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clare1822
clare1822 asks:
Q:

Help!! My 1st grader has writing trouble. His reading and math are beyond grade level but usually cannot done writing task on time at school.

My son is 7 years old, first grader. He was learning reading since age 3. His reading level is 6 now and able to do 3rd-4th grade math. All his teachers said he is a bright kid.

After he entered first grade, journal writing is a everyday routine. His teacher talked to me few times that he always stuck on some ideas and didn't know how to write them down. He took so much time on thinking that he usually couldn't finish writing. Sometimes he was the only kid in class couldn't finish his work. Otherwise he was doing very great on academic at school. He got perfect on almost every test. At home, my son also took a lot of time on sentences writing parts of the homework. Every time he said he is thinking, he wasn't looked like he is doing his work. Sometimes he was playing pencil, sometimes he was walking around, sometimes he just stared at somewhere else, sometimes he talked to family about everything except his homework. Every week my dh or me tried to help him with homework, we were so frustrated. He had no problem on spelling or sentence structure or grammar, only didn't know what to write. He told me writing facts that he learned was the easiest for him, writing a make up story was harder, writing about his own experience always took a lot of thinking (I thought that was the easiest one). I don't know how can I help him or should I ask for help from professional specialist. I am worry about after he enters 2nd grade, the situation will get worse.
In Topics: Helping my child with writing, Helping my child with school work and home work
> 60 days ago

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Expert

Sylvia HS
May 24, 2009
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What the Expert Says:

Dear Clare1822,

This sounds like a very frustrating experience for you and your son.  I hope that some of the following ideas will help you.

1.  You didn't mention whether your son has fine-motor difficulties.  You said that he has no problems with spelling, sentences, and grammar.  Does he have difficulties remembering the letter shapes, remembering how to make the letters in the same way each time, producing the letters, making them uniform, making them fit the spaces between the lines, and making them quickly?   Any, or all, of these weaknesses could make him resist doing printing and writing tasks.  

If he has any of these difficulties, I'd suggest that you have your son's school make a referral to an Occupational Therapist.  If your school system doesn't have access to Occupational Therapists, then your family doctor could refer you to one.  Occupational Therapists can help children improve their fine-motor abilities.  They will give him fun and varied exercises and activities to develop fine-motor control and fine-motor speed.


2.  If your son doesn't have weaknesses in any of the above areas, then we can focus fully on how to help him get ideas for writing.  Here are some ways to do this:

-Have him draw pictures of what he needs to write about.  For example, if he needs to write about his birthday party, he could draw one picture of his friends, the cake, and the presents.  Or, he could draw several pictures, showing different games he and his friends played, and then what his presents were.  He could choose what he would draw, with your suggestions.  Does he like to draw?  Or is this difficult for him, as well?  I find that, usually, young children start their stories by drawing a picture first.  Then they add words to the pictures.  If he already has the pictures in front of him, then he's already done his thinking before he begins to write his story.  The pictures tell the story.  If he needs help deciding what's important about his birthday party, then you'll have a conversation with him, to help him decide what's most important.  The discussion will be critical because it will help him do his thinking.  That way he doesn't have to stare at a white sheet of paper.  I don't know how meticulous your son is about his drawings.  I would call what he draws "organized sketches", rather than drawings.  They don't need to be beautiful pieces of art work.  The pictures just need to tell the story and show what he has been thinking.

-Engage in paired writing.  You and he could talk about the topic he needs to write about.  You would jot down several ideas and then when you and your son think that you've finished discussing the topic, you could begin paired writing.  You would probably write the introduction, then your son could print the next sentence.  Then you would write the next sentence.  And so on.  At first, you would write more than your son.  In fact, at first, you could write almost all of the story.  Then you would take turns writing.  Gradually, you would write less, and he would write more.  You would do this very subtly so that your son doesn't particularly notice what's happening.  Sometimes, with older reluctant writers, I have done paired telephone conversations with them.  At first, they might only want to write the words "yes", "no", and "maybe".  Gradually, they gain confidence and begin writing more and more.

-You could show your son, graphically, the structure of stories.  Your son's teacher can help you with this.  Stories begin with a problem, a setting, and some characters.  Then there are a series of events where the characters try to solve the problem.  There's a climax to the actions of the story.  And then there's a conclusion where something has been found, or solved, or learned, or experienced.  Your son's teacher may be working with picture organizers in the classroom, showing children, visually, how stories are created.  You and he could look at stories he likes to listen to, and you could sketch these ideas on a story organizer.  He could copy the format when he needs to make up his own story.

-You could help your son make more vivid images in his head, to help him describe what he sees.  Nanci Bell's book "Visualizing and Verbalizing for Language Comprehension and Thinking" has lots of ideas for helping students make their pictures more vivid and detailed.  For example, you could develop his ability to think about:  shape, color, movement, mood, size, etc.  Your son may not know what's most important about what he's noticing and thinking about.  Teaching him, what Nanci calls, "structure words", will help him to focus on important information that he can write about.

I hope that these ideas will be helpful for you and your son.

Sincerely,

Sylvia HS
Reading Specialist
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Additional Answers (4)

michellem
michellem writes:
I have the exact same child!  (To a tee: entering 2nd grade, early reader, excellent speller, strong math, but writes 2 words in half hour for journal writing.)  It's painful and disheartening to see such a strong little mind be so stuck.  He had a fabulous, very experienced teacher and, yes, we tried all those ideas suggested by the reading specialist.   His teacher suggested we speak with our pediatrician, and though she didn't say "ADD," she meant it and prompted us to look into it.  

Every child is different (but isn't it amazing that ours are so very similar?) and I really wanted not to label my child ADD and was quite opposed the thought of chemical medication for life.  But do some homework.  From what I have read, it appears to be related to the frontal lobe of the brain.  It is likened to your eyes and using glasses.  Slightly mis-shapen eyes cause me to need corrective lenses for astigmatisms, and we wouldn't think of not getting correctively lenses for imperfect vision.  Treatment of ADD is like corrective lenses for your brain.  Two things to consider: 1)there are many types of ADD and one exactly describes our children.  (read "Windows into the ADD Mind" by Dr. Amen)   2)  there are lots of naturopathic treatment options and many are covered by insurance.  (see "Ritalin Free Kids" by Judyth Reichenberg-Ullman and Rober Ullman, both N.D.'s)  

I know it's frustrating to see your child's potential not come out when it so surely is in him.  My biggest concern was that he would stop believing in his capabilities.  You are your child's number #1 advocate, so do your homework, be skeptical but inquisitive, and open to the possiblilites!
> 60 days ago

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stressedtothemax
stressedtot... writes:
Your son sounds very intelligent and has the knowledge to become an excellent writer.  It sounds like a graphic organizer may help him organize his ideas.  I use a story map with my first graders.  Students list characters, setting, and plot (beginning, middle, end) in phrases.  Then they use these phrases to create complete sentences that produce a narrative piece of writing in their journal.  Another way for you to help him is for him to tell you the story he wants to write, one word at a time, and you write each word as he says it in his journal.  Make sure that he is sitting next to you as you write in his journal so he can see the speaking, writing, reading, connection.  Hope this helps.
> 60 days ago

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AlysonSwan
AlysonSwan writes:
Sounds frustrating.  Do not neglect the possibility that your child is gifted.  The symptoms that a child may present often mirror that of child with true ADHD.  Many gifted children have so many ideas racing around in their head that they have a hard time sorting them out and getting started.  If you have not already, ask the school about a gifted screening BEFORE pursuing the diagnosis of ADHD.  Putting a truly gifted child on medication can be detrimental!  Being in a gifted classroom with a teacher who specializes in that exceptionality may benefit him.
> 60 days ago

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tbftgog
tbftgog writes:
I have been homeschooling my 6 children for over 17 years now.  My oldest is 23 and youngest is 7.  All have passed the College Entrance Exam at age 16.
Sooo, what I do to get my child excited about writing, is to write about what interest them.  Example.  My 7 year old Bobby, is obcessed with dinosaurs.  So, while playing, "Jurassic Park", in the bushes off of our back porch.  I asked him to make a story up, about the characters adventure.  He told the story, I wrote, and he set the guys up to act out what he was telling me.  He drew the pictures later in the day.  I explain that he is the author, illustrator and I am the editor.  
You can have them write alternative endings to their favorite shows, movies, etc.  It seems best and more enjoyable for the child to act out the story, after they were able to see the story visually.  Either through their drawings, play, or media.  
My older children used skateboarding, paintball, etc. to tell stories as well.
> 60 days ago

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