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Thanks in advance to all who can answer me!  I'm seriously struggling so any advice is welcome!


A little background:

My son is 14.  We have homeschooled since he was 7.  He was diagnosed with dysgraphia at that time.  He has struggled with writing constantly and since I am not strong in this subject, the experience has been quite difficult.  I am using IEW with him and it seems to be less painful than others we have tried. 

This paper is his first response to literature. There are many obvious things we need to address so my problem is this:  Do I address all of them and completely crush him or only a few and let him continue with this level of work?  I don't even know where to start.





Did you hear about this book called Redwall?  It is really a fabulous book.  It does have a few small errors, but they are tiny.  It is still a very good book.  It is very famous.  It was in the New York Times!  Most people who read it enjoy it.


There are many animals, who act like humans in these books.  The main character is a mouse named Matthias.  He is initially clumsy but becomes brave and awesome.  Some of his friends include Mortimer, the Abbot of Redwall, Methuselah and Cornflower.  The majority of good guys are mice.  The villains are Cluny, who is the main antagonist and Asmodeus, the giant snake.  The majority of the villains are rats.


Cluny's army is  marching toward the Abbey of Redwall.  When he demands the Redwaller surrender, they try to defend themselves.  The siege goes back and forth.  Cluny's horde attempt to use a tunnel, siege tower and ladders, though not all at the same time.  Both sides lose many lives.  It does not seem like there is going to be any winners.  The Redwallers are stuck.  Meanwhile Matthias tries to find the sword of Martin the Warrior, who is awesome.  He finds it and has to fight Asmodeus, but he wins.


At that time Cluny has a plan to get into Redwall.  He uses spies to sneak in at night and capture everyone.  He is just about to kill the Abbott when Matthias comes.  Matthias recruited a large army of friends who free the Redwallers.  Matthias and Cluny have an epic battle and eventually Matthias wins.


This is a great story overall.  It is the start of a great series which has 22 books!  There are some problems, though.  It is inconsistent with the rest of the books on a lot of things.  It is probably better as a stand-alone book.  Still, it is a great book.  The whole series has sold over 20 million copies as of 2003.  It should be recommended to everyone.  So now that you have heard about i, stop by your local library and get it!




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The assignment was an IEW Unit 9 Critique. 


The model of the structure is:

Paragraph 1: Introduction

Paragraph 2: Characters

Paragraph 3: Conflict/ Plot

Paragraph 4: Climax/Resolution

Paragraph 5: Conclusion (opinion)


The student was to choose a story and write a critique in this format.

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I just accidentally found this thread as I never look in the writing workshop area generally.


First of all, I don't think it's ever a good idea to "crush" your student if they put in effort. Give them praise as well as critique - you don't have to pick at everything, just choose a few things to work on at a time (you can make a list of things you want to come back to, but don't give all negative feedback for a paper they actually tried to do well on).


First - did he do the assignment regardless of how well it is written? IEW is a box checking type curriculum - did he check all the boxes of what should have been included?

Second - is he improving? Some kids are natural writers, but for a struggling writer it is a painful process. My severely dysgraphic son certainly couldn't have written that at age 14.


I found IEW a great place to start with my severely dysgraphic son, but we didn't seem to progress at all with it. He could follow the formula, but it sounded childish and if asked to write anything else without a formula it didn't happen. We turned to Brave Writer when he was 14 (and started with Kidswriter Basic) - it was a fabulous decision. He has taken several of the online courses and each teacher has met him where he was and taken him much farther. In a few short years 9th-11th grade his writing has gone from sounding like  a 3rd grader to sounding like a college student. This certainly won't be typical of all dysgraphic students. He's very smart and has a huge vocabulary, but the process of turning a thought into words is extremely slow. The Brave Writer teachers are fantastic about pulling out things to praise and then asking questions so that he can revise but keep his own voice.


Hope you can find your path of teaching him writing.

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I used to teach freshman English, and that essay would have been pretty typical of a lot of my students for a beginning of the year essay. I usually saw more run on sentences when they tried to achieve a more advanced writing style. For a typical 14 year old, it is HARD to write a longer, cohesive essay and remember to use correct spelling, strong vocabulary, correct grammar, and sentence variety. That's what the revision process is for.


Overall, he hit the major points of the assignment, though his critique wasn't strong. He also demonstrated solid grammar and spelling, even though his word choices and sentence structure were simple. It was a safe essay, and he wouldn't have done poorly if he was graded on a typical rubic. It's a good jumping off point


The best thing to do is to address ONE thing at a time. Because you are right, showing your son all of the errors will be discouraging. You can address the simplicity of the writing style now and choose one strategy to work on for this essay and the next, until he gets that hang of it. Either get a thesaurus and work on advanced vocabulary or work on including advanced sentence styles and structures. Don't do both. If you want to work on the fact that he wrote more of a summary than a critique, work on discussing the book and the assignment with him more in detail on the NEXT assignment. Having a dysgraphic start over completely would be discouraging.


A few other questions, since he is dysgraphic:


Did he handwrite or type the first draft of the essay?


Have you considered having him compose the essay out loud while recording it, then transcribing it? You may start off with a more advanced composition out of the gate.


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I agree with the others that  you can't crush him by addressing everything at once. In this particular assignment, my instinct would be to work on precise vs vague adjectives. Focusing on the word "great" ask him, "What was great about it? What in particular made it great?" Then pull out the thesaurus, and start finding some synonyms and substituting them, having fun with it.


I found that if I try to correct every single problem we'd never move on! You don't have to work on everything at once. As long as he's writing fairly often, you will be able to address the different issues throughout the year. 


I have had to correct papers much worse than this, so I would not worry.

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Some positives about this piece he wrote are that I never knew anything about Redwall before, and now I have a basic concept of it such as mice vs. rats story.


For a next draft, I'd like to know more about how it affected *him*, what he personally likes about it and thinks is fantastic. 


My son wrote a few book reviews for Stone Soup, and his first one was somewhat like the one your son wrote, to which they sent back a page of what they like to see, and how the story/book personally affected the reviewer was a main thing, which makes the review more interesting to the reader, rather than it being mainly a synopsis of the book or telling that it was "fantastic" or that most readers like it.

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Thank you all so much for your responses.  I feel so much better.  My son is my oldest so I never know quite what to expect.  He is also very bright but with the dysgraphia, has trouble expressing himself.  I am so appreciative you took the time to respond.

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