, his mother interjected that
Colby has a sweet side. An example she gave was when she was sick
and Colby brought soup up to her. She pointed out that his sister
was not too interested in giving such help but that Colby wanted
to. She also noted that he could be very good with younger children.
She said that he liked to take care of things and people.
questions about Colbys opportunities to develop responsibility.
Mom said that he did not have responsibilities at home. Mom blamed
herself for not giving him any chores. At times he helped set
the table or select dinner. Sometimes he picked a movie or an
activity to do on Saturday.
In our discussion
about Colbys behavior, his mom gave examples on how she
coped with his outbursts. She described her way of getting Colby
to change his mind--identifying a distraction and changing the
subject. She called this process "converting" his thoughts.
As an example, she told about how his emotions might escalate
at the breakfast table, and then she would talk about the latest
book she was reading. Colby then became interested in something
else, and the family was able to successfully finish breakfast
and get their morning off on the right foot. Mom described her
response to Colbys outbursts as being calm. She was firm
and worked with Colby. She did take things (toys, video games)
away from him when he misbehaved, but he adapted to whatever else
was available. He pushed to get his way. If he wanted one thing
and his mom wanted another, he would scream and cry.
As a result
of this interview, I felt as though control appeared as a major
theme. On many occasions, I felt that Colby was trying to understand
his environment by asserting control over the people and things.
I wanted to look at control in more depth. In addition to control,
I felt that the keys to understand Colby lay in the areas of caring,
responsibility, and accountability.
As a result
of viewing Colbys kindergarten records, I learned that Colby
was average in academics. His report card was very clear in stating
that Colby had deficient Christian character qualities. Some of
the examples of the qualities listed were the following: respects
those in authority, obeys promptly, follows directions, and uses
self-control. The teachers comments always stated the need
for improvement in Colbys behavior. Standardized tests showed
Colby to be above the 70th percentile in math, but indicated 50th
percentile for reading, 16th percentile for listening, and 8th
percentile for environmental studies.
kindergarten records, I felt that I had more useful information
about Colby. The issue of control again became apparent to me
as I looked at both the report card and teacher comments. The
tests confirmed that Colby had a real strength in math and that
his listening skills were very weak.
As a result
of the information I was collecting, I began to formulate several
directions to take the research. I sought to understand what Colby
was experiencing by using question
3.5.1 from the CIP. I wanted to understand what negotiations
he was making at home, school, or with peers. I felt that there
was enough evidence to suggest that there was a mismatch. Colby
was not connecting with the expectations of others.
reading articles about transitions, self-esteem and narcissism,
aggression and cooperation, private schools, caring for others,
developing trust between students and teachers, helping children
with anger, helping with socialization, and ways to involve parents
in solving problems. My thought was that as I read articles, I
would interact with the known information about Colby and see
what connections were made.
to develop my interventions along the following themes:
Colby become aware of his own feelings and being held accountable
an "I Can" attitude
care of others/things and gaining a sense of control over something
on math strengths
these interventions related to Colbys negotiations of school
and peers as CIP question 3.5.1
highlights. I felt that I needed to concentrate on what could
be done at school within the hours of school that I worked with
I felt it
was important to address the growing concern about Colbys
emotions. One day he was tired, the next day he was sad, then
he was hungry. He used words to describe his feelings, but he
could not connect them to the actual incident. An important technique
for helping children who have aggressive tendencies to become
more socially productive (Jewett, 1992) is to help children label
and verbalize their feelings. The work of Brown and Dunn (1996)
also supports the need for children to talk about their emotions
so as to understand their feelings. Both sources were beneficial.
I borrowed a feeling chart from the guidance department. I put
the chart by my desk and frequently had Colby refer to the faces
when giving explanations for his behavior. He would point to the
face that indicated his present state of mind. We would then talk
about the incident and together we would discover what prompted
the behavior, what happened, and finally what the consequences
would be. I began to see that Colby did not perceive himself to
be a leader. He easily found others to follow and used their actions
to justify his own actions.
Colby after a particularly difficult morning. He had been brought
to the assistant principals office after a morning of refusing
to go to school. Part of the interview was a quest to find out
what feelings Colby was experiencing. This feeling check was actually
part of the intervention stage. However, the understanding that
our talk brought actually supplied a more powerful intervention.
As I asked Colby about his feelings of happiness, sadness, and
embarrassment, it became evident that he was a very private person.
His happiest times were building a snowman with his whole family;
his saddest time was when mom left for work or when the family
was apart. He identified his most embarrassing time as when his
mom told him not to burp in public. His embarrassment was not
so much about the burping as it is about the setting (in public),
and the way he was corrected. He said that mom used a loud voice
like she was mad. He was embarrassed when others heard. From this
discussion about embarrassment, I realized that behavior needed
to be corrected in a more private way and needed to occur without
yelling. I also wondered if the fact he was embarrassed was an
indication of low self-esteem.
with Colby One on One
As I worked
more closely with Colby, I found my own beliefs being challenged.
One area of challenge was in the area of my authority in the classroom.
I needed to discuss Colbys behavior with him privately so
as to minimize power struggles (Brophy, 1996) and to allow him
to save face. The decision to correct Colby in private and allow
for explanations created a new dimension to our relationship.
I found that Colbys initial explanations for misbehavior
were phrased in religious jargon. I attributed this to his former
school experiences. He would say, "I was tempted. Im
bad. The devil made me do it." I wanted Colby to find other
ways of expressing himself without using vocabulary that he didnt
understand. I also felt it was important to have Colby take responsibility
for his actions as well as being held accountable. I found that
Colby was more receptive to talk about his feelings. He was able
to write about his feelings and draw pictures showing his thoughts
at the time of an infraction. Consistent with Eisenberg (1991),
I found that guided discussions about emotions helped Colby to
understand and manage his feelings. Through the use of the charts
and discussion, Colby became aware of what he could do. Instead
of having his emotions dictate his behavior, Colby was seeing
that he could be in control of his actions. This discovery was
very rewarding. I saw that Colby was not pulling away from correction,
but was working toward making better decisions and avoiding confrontations.
This change in his behavior is supported by Lamborn and others
(1991) who recognized that teachers are likely to engender positive
feelings when they provide such a combination of acceptance, limits,
and expectations concerning behavior and effort.
intervention involved Colby taking responsibility. My idea came
from insight his mother had given me during our interview. When
she related that Colby was a caring child, I sought to find a
way to nurture this trait. I felt that by having Colby take care
of an amaryllis he would have the opportunity to be responsible
for something on an ongoing basis. According to Bogdanets and
Smirnova (1992), goal-directed efforts to shape first graders
ecological ideas constitute a sense of personal responsibility
for the state of nature. Through the care of an amaryllis, I hoped
to instill in Colby a sense of responsibility and respect for
living things (Stapp, 1978; Tilbury, 1994; Wilson, 1994). Children
who are close to nature tend to relate to it as a source of wonder,
joy, and awe. Their spirits are nurtured by nature and they discover
through it "sources of human sensibility" (Wilson, 1992,
p. 348). Care and respect can be modeled through the gentle handling
of plants [in the classroom] (Wilson, 1996).
learn through investigations. They devote enormous amounts of
time and energy to investigating the environments in which they
are raised (Katz, 1993). Colby began asserting himself when taking
care of the amaryllis. He became the resident amaryllis expert.
Others did not know more than he did. Although he still had the
tendency to be physical, he used his words more regularly to make
his wishes known. The experience of taking care of the amaryllis
from bulb to flower showed a continuum of change. Every day as
he saw the changes occurring he marked the new measurements on
a ruler. Colby was taking ownership of the amaryllis and its outcomes
as evidenced by the fact that Colby did not need to be reminded
about caring for the amaryllis. At the end of the day, he checked
on the changes to the amaryllis. There was very little misbehavior
surrounding the care of the amaryllis. He was committed to the
process and seemed to derive personal meaning from the care of
the amaryllis (Field & Hoffman, 1998). My role became that
of a facilitator. I did not tell Colby what to do. I left the
whole amaryllis to him. I responded to questions and concerns.
Colby was left to discover things about his amaryllis, relying
on his own experiences and sense of self-determination.
intervention really was an outgrowth of interventions one and
two. I became aware that I was developing a closer relationship
with Colby. Trust is an important part of the student-teacher
relationship. Without mutual trust students may become increasingly
alienated from school (Erickson, 1996). When students "trust"
their teacher they are more likely to turn to them for guidance
in their learning efforts and be accepting of the teachers
influence attempts (Wooten & McCroskey, 1996). Many of our
discussions occurred at the end of the day when he was taking
care of the amaryllis. Colby was open to talking about his interests
and feelings. As Colby and I had more conversations, he gradually
began trusting me more. He was less defiant and more compliant.
When I asked him to clean up at his desk or move to the floor,
he would move quicker and be ready in a timely manner. There was
still a delicate balance between Colby and myself. I still relied
on direct eye contact when giving him directions. Whereas in the
past I didn't remember seeing Colbys eyes, I now found his
eyes seeking out mine. I got the distinct impression he was looking
for my nod of approval. Even when Colby was doing things wrong,
I noticed that he was quick to look my way. The eye contact was
very effective in communicating my wishes to him. According to
Wooten and McCroskey (1996), students trust of their teachers
is based on a continuing pattern on interaction. This pattern
was extremely important in building the base of respect and trust.
I found that the harder I tried to make connections with Colby,
the more responsive he became. This finding was similar to those
of Thomas, Thomas, Richmond, & McCroskey (1994). For all my
efforts to understand Colby, I was the one challenged to look
at Colby in a different perspective. Instead of seeing him as
a behavior problem, I saw him as complex individual with many
possibilities. I realized that there were reasons why he behaved
in different manners.
As a result
of the three interventions, I felt that I addressed the four concerns
that were raised in the interview with Colbys mom: control,
caring, responsibility, and accountability. Throughout the interventions
the issue of control was addressed. I felt that Colby came to
Hill Square with experiences that left him with little control.
Identifying the contributing factors into Colbys mindset
was important to understanding his negotiations about school,
home and peers. For Colby, school had been a place where he had
little control. He came into the classroom, and he had to obey
all the rules and routines. This "loss of control" is
very common in the first school experience. It is this transition
which was highlighted in Entwisle and Alexanders (1998)
research on transition in primary grades. In order for Colby to
gain control, he needed the skills to manage his emotions. He
needed to fit into the social environment. The first intervention
gave Colby the opportunity to be in control of his own actions.
I feel that Colby has been much more confident in telling how
he feels. No longer is school a place where Colbys has no
control. He consistently uses control when he behaves. This exercise
of control has contributed to Colby successfully making the transition
to first grade. He still needs the personal attention. When I
correct him I need to go to him in private, and I must be sincere.
I feel that by giving Colby the opportunity to identify his feelings,
I am holding him accountable as well as showing him that I value
much changing in Colbys behavior, I really was aware of
my own attitude toward Colby. I had developed a relationship with
him. I found that Colby was more responsible. At the beginning
of the day, he took care of his own routines. He hung his backpack
up on a hook, he put his coat away, he signed up for lunch, and
he turned in his homework folder. Up to the point of these interventions,
Colby was not consistent in his responsibility. Suddenly, there
was a change. Every morning, Colby did all of his morning routines.
He checked with me and then set out to work at a morning center.
I watched him closely during the monitoring section of the research.
He was different. He still had his good and bad days, but things
were being handled differently. One problem did not mean that
the rest of the day had to be bad. Colby had skills to cope with
problems, and he also had me as an advocate.
of value was seen in other aspects of the interventions as well
as a continuance of control. The care of the amaryllis gave Colby
something to value. In a sense, he owned the care of the amaryllis.
He became the sole provider to the amaryllis. This ownership showed
that Colby was negotiating his ability to have an effect on his
environment. When he took care of the amaryllis at the end of
the day, he did not need to be given direction as far as what
to do. He used his time to do his task. Little by little, the
other children began to watch the amaryllis develop. Colby began
to choose other boys to help him in his task. He was selective
in his choosing, and was defensive if someone else tried to do
his job. This ownership was encouraging. Several times Colby was
interested in other plants that I had growing on my desk. At one
point he was so excited that the amaryllis had bloomed that he
noticed the roses had bloomed as well. He was noticing more than
just his plant. His enthusiasm was easily noticed. Colby began
to relate his plant experience to other classroom subjects. For
example, he talked about measuring the plant in math discussions.
He even raised his hand and contributed in morning meetings.
more aware of Colbys actions the more I realized that something
triggered his behavior responses. This knowledge caused me to
go deeper to find answers to how Colby was thinking. An example
of my looking deeper into his actions is seen in my interactions
with the specialists at school.
responding favorably to classroom experiences, and his behavior
was very good. He was receiving behavior stickers and several
times I sent home positive notes. As a result of the changes I
was seeing in the classroom, I wanted to explore why Colby was
still having problems transitioning into other classes such as
PE and music. I chose to take my new insight and see if application
could be made into other settings besides the classroom.
school week, Colby went to Physical Education three times a week,
to music two times a week, library one time a week, and art one
time a week. These times of leaving the classroom create periods
of transition from the classroom to another setting. I saw that
Colby was having difficulty lining up to leave the classroom and
also returning. It wasnt long before the specialists were
telling about concerns they had about Colbys behavior during
the times they had him.
In PE, Colby
routinely received time outs for inappropriate behavior. The PE
teacher described Colby as having either zero time outs, or three
or four. The two extremes became part of Colbys disposition.
When he was good, he was very good. When he was bad, he was very
bad. Part of my ongoing intervention concerning Colbys behavior
was to communicate with the specialists more regularly and look
for patterns in behavior. I discussed the successes I had seen
in the classroom and the insights I had received through discussions
with Colby as well as with his mother. I wondered what the style
of discipline was in the PE environment where there is a lot of
noise and activity. It was not surprising to note that Colbys
misbehavior was called out in front of all his peers. When I related
Colbys embarrassment to Mr. West (the PE teacher), he thanked
me for my insights. The next day, Mr. West told me of an incident
where Colby was misbehaving. Mr. West went to Colby privately
and told him to think about his actions. When Colby was ready
to return, he had to give four rules for how he would obey and
then he could return at his own pace. Mr. West was very pleased
when Colby decided to return and remained on task for the entire
rest of class. I believe that the private discussion lessened
Colby's embarrassment and also gave his control over what was
going to happen next. Respect and control are key issues to helping
Colby make a successful transition.
Ms. White had very few problems with Colbys behavior. She
attributed this to Colbys vested interest in art. She said
that he valued art. In fact, this year one of Colbys watercolor
projects was chosen to be on display at a local university. His
picture was in the paper, and he was pointing to his artwork.
My cultural question dealt with Colbys negotiations of home,
school, and peer cultures and how they may be contributing to
the puzzling situation. In art, Colby saw that he has abilities.
Did he negotiate that art was a good place for him to learn and
therefore, he obeyed rules more closely? The transition there
may have been easier because he felt confident in his own abilities.
Colby was off task every other day. The teacher noted that Colby
was very active, but did not see that this was so different from
other students. She did note that Colby corrected his behavior
at times. She wondered how much he was aware of his actions. Did
he know when he was swinging his feet, tapping his hands or moving
around too much? When she did correct him, she felt as though
she was turning his attention back to his actions. I wondered
if Colbys embarrassment threshold is pushed in music due
to the performance nature of Ms. Pauls class. Did Colby
negotiate that performance was a bad thing and therefore his behavior
remained a challenge? In an interview with his mother, she said
that Colby had been singing in the church choir for several years.
Although he always went to practice, he refused to perform in
front of people. My theory is that performance equated to embarrassment;
thus, Colby misbehaved so that he didnt have to perform
in public. Colby negotiated misbehavior to shield himself from
the embarrassment that might have come if he had performed.
As my research
wound to an end, I was granted an interview with Colbys
parents. Their insight confirmed much of what I had discovered.
They added validity to my successes.
put in preschool when he was two years old because both parents
needed to work. He stayed at his private school until the end
of kindergarten. Colby had been with the same group of kids from
two until the age of six. Not only did he go to school with the
same kids, but he also went to church with them. In his four years
of private school, his behavior escalated into frequent outbursts
in school. At one point, he was "expelled" (parents
words) for one day for choking another student.
that Colby had difficult mornings at home. The mood that he woke
up in determined his day. His mother said that any rushing around
or negative words shut Colby down. He responded favorably when
approached in a cheerful mood. At breakfast, he did not like to
be given only one choice. He needed to have several options in
order to stay happy. These scenarios added insight into why some
mornings at school were more difficult. Even when Colby had the
opportunity to go to the clinic for a snack or to rest he would
return several minutes later feeling better. He pushed to have
control over his environment when his mornings did not go according
to his plans. His being tired or hungry lessened as he found things
to do in the classroom.
revealed that he does not have any friends his own age to play
with. There were only older boys in the neighborhood. Colby did
not participate in any sports programs. This issue of not having
any friends to play with caused concern in the household. Both
parents agreed that Colby needed to have friends to play with.
This need for social interaction was evident in the classroom.
Whether his misbehavior was due talking to a neighbor instead
of doing his work or to playing at his desk, Colby needed time
to understand the social dynamic of the classroom. He needed time
to watch his peers and see how they were successful at "being
When I asked
if Colby had made the transition to first grade, his parents said
it had occurred in December or January. This time frame is interesting
to me because it coincides with when my interventions began. His
parents said that Colbys outbursts lessened although his
being strong-willed was still a battle.
have we learned here?
was over Colbys difficulty in making the transition to first
grade. His behavior and attitude made working with him a real
challenge. I implemented and documented multiple interventions
that brought about changes that led Colby to successfully transitioning
to first grade.
implications does this have for Colby?
for Colby has potential, but he does need guidance in finding
the right paths. Even in his first six years of life, he has made
negotiations about how life works. He strives for attention and
control. He will use whatever means he has available to him. Sometimes
his means are annoying and frustrating, but with careful consideration
he can make better choices. Walking through life with Colby means
that another person, a parent, a teacher, a mentor, will need
to invest their time. The other person will need to be aware of
their own attitudes and make sure that they themselves are not
contributing to Colbys problems. Teachers need to be aware
that Colby needs time to reflect on his own successes. He needs
to know that his teachers care and that they do not see him as
a problem. Practices that engage childrens minds in investigating
aspects of their own experiences and environments can help them
develop realistic criteria of self-esteem (Katz, 1993).
to have control over something that he considers to be of value.
He fights to have his own place in life. His negotiations about
just staying at home are an indication that he wants his own way
but, even more, he wants control over his environment. After a
week of being told what to do with very little freedom, he lives
for his Saturday mornings. He considers free time to be of value.
He will fight for his space. This intense standoff can be alleviated
by ensuring that Colby has control and responsibility over things
that he perceives to be important. He is six, and play is very
important to him. He values his time of play and relaxation. His
free time is his time. As Colby grows older, his interests will
change and he will become more mature, but he will still need
time alone to do those things that he values. To take away that
autonomy is doing Colby a disservice. When Colby finds those things
that are meaningful to him, he will have self-determination. "Self-determination
is the ability to identify and achieve goals based on a
foundation of knowing and valuing oneself'" (Field & Hoffmn,
1994, p. 164).
of self-determination is seen in the interventions when Colby
personally values the care of the amaryllis. I did not need to
encourage him to be responsible. He took the lead with the task,
and he monitored his own attitude when others came over to hinder
or help. Watching a plant change produces a sense of understanding
in a childs own mind in reference to their own growth (Ziegler,
make successful transitions when he perceives he has control and
is given opportunities to be responsible for something he values.
When Colby is corrected, he needs to feel respected and he must
be held accountable for his actions.
implications does this have for future research?
of transition needs more research on it. I wonder if Colby responded
to the interventions because they were in tune with his personality
or if they were directly related to transition. Certainly, I can
argue that Colby did successfully transition to first grade and
that the success happened during the intervention stage of the
research, but what does this mean to others who have similar questions?
that awareness of upcoming transitions needs to begin before the
child begins first grade. Children need to be given time to talk,
question, and consider what will be happening to their environment.
They need to perceive their control in the upcoming transition.
Further thought needs to be given to ways children, parents, and
teachers can prepare for a known transition. Those children who
are more upset by change and loss of control need to be given
greater consideration when looking at transition. Personally,
I want to develop a questionnaire that will be given to the parents
at the beginning of the year. In this questionnaire, I want the
questions to lead me to knowing which children will be having
difficulty making the transition to first grade.
classroom setting, I believe that children need to have a task
that promotes personal responsibility. They need to perceive that
their task is important and that it contributes to their belonging
in the classroom. Based on this research, I would like to see
what tasks children are usually responsible for in the classroom,
and I would further like to see which tasks are perceived to be
of value to the children.
I agree with Entisle and Alexander (1998) who call for more research
on the first grade transition. They see that the implications
of a smooth first grade transition have far reaching effects.
I am anxious to see what new research is out there and also be
part of the research pool.
about Colby from the Art Teacher
- He does
not have a lot of problems
- He values
- His watercolor
picture was chosen to be on display at a local university
he is corrected he responds favorably
about Colby from the Physical Education Teacher
- He knows
he can do athletic things; he has abilities
- He either
gets three time-outs during the half hour PE class or he gets
- His first
problem is usually during the routine warm up
- He lacks
the maturity to keep up with the class
- He should
grow out of the problems
Negotiations about Specials
In one of
my conversations with Colby, I asked him to rank the four specialist
classes according to different attributes. The results were revealing.
Colbys favorite classes were (from most favorite to least
favorite) PE, Art, Library, and Music. He rated his abilities
as being best in Art, then Library, then Music, and lastly PE.
He ranked the teachers he liked best as being Art, Library,
Music, and PE. The classes that he got in most trouble (in order)
were PE, Music, Art, and Library. Colby liked PE best, but he
thought he performed the worst there, he disliked the teacher
most, and he got into trouble in that class most. Art, which he
thought he was best at, also was the teacher he liked most.
about Colbys Investigations of Plants
an amaryllis bulb that I got it for Valentines Day. After
school, I asked Colby if he wanted to help take care of the plant.
project I have started with Colby, is that of taking care of the
plants by the window. I just started putting plants out. I read
in one of my articles that learning to care is important in the
transition from K to 1st grade. From talking to Colby's mom, she
seemed to indicate that Colby was caring from time to time. I
thought I'd give him this opportunity in class. I introduced this
project to him and he seemed real interested. I wonder if he will
keep up with this or will it fade? I get the impression that he
isn't given many opportunities for responsibility at home so I
wanted to give him a unique responsibility that no one else has.
I think this may tie in with his negotiations about school. Not
sure how I'm monitoring yet, I'm just watching.
that Colby is taking care of the plant. I showed him how to measure
the plant, as some growth is now evident. I am trying to tie things
to math because this is his strong subject. I haven't had to remind
him about watering the plant.
I find that
Colby checks on the plants at the end of the day. He gets his
water and waters the plants. Today another child (who I would
say is Colby's nemesis) filled up a cup of water and followed
him back to the plant. Colby was highly defensive. This was his
job and Mark was not going to interfere. Colby had me come back
and I shooed Mark away. Colby was concerned that the plant was
dying because some of the bulb was coming off (it is an amaryllis).
I assured him that things were fine. When we turned the plant
around, we discovered a new shoot beginning to grow!
"Im going to water it on the other side to make it
"Look at my plant."
"Look at my plant!"
He is watering
the part of the plant that grows.
He is excited
about growth of plant.
He is predicting
outcome and focus on the measurement of the plant.
if they can help Colby.
not need direction.
"Should I water the other plants?" (daffodils and roses on my
"Wow! Look what I made grow!"
not notice plant until the end of the day. This seems to be a
pattern. Colby does not check the plant first thing in the morning.
It is part of his afternoon routine. He notices the flower beginning
to open up out of green leaves.
different boys to help him water the plant. Adam helps. Justin
has not been asked yet. Colby gives directions about having the
cup filled half way up.
asked to help water the plant.
that the plant will grow more, but doesnt mention the flower
until it is pointed out.
"The bud is starting to push out of the "coat." Bobby
asks Colby if he has looked at the plant. Colby stands up 3/4
of the way, peers over toward the window and says, "Whoa,
Its coming out! Ive watered it so much." He sits
down and goes back to playing. He does not go to the plant.
says, "It grew a lot!" as he waters the flower and the
the only one who can help Colby (this is the first time another
child has helped).
I have Colby
sit by his plant as he reads with a buddy. He doesnt look
at it. I ask Colby to talk about it to his reading buddy. He says
he waters it and it grows.
does help his reading buddy work on a few words.
have now unfolded all the way. Colby does not notice this until
another child points this out. His eyes are brightened. Colby
says, "Four flowers, wow! Its getting stronger and
stronger." He runs his hands up the stem and says "Whats
this white stuff (on his hands)? I think its honey. Its
"Look at this guys, its blooming too" (referring to the
roses next to the amaryllis). He then points to the daffodils
on my desk and says they have a crazy hairdo.
Then 3 boys
get yardsticks and begin measuring the amaryllis. They argue over
the correct measurement.
At the end
of the day, Colby was touching the petals and was humming to himself
as he watered the plants.
today, we brainstormed things we can measure. Colby raised his
hand and said that we could measure plants!
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