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My nearly 6 year-old son is going to first grade next year. He's already reading quite fluently and writing. He does basic math (without writing). He has great sense of humor, and he loves to make his friends laugh.

I'm afraid my child disturb the class when he starts first grade already reading and writing?

My concern is that he'll be very bored when starting school, and then will start making jokes and disturbing the class. Then he might be tagged by the teacher as he will disturb her in her teaching. On the one hand, I think this is a real possibility, and on the other hand, I don't want to take any action or say anything that might make this reality.

Any suggestions about how to move forward?

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What's the questions!? Asking for general advice on a hypothetical situation does not make for a good question on this site. What do you want to know specifically? –  Javid Jamae May 20 '11 at 20:59
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I think it's an excellent question, quite clear and not hypothetical at all. –  Lennart Regebro May 21 '11 at 13:45
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I am very interested in this as we're living the same issue; my eldest daughter is very brightm, was reading writing and doing basic maths before she staretd school at 5. we then kept her going, to get her through the sats the kids do at 7 (Key stage something) and by that time, she finished at the top in every subject. Now, she loses concentration through boredom and is in constant trouble at school, and we're starting to get concerned. The teachers say she's so bright, it isn't affecting her, she gets the concept straight away, then interupts the class all the time (tbc) –  Hairy May 23 '11 at 7:40
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...but that the other kids are suffering. She's getting 2 warnigns every day, and then getting a 'strike' which means she loses out on her reading time. But she is so good at reading, that this isn't affecting her. I am pulling what very little hair I have left out of my head. I am genuinely stuck at what to do, as nothing is working. The teachers are saying her work is still of an excellent standard, but that they are thinking of excluding her, as she is affecting others in the class. I was going to ask this very question of the site today, so will watch very interested. –  Hairy May 23 '11 at 7:42
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@Hairy: To me this is absolute failure of the teacher. Unfortunately it's hard to find good schools for smart kids, and sometimes the smart kid problem is not recognized. –  Paul de Vrieze Jun 10 '11 at 14:12
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8 Answers 8

Probably the most important thing to do is notify the teacher as soon as possible what your child should already be capable of that's in excess of the baseline requirements. That way they might be able to make accommodations to keep your child from disrupting the class.

I'm not sure what other localities or countries are like, but kids in my area of the US should learn how to read and write in Kindergarten, so all students should be reading and writing by the time they get to 1st grade.

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In Israel, children learn the letters in Kindergarten, and they cna do some very basic reading, but don't actually learn to properly read and write before first grade. –  Zottek May 20 '11 at 19:39
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If your child is going to be attending public school in the US, many of them have "gifted and talented" (or similarly named) programs that can provide an outlet for advanced students to express themselves outside the normal classroom setting. In some schools this is an entirely separate classroom for the entire day (which I personally wouldn't like; I think it's important to be around a broad range of peers for better socialization) and in some it's a part-time program where the children are removed from the classroom for a portion of the day to work separately on more self-directed activities.

While it may not be something you can try in first grade, I'd also highly recommend getting your son involved in some kind of tutoring/mentoring program -- as a tutor or mentor. Helping out other students will not only help your child develop better social skills, but will provide a challenge (at little to no cost to you or the school) and is actually the best way to really gain a deeper understanding of the material. Plus -- best of all -- it helps out the other kids.

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Gifted and Talented programs often only apply to third grade and up and with all the budget cuts these programs are decreasing. –  balanced mama Nov 28 '12 at 23:05
    
Also, gifted kids often get used as "tutors" in the classroom anyway. This sets them apart in ways that open them up to ridicule from their peers if they are put in such a leadership role too soon, too often, without first learning how to help others without degrading those others (some kids have a natural talent for this and are fine, others are not) so while it seems like a great answer to the problem (and is for some) it can also be exceedingly detrimental for others. Parents and teachers should only do this with highly empathetic kids that are also gifted inter-personally. –  balanced mama Dec 19 '13 at 13:11
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I would be more concerned about your son's potential being wasted by being bored than about how the teacher might feel if he acts up out of boredom. Fortunately, either way, the solution is the same: explore options that would allow him to be challenged or at least entertained without being disruptive. Possibilities include:

  1. Talk to the teacher and let him or her know what your son can handle already, and leave it to the teacher to find a way to keep him sufficiently stimulated and challenged.

  2. Suggest to the teacher that your son not be required to pay attention as long as he actually knows the material they're covering, as long as he can entertain himself by reading a book quietly.

  3. Find out whether the school offers gifted and talented (as it is called in the U.S.) classes, or if it makes sense for him to skip a grade.

  4. Explore whether there are any alternate schools that might be able to accomplish 1-3 better. (For example, in the U.S. one can often find Montessori schools that generally accommodate people of above-average skill pretty well.)

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Here's my advice, and it's coming directly from personal experience: Do nothing.

I was that kid. I was there. I was slamming down books like The Phantom Toolbooth in my first grade year, I was better at math than anyone else, and I was pretty well-adjusted. The teacher had myself and another student enlisted in a support role as an aide during the afternoons, and things went pretty well, in general.

But then, my mother decided that I wasn't being challenged enough, so she took matters into my own hands, and decided to skip me ahead a year. All of a sudden, I was a year younger than everyone else - developmentally and socially - and it made a pretty big difference. My classmates were always bigger and faster at me at playground games, and I was almost always picked last. I was a year behind socially, too - they were all into sports, while I was still bringing stuffed animals to school. They realized that I was an easy target, and I got ridiculed constantly; they resented me because I could keep up with them in the work, even though I was younger than they were - "You're not supposed to be in this grade!" was the worst. After that year, I got put in the same classes as most of those kids for years after (let's hear it for being in a small town!), and I never really lived it down. As a result of having very few friends, I spent most of my highschool career glued to a computer screen, rather than going out and doing whatever fun things that higschool kids get to do. It took me a few years (and a very patient girlfriend, who is now my fiancee) to properly bring me into the 'real world' and to teach me how to properly interact with people.

Now, I understand that my situation is a bit extreme (and I'm definitely not trying to show off my sob story!), and there were some other factors at play (bad parenting, for one), but the fact is that children develop really really fast at that age - to the point where depriving them from just a year's worth of social development could have some really detrimental effects.

It sounds to me like you've got a pretty bright kid, and that he's probably headed for college after high school. Remember that if you put your son ahead a year, then you'll probably be shipping him off to college a year earlier than otherwise.

Also remember that if he sails through elementary and middle school, that it's very likely that he'll still be pretty enthusiastic about school in general when he hits high school, and that he'll have the chance to be in AP classes and get some college credit while he's there. Making it through elementary any faster really won't do much for him, in my opinion.

So, with that being said, I'd encourage you just to encourage him to do his best, and to leave him where he is and let him develop at the same pace as his peers. If he breezes through the work in first grade, then he'll probably breeze through it just as much in second or third grade, if you were to put him ahead - by and large, the work isn't that much more difficult - so I'd have to say that the behavior issues you've mentioned would be something completely separate. If he doesn't feel 'challenged', maybe you could see if there are some after-school activities he could be part of. Maybe send him over to Stack Overflow and let us turn him into a programmer. :D

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Oh boy that sounds familiar! –  Torben Gundtofte-Bruun May 21 '11 at 15:33
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-1 Do nothing is the wrong thing here. I agree that skipping ahead in classes is not necessarily a good solution although it sounds like it. But doing nothing is not the only alternative. You were lucky in having a good teacher that engaged you in a support role. Most kids who are ahead of their class doesn't have that luck, and end up either disturbing their class, or bored and hating school. –  Lennart Regebro May 23 '11 at 7:13
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Not down-voting, but I was in the "do nothing" category and things didn't go well for me socially either. I've seen kids who had good experiences skipping ahead who were socially advanced. Not all academically bright kids will have their social skills lag their academics, and being kept in a dull class isn't going to help build social skills IME. My situation had a happy ending - I live in WA state, USA, and there is an early college program called Running Start that finally got me into a great environment for both social and academic development (fulltime college). –  Ethel Evans May 25 '11 at 21:07
    
@Ethel Evans I've got a good friend in WA that did Running Start... I really wish they had something like that in Michigan (maybe they do / will when I have kids). Thank you for the perspective, though. –  kivetros May 26 '11 at 23:29
    
As a kid, I had the primary school problem. I was "lucky" in that I used to keep a book in my drawer, that I opened to read, and pretended to do the school work or pay attention. At the same time, it did not quite teach me to work hard at all. –  Paul de Vrieze Jun 10 '11 at 14:15
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Before school starts, have a sit down meeting with your child's prospective teacher. Bring an example of what he's already capable of for reading and writing, and explain your concerns both about him, and his possible impact on the class should he be bored to tears. See if you can't come to an agreement about finding ways to challenge him that won't disrupt the class (higher level books or other assignments, etc).

I was 'that kid' too. I was reading when I was 2, which freaked out my mother. In the 2nd grade I had the reading and comprehension of a 10th grader. My classmates were reading "Fun with Dick and Jane" and I was reading "The Catcher in the Rye".

My 3rd grade teacher wouldn't let me have any 'advanced' reading assignments, and I was bored to death everyday in school, and I acted out often. My parents bought me books which were small enough I could bring with me and hide behind whatever I was supposed to be reading in school. That got me through my 3rd grade year.

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Your parents were awesome for that. –  kivetros May 21 '11 at 17:36
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It saved my teacher's sanity too, I'm sure. Because if I wasn't reading, I was talking. BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH, WHY WHY, HOW? Where? How does "X" work? Why does "Y" happen when you do "X"? etc. I know I must have annoyed my father to no end with all my questions, but that's the kind of kid I was. –  Darwy May 21 '11 at 18:56
    
+1 Yeah, that sounds kinda like my experience (even if I didn't read until I was 5). –  Lennart Regebro May 23 '11 at 7:11
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My son had the same problem as a 5 yr. old entering kindergarten. It was his teacher's first class. When he finished his assignment (very quickly) he then took the role of "teaching" his table mates whatever crossed his mind at the time. Of course, his teacher was unhappy and used the accepted behavior modification program with him.

He got his name put on the board for "talking" or "misbehaving" for his first offense. A check was added for the second as a warning. The third offense resulted in another check and missing his next break time. He quickly learned the pattern and managed to get only 2 checks EVERYDAY.

We met with his teacher and explained that he loved seeing his name and would do ANYTHING to get it put on the board. We suggested that she put everyone's name on the board and take it down for an offense. Also, we recommended that she give him the assignment of helping another child who needed support or other special assignments after he finished his work.

These recommendations did result in better adaptation to the environment.

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This is a GREAT solution for kids that already have great social skills and can help without offending the others. I'm glad it has worked well for your son, but parents and teachers should be careful when taking this route that the answer fits well with the child's ability to be empathetic and a good "teacher" as well as good at the subject. Also, many kids come to resent always being in the position as "tutor" by the time they are in Middle School and prefer to shed the role as they get older - so it often only works for so long even when it is a good fit for the child. –  balanced mama Dec 19 '13 at 13:17
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I had to struggle with this question for my own child quite a bit a little over a year ago now.

Before about third grade, kids that are skipped, often find later that they struggle, because the other kids have "caught up" so gifted programs are frequently not offered until third grade in the states (including where we live) as it is hard to determine giftedness vs. advanced knowledge because of high early exposure for our beurocracy.

I tried to speak about alternative work for areas in which she is ahead, with the administrators and was told that at our particular school this was not possible (if you are lucky, you may get connected with a really great teacher that is knowledgeable and can work with you - we were not). From experience, I know many private schools really aren't better for gifted kids than the public schools, (they frequently just require more work, not better work).

As a former teacher of twice exceptional middle-school students (the term means they are extremely gifted in one area, but also have a learning, behavioral, emotional or social disorder that makes mainstreaming difficult) I had been a member of AEGUS (the Association for the Education of the Gifted and Under-served Student) and learned about the social difficulties many gifted children face. Intellectually they don't often fit in with their own age group, but developmentally, they don't often fit in with their own intellectual peers either. This does not pose a problem when the kids are allowed to move between social groups during their activities, but many of our schools set up cohorts based on age alone or ability alone. When kids are stuck within one group only, it can make things especially challenging in terms of fitting in well.

Some kids are able to adjust and operate just fine in their assigned classroom. Particularly if you have a good teacher that is also understanding (to ensure that is the case you will at least need to be communicative with your child's teachers as is recommended in the answer by Darwy.

What we eventually settled on was for me to home school her. It isn't for everyone and it is a lot of work, but it is easier than you might expect. If you want to consider the option, I suggest you start by reading, What should I consider when deciding whether or not to home school my child?

We also seriously considered a private school situation or just putting her in school and waiting it out until she could get into the gifted program. If you go either of these routes, I suggest you communicate clearly and frequently with the administration and the teacher. Create friendships/relationships with these people. If you can volunteer in the school do so. Not so much to "spy" but just so you know what is up, what issues are being faced by the school community on the whole and how those may or may not be impacting your individual kid.

Not all kids that read early are gifted, but assuming yours is;

I also recommend you explicitly address two things for your child:

Social Stuff

  1. No matter what choice you make, socialization will be a big deal for you kid (in school or home-schooled) don't make the mistake of believing the school will handle it. Think about it, schools are for teaching academics. There are some social skills taught in elementary, like taking turns and sharing. However, most schools do not explicitly teach conflict resolution skills, listening skills, etiquette etc past the first couple of grade levels. Socialization requires feedback and support in concert with one-another.

  2. Make sure your child is involved in a social "interest area" club or something. The club or activity you choose with your child should have a range of ages, so your child can find an intellectual equal or two and a developmental equal or two. These may or may not be the same kids. My daughter happens to fit in best with kids that are about a year or two older than herself right now - as adolescence comes, that is likely to change. The advantage of interest level clubs and activities with mixed age groups is that your child is exposed to a range of ages and abilities. this allows the child to guide herself to just the right amount of challenge (socially and intellectually) for herself on any given day and with any given project/challenge.

  3. Eat a meal together as a family almost every day. I know that one sounds out of place but it will do two things. One, it makes sure you know what is going on in your child's life because it designates a time for conversation and Two the single most consistently related factor that shows up in studies on the subject for social/emotional success in teenagers is whether or not they had family meals together throughout their childhood.

Become Informed

  1. Please do not let teachers give your child extra work thinking this will help them because of their giftedness. It won't. They will just resent the extra work that is likely just as tedious as the rest of the work they are asked to do. Gifted kids need different work. They need more authentic challenges that include chances for problem solving, and creativity. Gifted kids also often prefer collaboration if there are intellectual peers with whom they can collaborate (but can easily be irritated if they are expected to collaborate with people who are not intellectual peers).

  2. Read this article from NAGC as a place to start when evaluating educational options for your child. It is about what good gifted education looks like. For example it goes over the difference between acceleration and breadth and discusses the fact that many kids need one or the other and sometimes alternate between them. The pace and depth of the work offered needs to fit the needs of the individual student which means frequent evaluation of the curricula itself needs to happen and adjustments made as needed for each individual. The student needs to set the pace, not the curriculum. It lists this point along with the need for excellent teachers and curricula, an understanding of supported risk by teachers and caregivers and the need for a higher degree of difficulty than average as goals that must be attained in providing the best education available for gifted kids.

  3. Get involved with AEGUS and/or NAGC so you stay apprised of the most recent studies, findings and information about what is happening in gifted education and how best to aid your child throughout his education.

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I know this is kind of an old question that was recently edited, but I had something I thought was worth adding: My mom teaches kindergarten, which isn't first grade, but close, and they have a huge range of ability, students who don't even know their letters to ones who are fluent readers at the beginning of the year. In her classroom they handle the huge disparity on skill levels by having different reading groups that focus on reading books at their own level, and do their reading activities during rotating "centers" time while the other students are occupied with listening stations, math manipulatives, and so forth. Their reading homework is similarly targeted toward the actual reading level of the students. If this was the case in your son's class, it would be a complete non-issue. So it may be useful to discuss how these subjects are taught with the teacher, and whether there is any reason you should be concerned and how you can best support your child if so. If they teach in an engaging and fun way, it may not matter whether he already knows the materials as far as whether he enjoys class.

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