Sunday, August 17, 2014

What To Expect When You Are Expecting 9 Year Olds

"My ninth year was certainly more exciting than any of the others. But not all of it was exactly what you would call fun."
- Danny, the Champion of the World, by Roald Dahl

Danny, surrounded by his dead birds

So begins the "Nine-Year-Olds" chapter in Chip Wood's Yardsticks

I think it's perfect.

Every year at back to school night I spend a chunk of time with parents talking about nine-year-olds.

Then I talk about ten-year-olds.

Then I talk about how I plan to spend 4th grade helping with that transition. 

It is one of the few constants in my practice from year to year, so I thought it was time to make this into one or two blog posts. At the very least it will be a good online reference... for me.

Onto the show!

I've had about a decade to compare Chip Wood's observations with my own, and although by its very definition, its inaccurate to generalize, I'd say a few of his generalizations about 9 year-olds are pretty accurate.

Here are the points that not only ring true but are important puzzle pieces in a 4th grader's year. Also, let's do this rainbow style:

Gross Motor Ability

- Likes to push their physical limits, whether challenging themselves, racing each other, or trying to beat the clock.
How this translates: Whether we want them to be or not, kids at this age are really competitive.

- Restless; can't sit still for long.
How this translates: This is a great age for learning by moving and doing.


- Needs homework related specifically to the next day's work; often asks the teacher, "Why do we have to do this?"
How this translates: 
This is a tough age for longer projects that span over the course of several days or weeks, but that's a skill to learn. 

- A good age for scientific exploration. They are intellectually curious, but less imaginative than at eight.
How this translates: 
You have to push them a little more with their scientific inquiry, and experiments take a little longer than you'd think since it's sometimes challenging for them to think out of the box. 

- Takes pride in attention to detail and finished work, but may jump quickly between interests.
How this translates: 
"Style over substance" can be the mantra. They'd like to spend more time on the presentation than the research.

- Beginning to see the "bigger world," including issues of fairness and justice.
How this translates: 
I've always thought that fourth grade was the perfect age to start asking tough questions and looking at some difficult realities. Not everyone gets it, but this is the age that is good to start planting the seeds of a larger world view. 


- Sometimes reverts to baby talk
How this translates: 
Every year this is true for a handful of students. 

Social-Emotional Behavior

- Very competitive- adult's sense of lightness and fun can help them relax.
How this translates:  
Remember that "gross motor ability" trait of needing to push their limits? I think at least some of this stems from a need for competition. It crops up in all sorts of ways, like the point below.

- Likes to work with a partner of their choice- usually of the same gender. Begins to form cliques
How this translates: 
I think every age group likes to work with a partner of their choice. The important point in this one is that cliques tend to form, and I think it's largely because kids at this age can be competitive. 

- In groups may spend more time arguing about facts, rules, and directions than doing the actual activity.
How this translates: 
Want to try a new student led game in the last half hour of the school day? Better carve out another chunk of time, because they could spend the original time allotment arguing about slight nuances in the rules. 

- Likes to negotiate. This is the age of "Let's make a deal"
How this translates: 
Turn that negotiating power into an asset. Introducing debate in 4th grade can be awesome to witness. 

- Generally worried and anxious
How this translates: 
It's a terrible age for timed and standardized tests. Stress can easily turn to tears and even depression. I would also like to add that this is the age of "What if...?" 

- Very self-critical, and critical of others (including adults)
How this translates: 
I've only had a couple of classes that's been critical of adults on a regular basis, but I've seen it happen. But being self-critical and critical of others is a constant.

- Tend to give up on tasks
How this translates: 
You have to baby sit a little more than you'd expect for kids this old.

I'll try to write a post about 10 year olds next, and how 4th grade can be an awesome year to bridge the gap between the two ages. 

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