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dolphin
dolphin asks:
Q:

How can I motivate my first grader to write better?

my 1st grader can write beautifully when she wants too, but when she's at school and told to she writes so sloppy no one can read her work. She's making bad grades due to this and we can't get her to do better. she just yells i done my best and then screams at god that we are unfair and mean. how do i get through to her, before she fails the first grade like she never showed up.
In Topics: Motivation and achievement at school
> 60 days ago

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Expert

lkauffman
Mar 11, 2008
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What the Expert Says:

I imagine it must be very perplexing to watch your daughter struggle this way. My guess is that she is not "refusing" to do her best, but there is something getting in the way of her demonstrating what she knows in class. Perhaps she is extremely shy and is reluctant to put her best effort forward because she worries that it will "not be good enough" and the teacher and her peers may laugh at her. I would imagine this is an irrational fear, but it is not uncommon for young children (and older children, too) to have difficulties in this area.

I would suggest that you schedule some time to talk with her teacher on the phone or in person to discuss possible strategies for supporting your daughter. Perhaps your daughter could have some extra time in the classroom to complete her work. You and her teacher can both communicate to her that you don't care what her grades are as long as she takes her time and puts forth her best effort. Sometimes, someone's "best effort" involves taking some extra time.

Finally, if your daughter is shy and anxious about receiving negative feedback from others, she is likely having difficulties in other areas, shy around peers, anxious when meeting new people. If this is the case, there are a number of things that you can do as a parent to help her, such as teaching her strategies for relaxing and coping with worry. Take a look at the following section of the website for specific suggestions:
http://www.education.com/reference/topic/TeenYears_MiddleYears_EarlyYears_ShynessFearsAnxiety/

L. Compian, Ph.D.
Education.com Team

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Additional Answers (2)

KidAngel
KidAngel writes:
Indeed a frustrating issue that you are experiencing. I think we should step back and take inventory on what exactly we are dealing with here. First and foremost she is a 6 year old, first grader, well that says volumes right off. That is a prime age for little ones to €œtest€" the waters. To see what buttons that can set off with Mom and Dad that will create €œattention€" for them. Remember that children - whether it is positive or negative attention - do thrive on getting attention, period. I think your daughter has been successful! Have I made you smile? I hope so, as I want you to relax and know that this too will pass. Since we have now come to this conclusion. You know she can do it when she wants too, so obviously she doesn€™t want to and that€™s getting her attention.
What should we do? You should immediately, STOP giving her attention for her non compliance with her writing skills. Do not put anymore of your energy into making her do it right. Instead, you sit down at the table when you know that she is around and you start practicing your letters. Don€™t make a big deal about it; just start printing the alphabet, just like you would like her to do it. She is going to ask you what you are doing. You reply, €œYou€™ve been thinking about how you have been asking her to please do her letter beatifically like you have seen she can€". Now, you€™ve just realized that you also need help with your letters and you decided that you need to practice so that your letters are as beautiful as hers. Now you€™ve really got her wondering what your up too.  You continue writing your letters. Then you ask her to check your work. See where we€™re going. Make sure that some are good and some are sloppy. She will see what needs to be done. Now you will start to engage her into helping you get the letters perfect! What we are doing is getting the €œpressure€" she has felt off her and changed roles so that she feels a positive shift and now she can help you get the letters correct. Make it fun and praise her when she helps you. Saying things like€" gosh, you are so smart, thanks for helping me. Do not ask her to do her letters.  She will start to do them on her own. Once she does, continue to sit with her and practice yours. Do this as long as she needs the reinforcement. Once she sees that the days of you yelling at her for not doing it are now over and she€™s getting attention instead for helping you, you€™ve totally changed the dynamic that created the tension over her sloppy writing at school. It would be my professional guess that the reason she is writing sloppy at school is because it has been such a focal point at home that this is her way of rebelling.
Speak to her teacher and tell the teacher that you are going to try this method for a week and see what results you have. I believe you and your daughter are both on the road to once again writing beautifully all the time.

Barbara Antinoro
Founder & Chief Visionary
Kid Angel Foundation
> 60 days ago

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Sylvia HS
Sylvia HS , Child Professional, Teacher writes:
Hi Dolphin,

Writing in a classroom is so different from writing at home.  At home, if she writes a story she's probably motivated to write about something or someone she loves, or has just done, and has just visited.  She has all the time in the world at home.  She can draw her picture, write her words, color her picture, and take her time.

At school, she may feel rushed.  As well, she may not know as much about the topic she's writing about or may not feel as interested in the topic as the one's she writes about at home.

My first grader didn't get her writing done during the first few months of school because she spent so much time drawing her picture first.  I had a conference with her teacher and we figured out how to get my daughter to take her time writing the words first and then drawing her pictures at home.

I think if you visited your daughter's teacher and talked about how your daughter feels about writing at school and compare this to her work at home, you'll find some ways to motivate her to show her best writing to her teacher during the school day.  Perhaps even letting her stay in for recess to complete her work will help her.  Or giving her a quiet place in the classroom to write might work for her.  You and her teacher know your daughter best.  Try some different strategies and find out if your daughter has any ideas about what would help her as well.
> 60 days ago

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