They say childhood is a journey, not a race. Children mature at different rates and aren’t always ready for the tasks expected of them in school. Giving them the gift of time is one of the most important things we can do for our kids.
That’s the philosophy behind the Junior First Grade program. Junior First Grade is for children who have been through kindergarten but aren’t ready for first grade.
I was my school’s junior first grade teacher for four years.
Our district initiated the program well over twenty years ago. It was based on the junior first model developed by schools in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
Children are recommended for junior first grade by their kindergarten teachers. Parental permission is also required for placement in junior first grade.
Generally, parents look at placement in junior first grade more favorably than retention in kindergarten.
Children who don’t have any special needs beyond speech services may be in the program. All children in junior first grade are included in the Title I program and there is a Title I aide in the classroom all day every day of the week except Fridays.
The typical junior first grader is immature. He or she often needs to be taught organizational and social skills.
The typical junior first grader is also below grade level academically. Rather than repeating the kindergarten reading curriculum or modifying the first grade curriculum, I used a special reading program with my students which reviewed all letters sounds before working on sight words and finally much practice with decoding of simple words.
I repeated the kindergarten math curriculum with the addition of pencil and paper practice in computation and other math skills.
In addition, we did many art projects for experience in following directions and small motor practice.
The typical junior first grader is often immature. He or she is given practice in organizational as well as social and self-help skills.
Class size is limited to less than 15 students. In my experience, 12 was a good number of students for junior first graders.
It is generally believed that this teaching position has a high level of burnout. Most teachers hold the position for six years or less.
Sadly, the junior first grade program has been cut at my school. A former administrator always said tht the junior first grade program paid for itself (through student aid gained while kids were enrolled for an extra year) so I was surprised when I discovered that the program had been cut.
Parents of former junior first grade students, as a rule, generally speak positively about the program which gave their kids the time to grow, mature and achieve academically.