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Simon’s kindergarten class is part of a district pilot project using a game-based computer program to help kids learn to read. It’s called Lexia, and the kids all work on it about 20 minutes a week during their computer time. A month or so ago, parents were given credentials to install and use Lexia at home. It was assigned as homework for one night, and we were encouraged to use it for 30 minutes a week over the winter holiday. Some parents had their kids logging in regularly before break, too.

Early on, Simon didn’t say much about Lexia. He seemed to like it, but it wasn’t a big deal for him. After our initial homework assignment, we didn’t log on again until the break. However, during the break and in the week since, he’s wanted to log on much more often and talks about Lexia a lot.

Why the change? It could be that he’s gotten the hang of it and enjoys it more. Could be. I don’t think that’s it, though. What I think is that once the chapter-book-reading kids in his class were moved up to first grade, Simon became one of the class’s top readers. By the break, he was the only one (or one of two) who had moved from Lexia Early Reading (pre-K & K) to Lexia Primary Reading (1st and 2nd grade). By the break’s end, he was a level or two ahead of everyone else.

And he liked that very, very much. So much that he told me, his grandparents, other adults, and non-school friends. At the first sharing time in class last week, he shared his new level. When he told me that, I had a little chat with him about how it’s great to proud of hard work, but not great to brag or make any of his classmates feel bad. After all, I explained, they are working hard and doing their best, too. But some are younger, some don’t have parents who can help, and some just aren’t  ready to read yet.

For the rest of the year, Simon’s time on Lexia is being limited at school. He’s finished the kindergarten curriculum, and his teacher doesn’t want him to blast through Grade 1 since his class might use Lexia next year. During computer time, Simon is now being directed to other educational games. Mr. Sowder has asked me to do the same at home. As a result, others are catching up, and I sense that Simon isn’t thrilled to have the kindergarten wolves nipping at his heels.

Lexia isn’t—or at least shouldn’t be—a competition. I explained that. And truly, after our talks Simon seemed like he might be OK with not being the top dog for much longer. Then yesterday after school he came bounding into the gym (where parents pick up kids) with a gleam in his eye. He was bursting with excitement and couldn’t wait to tell me something:

“Guess what Mama? Today Aghalya had to give up a dollar*. That means I’m the best in class for behavior now!”

See how well that worked out? Swapping out one competitive focus for another wasn’t what I had in mind exactly, but I’m starting to think that with Simon that may be as good as it gets.

*The dollar refers to the class discipline system, in which each child starts each day with 4 dollars. If you give up two, you go on yellow. Three puts you on red. And four is big trouble and has only happened twice the whole year. Simon gave up his first and only dollar for crying and not talking last fall during his perfectionism and fatigue related collapse. That put Aghalya in the sole lead for behavior until December, when she had to give up a dollar. Now that she’s given up another, Simon can lay claim to the fewest infractions trophy. The kid loves rules. Maybe too much.

One Response to “Competition”

  1. tlalbaugh says:

    Tom’s comment about this story? “What’s up with a system that asks you to WITHHOLD a learning opportunity for a kid because it might affect what he’s supposed to do the next year? Heaven forbid you strike while the iron is hot and while you have a kid who is motivated and excited to learn.” Can you tell he went to an awesome private elementary school in New Haven? Kira complains endlessly about her computer class because her teacher won’t let her go to the next level. Her homeroom teacher has just started assigning her different stuff, I notice (the dot-to-dot picture to 15 she brought home for homework on Thursday had a note on it that she should write a couple of sentences on the back about the picture, for example). I’m not sure she even realizes she’s doing different stuff, however, which is fine with us…

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