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Need curriculum suggestions for 8 yo girl struggling with writing


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I have a daughter (2nd grade) in public school.  She has a fairly high IQ and is a voracious reader (significantly above grade level). She is also dysgraphic.  She has recently started using AT, and it is helping a lot--but she is very behind on writing and has  significant emotional blocks. She also does not seem to catch onto mechanics easily and needs practice.  I'm looking for writing and grammar curriculum to help her this summer.


Details that may shed light:

  • She makes 100s on spelling tests, but can't spell at all when she writes.
  • She seems to understand punctuation and capitalization but doesn't do it when she writes (she does when she types).
  • She truly seems to have trouble consistently identifying parts of speech and I would like to help her here. I think she does not learn quickly in this area and needs more practice than people (including herself) expect her to need.
  • She has had bad experiences with writing in the past (dysgraphia) and feels stupid when she writes.
  • She says she has trouble coming  up with ideas.
  • Because of the dysgraphia, she is behind on writing.  Her ideas aren't fluid or connected on paper.
  • I probably have higher expectations for her than I should have because she excels in related skills and need to know what is actually appropriate for her age (as opposed to for her reading level and vocabulary).

Can anyone suggest curriculum that I can use this summer to help her learn to write better and to teach parts of speech, grammar, and punctuation? Now that she is starting to type, I'd love to catch her up or even get her where her writing is closer to her reading level, if possible.  I'm afraid if I don't, she's going to lose access to the higher order thinking groups in order to drill core skills, which won't be good for her.



Edited by leharper
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Do you have examples of her writing and of "up to standard" writing? Your description, except the dysgraphia diagnosis, sounds normal for a second grader to me. It is normal for writing skills to lag well behind reading skills, especially in the younger grades. It is normal for a child to work better on skills in isolation and struggle to use them all together for fluent and easy writing. Coming up with ideas can be difficult even for adults. There are lots of good programs available; it's a matter of finding the one best suited to you and your child. You might try Growing with Grammar or Essentials in Writing (a video course). Most writing curriculum is geared toward older children, as second grade is usually more focused on developing reading fluency. 

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  • 2 weeks later...

Oddly enough, I also have a second grade girl in public school that seems to be "struggling" with writing. It is a large portion of the reason I am looking so hard into homeschooling next year.


Like yours, my daughter is well ahead of her public school peers in the school's reading assessment program. However, she has been at the same "level" since the end of first grade due to the inability to pass the written comprehension portion of their mClass assessments.


I feel that, at least in our district, the emphasis is on reading and comprehension, and not at all on allowing creativity and imagination in their writing assignments.


This leads to boredom for 7-8 year olds, and breeds this hatred of writing. :(


I don't feel like my child is "behind" in writing for her age/grade level, but is so far advanced in reading, that they are now holding her back in reading because their assessments for that subject are so closely entwined with writing assessments. Since these written assessments are designed for 4-5th graders, she is struggling. This is not really indicative of a problem with her writing, but more with the method of assessments that her school is using on advanced readers.


I don't know that I am much help, but figured I would share my perspective on case your daughter's situation is as similar as it sounds. :)

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I agree that this sounds rather normal for a second grader. And some specialists won't even diagnose dysgraphia until kids are in fourth or fifth grade.


Though I realize that in public schools these days, there is a big push for writing in the early years. I've had kids who went through that in public school. I agree it can breed a hatred for writing. You should know that not everyone believes this is developmentally appropriate.


One things I've noticed with my kids, who were in ps in the early years and experienced that early writing push, is that the ps doesn't keep up the writing education in middle school. They just don't continue the same push in writing, which makes me think it would be better if they just slowed it down from the beginning.


About parts of speech. There really isn't any reason that a child needs to be able to recognize every part of speech in second grade. Again, it's not something that will hurt their educational development in any way.

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  • 1 month later...

I suggest not doing a curriculum for the writing part, especially if you are supplementing school over the summer. 


As I have encouraged in other posts, teach her how to free write.  Have her free write journal each day and read it to you.  Keep all your feedback positive.  The goal is to get her comfortable writing.  


If you want to practice grammar, have her pick an entry occasionally to edit (and possibly revise).


When my kids were young, they did Shurley Grammar.  I thought it was a great program.



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Okay, I know this is from a few months ago, but I have an 8yo who just finished up 2nd grade who sounds a lot like your DD: gifted IQ, reading at an early high school level but writing at a beginning 1st grade level, dx dysgraphia, able to spell individual words and knows punctuation and capitalization rules, but it all goes out the window when he writes something by hand.  I honestly mistook something my 4yo wrote the other day for my 8yo's work!  


So, have you found a workable writing curriculum?


I haven't figured out what is going to work for writing yet here.  Writing with Ease was a disaster as written, and SWB recommended to me that he not even attempt to go on to WWS.  She suggested Sentence Composing for Elementary School (Killgallon) and then moving very slowly through the Writing & Rhetoric series (Classical Academic Press) or Wordsmith Apprentice.  


I've read some good things about Brave Writer for just getting past that aversion to writing that can build up, and I've seen IEW highly recommended on several dysgraphia-related blogs.  


I just picked up Killgallon's book and IEW, but haven't tried either out yet.  So that's about where we're at, lol. I'd love to know if you uncovered anything else promising.

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My little (8 year old male, homeschooled) also enjoys Shurley, but I'm wondering if it might be a bit much for your dd under the circumstances if she feels bad about herself and does not enjoy writing for her own pleasure.


Mad libs are a fun way of learning the parts of speech.


She might also enjoy cutting words out of advertising circulars from your mailbox, sorting them into envelopes labelled "nouns", "verbs", "adverbs", and "adjectives", and later using them to make "ransom note poetry", which is sort of a poor man's magnetic poetry: place the words on a sheet of paper until she is satisfied with her poem, then stick them down with elmer's or a glue stick, paint over with dilute elmer's, let dry, and then hang on the refrigerator or give to grandparents for gifts.


If she enjoys imaginative play with stuffed animals, action figures, Minecraft, etc. then she might be able to reconceptualize writing for her own pleasure as a way to keep on playing the same games when the actual physical toys aren't available. If she has an older sibling who is "too old" to play her favourite imaginative games with her, the sibling might feel differently about pencils, paper, and story contests than baby dolls or stuffed animals but still be willing to play 8yo dd's games using words instead of actual physical objects.


If she feels misunderstood or sad, she might find a blank notebook or a diary with a lock and key to be a patient and sympathetic confidante if she is assured that her private thoughts will remain private.


She might enjoy pretty pens or coloured ink or nice notebooks and blank books. She's a bit young for calligraphy, but she might like to decorate her own words or copy little sayings or book quotes in her best handwriting, use them as captions for her drawings, and have them framed or just thumbtacked/taped to the walls of her room.


Words are one of the greatest toys you can give her. They're a lot like legos except that there are a lot more different ways she can stick them together. Nobody can take them away from her. No matter how poor she is, she can still play with them in the privacy of her own mind while she does whatever she has to do to pay the rent and feed her family.


I understand that you want better for your daughter and that you are concerned about her grades and future employment prospects. That is important, but your daughter's ability to express herself in written language does not belong to her future employers or her teachers.


It belongs to her.


The printed word is the closest mankind has ever been able to come to immortality. Although you have never heard of the writers in my family, who probably earned far less than minimum wage for the time they spent on the articles, stories, and poems that were published in magazines that have long since gone out of business and been forgotten, their words are still there many decades after their death to inspire, delight, and advise the great-grandson and great-great-nephew they never got to meet.


Your daughter deserves better than grades and test scores.


HTH; rant over.

Edited by Guest
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I'm so thrilled to read all of your thoughts and suggestions!  Thank you so much.  Lace: I will look into the books you mention as/if we need them. I think we have a lot of common and would love to hear what you discover as you journey through this.  IEF:  I think I am going to cut out "your daughter's ability to express herself in written language does not belong to her future employers or her teachers" and paste it on my wall. That is very true--and I'm a writer and writing teacher myself, so you think this would be easy for me, right?  The big challenge with my child is her lack of automatically with handwriting.  How do you teach grade-level composition skills--and the enjoyment of writing--to a child who is physically uncomfortable with handwriting, who has already had such a negative experience with it, and who has to do such an extraordinary amount of work to overcome it? (By "extraordinary work" I mean we're encouraging printing and she does cursive tutoring and uses a typing program--Disney's Mickey's Typing Adventure for anyone who is interested.)   People who do not have a dysgraphic child would probably throw up hearing that we're doing all that, but those with dysgraphic children know that they're really not okay until they can type, but you don't want to totally cut out handwriting at such an early age, so you juggle both.  It's a lot for a kid.  It reminds me of the days when she was an infant and wouldn't latch on and I would pump-nurse-bottle feed 24 HOURS  A DAY.  It's not supposed to be that way!


I would like to share what we've done so far, the mistakes I've made, and where we're going. . Maybe the dialogue will be helpful with other children, especially 2E children who don't struggle with verbal language or creative thought but are held back by the physical act of writing. I know a lot of you guys are homeschoolers, so I hope I'm not intruding on that with this public schooler post.  Homeschooling isn't optimal in our situation.


I started by keeping a log.  One thing that concerns me about all the work we do at home is that it is difficult for teachers and people at the school to see how hard she works to get to where she needs to be with writing.  Right now I do not think they understand that there is composition on the other side of the handwriting gate and that she might not be limited on that side. But to get over there and try it out, she needs somebody to open the handwriting gate for her.


At the end of the school year, her teacher sent her home with journaling prompts which were good and creative and would be fun for kids who were more able to physically write. Not so good for my kid.  They also sent home a mechanics/skills books called Texas Write Source (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) and an Assessment Preparation guide that had composition exercises in it (also Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), both second grade.


I had her handwrite in the mechanics book (not so bad, at the sentence level).  It wasn't fun, felt slow and boring, but was doable.  The composition book was a disaster.  

We did one exercise. I planned to scribe. She did it, but the whole experience was very negative, I felt this was going to kill her love of writing, and most importantly, I would NEVER respond to a student's writing the way this book made me feel like I needed to respond to hers.  That's where your daughter's ability to express herself in written language does not belong to her future employers or her teachers, it belongs to her"  fits in...


So I apologized.  I put composition on the back burner and thought I would research it more while we focused on typing and...something.


Then I found Michael Clay Thompon's Grammar Island--the iBook version.  This is perfect.  It's relaxing and pleasant and she really enjoys it.  It's not drill and kill but there are enough exercises in it for her to test herself.  It's drag and drop, so there's no pencil involved at all, which is much more relaxing.  And it covers grammar fluidly, which makes it much easier for her to see the big picture quickly. That's huge. I think that's what she's been missing.  Right now we're just working on Grammar Island, very casually and calmly and it is a pleasant experience--and she's doing very well.


Then she decided she wanted to start cooking.  She made up a recipe of her own, a crepe/omelet recipe.  I scribed for her and she told me what I needed to write, and we wrote the recipe out. She forgot things, was inaccurate, etc, which made it very easy to transition into editing and ordering information.  I think that is what we are going to continue to do this summer for composition, just write down recipes.   I see it helping her develop a lot of important writing skills without all the pain.


Anyway, just wanted to share.  I never mind keeping up the conversation with those who are interested.  Trying to help a 2E kid fill her holes is very challenging, and I certainly feel alone...but if we don't, nobody will.  And that would be a shame.

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Ooooh, I've been considering trying out MCT.  It's exciting to hear from someone with a kid in a similar position who has actually used it.  Are you doing or planing to do any of the other components besides Grammar Island?


DS#1 is also doing print, cursive, and typing (or, will be after we conclude our summer break... next week-ish).  I'm looking into possibly having him take some drawing lessons this summer.  I don't know if it would actually work, but I have this idea that it will help with his FM skills, hand-eye coordination, and possibly with visualizing and/or planning and follow-through.


Recipe writing is super creative!  What a great idea!  Too bad my kiddo wouldn't be the least bit interested in that... but maybe I can get him to help me write out his own Lego instructions or something.  

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So far so good! The #1 adjective I'd use to describe Grammar Island is relaxing.  Lots of white space.  Fun to read.  We curl up on the couch together, she reads it to me, and occasionally I ask questions, reinforce things. I bought Grammar Island and the Implementation Manual, which (in my opinion) is okay, and I'm glad I bought it, but not a must-have as long as you can find the pdf that tells you how to use the books and read through the online samples of the teacher version to see what kinds of questions to ask. She reads a little every day and just finished parts of speech.  It's been about two weeks.  The Implementation guide says to start Building Language at that time.  My daughter is really strong with vocabulary, but I'm going to go ahead and check that one out.  From there, we'll just see what works.  Summer camp starts next week and she'll have less free time.  I know I'm not interested in the readers, but I'm willing to slowly feel the others out.  This isn't what I expected out of a grammar book at all.  


I'm not sure that she is magically going to go to school next year and start capitalizing sentences, but I'm concerned with filling holes and I think I fell into something that isn't going to fill holes quickly in the way I expected but will end up teaching grammar better than school ever would.  I am very interested in getting to the writing portion of those books, but I see value in going this direction.


Re: the cookbook writing--that wasn't really a creative idea. It just happened because she's interested in cooking. I think you could totally make a lego book and do the same thing.


Good luck with the drawing!  


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  • 3 weeks later...

My DS is 2e with 3 SLDs.  He was diagnosed in 2nd grade on his 8th birthday.  The best thing I could have ever done was to scribe son's work for him until he could type, but the school and I insisted that DS write everything.  Not scribing for DS was a huge mistake.  DS eventually learned to type in 5th grade.  Prior to that, he carried an Alphasmart NEO in the classroom but barely used it.  Once he was typing, DH and I provided a printer to the school, and son printed his classroom work.  DS attended a private school.  DS carries a laptop now to his high school classes as a homeschooler.


Now, my DD is 8 yo is extremely bright and homeschooled.  She worked with an OT for about a month in kindie, and worked with a ped PT for a few weeks in 1st grade.  Her letters are automatic, and she mostly knows cursive; however, she still experiences hand pain.  Her hands are too small for the keyboard, and I don't expect we will begin typing until 4th grade.  In the mean time, we practice writing by doing a few things.  In science, I will read to her about an animal and afterwards ask her to tell me 3-5 things that are interesting about the animal.  I prompt her to speak in complete sentences.  As she talks, I scribe and then type up her paragraph.  As I type, DD will stand over my shoulder and make corrections.  Sometimes I make a copywork sheet for her, and she copies her own narrations.  We use New American Cursive's Startwrite sw to produce the handwriting practice sheets.


For narrations, we will read a fable and then she will retell the fable in her own words.  Again, I scribe and type up with DD correcting me.  My DD's IPod is loaded with the program Evernote.  She started speaking her narrations into Evernote using Siri.  I can pull up the narrations on my PC where we review the narrations together, revise, and print out.  We have used my Android phone's speech to text feature as well using Evernote.


For literature, we have used Inspiration mind mapping sw on the IPad to make story maps.  My DD likes that a lot.  DD also completes short copywork with our literature.


1st and 2nd grades were about reading, math, and sorting the writing out, and I didn't get excited about parts of speech.  I seriously doubt most of your DD's peers understand parts of speech, and that is why the school reteaches it year after year in the classroom.  I am basically teaching my DS how to parse, but that is an ongoing thing.


To answer your question, we used ELTL1 and ELTL2 for language.  For next year, I have ordered Galore Parks Junior English 2.  You can look at their online samples.  It seems GP is more about thinking and answering questions, so I would use something like GP to get your student student producing output with speech to text.  For next year, we are using CAP products.  Since your DD will be sitting in the classroom, you may be better off purchasing the products that the school will use.  When I afterschooled DS, he was confused by the poor product they used in the classroom with the product we were using at home.    

Edited by Heathermomster
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