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It Starts Around Third Grade

Debra Lambrecht, Founder, Caulbridge Education | November 4, 2019

Academics tend to break down around third grade, when children go from learning-to-read to reading-to-learn, or from simple arithmetic to more complex math concepts. In the earlier grades it is more likely that learning differences will go unnoticed because children are quick to develop compensation strategies. As the learning becomes more complex, these strategies tend to fall apart. For example, it may appear that a student is reading, when they have actually memorized the sentences. As soon as the reading demand becomes too great to simply memorize, a student will become overwhelmed and resistant to reading.

Whenever I hear a well-meaning adult helping with homework say to a child, “I’m going to show you a trick,” I shudder because it generally means they are offering a procedural trick without the necessary comprehension behind it. Instead, when a child is struggling, they likely need the concepts broken down further, more concretely, rather than layering a trick over the misunderstanding.

While it starts around third grade, these learning challenges are not without warning signs that are evident as early as kindergarten. A strong foundation for academics requires an understanding of one-to-one correspondence, and the ability to decode and encode (break down and build up) numbers and symbols. This number-symbol relationship is developed in direct correlation to the natural physical and sensory developments of the child. Building a strong picture of numbers and symbols can help to activate and sustain working memory and other brain processes necessary for more-advanced learning. Working memory also correlates to spatial awareness, balance, and imagination.

Children with underdeveloped working memory may appear scattered, have poor motor control, and be drawn to sensory-seeking behaviors like fidgeting, pushing, or rough play. When these foundational skills are underdeveloped, giving a child a “trick” is not likely to result in more-effective learning. Building proprioceptive capacity – also known as spatial awareness – in support of working memory, however, will in turn support academics.

Rather than waiting until third grade to identify learning challenges, Caulbridge works to build the code of learning that is sustainable as children move through their school years.
To be sure your child is on track for success, contact us to receive your FREE Sensory-Motor and Academic Screening.

Excerpt from A Common Sense Education in Uncommon Times: Caulbridge, by Debra Lambrecht
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