5 Tips for Making a Repeat School Year Great

Teacher and elementary students around textbook in classroom

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Being held back a year is a dramatic step in the life of a child or teen. If you have tried all the other alternatives, if you have checked to see that your student really would benefit from repeating a grade, or if your school district is requiring your child to repeat a grade after a year of struggle, you are probably still afraid that another year in the same grade will end the same way.

Repeating a grade doesn't have to be a repeat of what has already happened.

There are several things to consider changing for the repeat school year to help your child have a successful year that will have them back on course, rather than just doing more of the same they have already gone through.

Increase in Teacher Communication 

Repeating a grade is a major strategy to try and help a struggling student. If your child needs to repeat a grade, then it is critical that any other problems that may arise are handled quickly. Make sure you stay in very close contact with your child's teacher. 

At the beginning of the school year come up with a plan to keep in regular contact, and then make sure you do stay in touch. When you find out quickly when your child is doing well in school or struggling, you will be able to praise them or offer needed support fast.

Consider Different Teachers 

A different teacher for the repeated grade year will give your child a fresh start and a clean slate with someone new. This will help to break up any bad patterns from the previous year and provide your child with further growth as they are still getting a new teacher for the new school year.  

You may want to keep the same teacher if your child and the teacher developed a good relationship despite your child's struggles. If your child has a teacher who is actually making good progress with your child, and your child still needs another year, then it might work to have the same teacher again.

Consider Different Curriculum 

Your child has already seen a particular set of textbooks combined with a series of lesson plans and units. Getting the information presented in a different way will reinforce the learning that did occur while the rest of the material will be presented in a different way. Using different curriculum gives your child a fresh view of the material instead of doing the same thing twice. A second view and learning approach may be what they need to succeed.

Consider Different Class Roles 

Talk with your child's new teacher about the positive roles that your child can have in their new classroom. This can help avoid the social stigma of being "the kid who failed." Instead, your child's teacher may be able to identify ways that your child can be a leader in the classroom. Look for some of your child's positive skills and character traits that the teacher can build on to help your child and their peers see your child as a success.

Add a Focus on Your Child's Positive Skills

Being held back a year in school is usually a result of a child just not being ready for the next grade level — yet. Unfortunately, sometimes there is a stigma associated with being held back a year. Your child may feel that they are stupid, bad, or somehow just not able to do things right. This can cause a serious blow to self-esteem.

Providing your child with opportunities for success can prevent the stigma of grade retention from affecting your child.

Enroll your child in extracurricular activities that play to their talents. Your child will also have something positive to look forward to in their school day.

You can also help your child's self-esteem by working on developing a growth mindset. A growth mindset views intelligence and character as being the result of the work that a person puts into their development, rather than believing that people are smart or good at school (or not) and that it cannot be changed.

Consider Direct Teaching of Social and Study Skills

Children who are held back a year are often socially immature. Teaching them social skills to get along better with their peers will give them a better opportunity to succeed in school. Improving social skills leads to better group work and ability to participate in class, leading to better learning. 

If your child needs help with study skills or organizing their school work, then directly teaching your child these skills will help them in school. 

Ask your child's school or pediatrician for information about where you can get extra help with social skills or organization. Your child's school teachers may be aware of resources in your community that can help your child with these necessary skills. 

By Lisa Linnell-Olsen
Lisa Linnell-Olsen has worked as a support staff educator, and is well-versed in issues of education policy and parenting issues.