March 2006 Update

i’ll start this update with JD. JD has been participating in a basketball class class lately at the rec center we joined late last summer. he is in a class with his best buddy Robert and some other 5 and 6 year olds. when the class first started, JD was fairly uncoordinated. i showed him some Pistol Pete video and explained how much PP liked to dribble around town and how he worked on dribbling all of the time. now in class the coach will have everyone gather around and they all sit down while JD stands back behind everyone and just dribbles, dribbles, dribbles. and, after about 6 – 7 weeks of classes, he is getting MUCH better. they had a drill this past week where the kids shot from 3 different spots and the coach would have them shoot and then make them run to the next spot and get the feed and shoot quickly again. JD made all 3 of his shots while most of the kids missed all 3 shots. he’s just getting it lately and he’s loving it. sometimes it’s hard to keep the proper perspective and remember that he hasn’t even started kindergarten yet. i have another little JD story, but it’s related to Ellie’s story so i’ll start that first.

Ellie will be taking a big test tomorrow. the test is a test for the gifted program in East Grand Rapids. let me first explain that this is the 3rd grader’s test. all second graders take this test to see who qualifies for the gifted program. the top 10% of second graders are then eligible for the gifted program. that being said, Ellie has been selected to take the test as well. for her to qualify for the gifted program as a first grader, she’d have to beat 90% of the second graders taking the test. no first graders that took the test last year qualified, so we aren’t holding out any hope. but, Paula and I worked with Ellie on a practice-type test so that she’d get a feel for the kinds of questions that might be on the test (it’s just reading and math). we bought the practice test on Amazon and had Ellie try the reading portion. Ellie got every single question correct in our first session (about 1/2 of the practice test in reading). her verbal skills are pretty awesome. the next night, i had her try her hand on the math problem solving. it was more difficult for her. the thing is, she has to read the directions and figure out how to do the problems herself. many of the questions are posed in ways that she doesn’t understand; however, she can do the concepts if they were worded differently. for example, she knows how to do multiplication (hasn’t memorized the times tables, but she knows how to solve multiplication). the test presents mostly word problems instead of the number problems they do in first grade, so that was an adjustment. but the test would say something like this, “Mary has 2 times as many apples and she has oranges. If she has 3 oranges, how many apples must she have?” she didn’t know what times meant until i explained it to her. once she realized it was the same as multiplication, she was golden. keep in mind, they haven’t even heard the word, “multiply” yet in first grade — this is just from home tutoring. anyway, if she really knows what the questions are asking then she can get most of the problems correct, so we’ll see how she does on her own starting tomorrow. i think the test takes place over many days and the test forms are mailed elsewhere to be scored, so who knows when we learn more, but it should be a good test taking experience.

i said i’d tie JD back into this discussion. as i was working on math problem solving with Ellie, I was posing a bunch of questions out verbally. JD was sitting about 10 feet away looking through a book. a couple of times, he actually beat Ellie to the answer and he was correct. for example, one question said, “what do you get when you add 600 + 50 + 3” and JD knew it within a second. Ellie blurted out, “HEY!” and JD just chuckled. i think he’s ahead of many first graders with regard to math and i know he’s even ahead of a few with regard to reading, unfortunately. also, Ellie asked me today to explain adjectives. i doubt she’s learning this in school, but she’d heard the word and was curious. she knew it was a part of speech. i explained it to her and when JD heard the word ‘noun’ he immediately said, “a noun is a person, place or a thing.” not bad for my little preschooler. he’s sharp.