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Younger boys and ability appropriate writing expectation


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If you subscribe to a "better late than early" outlook as far as written output with kids, when do/did you start to ask your writing adverse** boys to start writing more than a bit of copywork/handwriting practice if you've been doing oral narrations and scribing for a couple of years?

**Assuming the child is perfectly physically capable of doing so and can in fact draw for hours with the same previously exhausted hand, immediately upon leaving the school table.

 

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I don't know that I'd call my boys writing averse exactly. But it was an ease in thing here. I didn't have them writing more than a sentence or so before about 4th grade. I often had them copy their own words. I fixed everything for them. I think by 6th grade though, I did have them doing little papers. Certainly a paragraph at a time.

I don't think there's a right answer to this exactly... just that I think people asking 3rd graders to write organized essays is nonsense.

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We start writing pretty slow.  I've written here about how we only do three letters at the beginning.  I just continue slowly ramping up an inch at a time.  3 letters becomes 3 CVC words.  Then a short sentence.  Then a longer sentence.  By the beginning of second we can adjust and keep doing short copywork, but add in spelling.  I use a dictation based one so the first exercise is "See my doll". It adds in new words: "See my new doll" is the next day's work. By the end of the year we've got slightly longer copywork, a small handful of written narrations (2-3), and spelling dictation that is 2 sentences long.  Third grade we start slowly learning how to write independently, continue spelling dictation (which may have 3-4 sentences by the end), and a little more writing is encouraged in other subjects. It's also the year we introduce the fountain pen and Frindle so he learns a new way to practice handwriting.  Fourth grade is more written narrations, becoming very familiar with organizing a paragraph, and continuing spelling/handwriting PLUS the addition of a copybook that is individual - he picks what to copy instead of my choices.

Writing is still done in bites: 5-10 minutes for spelling, 20 minutes for writing lesson, a few minutes for copybook and only half a line to a line in Spencerian handwriting books.  It's spread out and done at the kitchen counter because he likes the chairs better there.  Between writing I pick more active lessons to work on.

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28 minutes ago, Farrar said:

I don't know that I'd call my boys writing averse exactly. But it was an ease in thing here. I didn't have them writing more than a sentence or so before about 4th grade. I often had them copy their own words. I fixed everything for them. I think by 6th grade though, I did have them doing little papers. Certainly a paragraph at a time.

I don't think there's a right answer to this exactly... just that I think people asking 3rd graders to write organized essays is nonsense.

I am so glad to read the bolded. PS friend was just telling me how much writing her 1st grader did last year and I was trying to wrap my head around that. 

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I follow the guidelines in the WWE instructor text, so by the end of 4th grade, they're doing 25-30 word dictations, and (hopefully) writing their own 3-4 sentence narrations. Until then, it's a sentence or two at a time probably twice a week. One of mine was still struggling with that in 5th grade, so I got him to learn to type, and his writing quality and quantity magically improved. I don't think it was until he was 15 or so that he could actually write a full page by hand without complaining!

So I guess my short answer is: by the end of 4th grade.

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We start short dictations sentences (as part of their spelling program) toward the middle of first grade.  We focus on capitalization and punctuation in second, and they start writing simple, one sentence written narrations about their literature reading - just of the "what is one thing you learned or found interesting in the chapter" type.  In third I expect them to write longer and more detailed one sentence narrations, and sometimes the narrations need to answer a more specific question such as "describe where the rats of NIMH live".  Also in third they start to learn about paragraph structure and organization.  Fourth grade is the year of the paragraph.  My rising 5th grader also did a couple "essays" toward the end of fourth.  He learned about the structure of a 5 paragraph essay, he and I worked together on an outline, he wrote the three body paragraphs independently, and then we worked together on intro and conclusion paragraphs and fine tuning his clincher sentences to tie the paragraphs together into a more cohesive unit.

Wendy

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Two DSs here, both heavily writing phobic -- DS#1 was an average writer; DS#2 was a struggling writer (LDs in writing + other areas). Based on my DSs, as well as my experience with teaching middle/high school co-op students (of widely diverse writing abilities), I personally would not ask for or expect a self-generated complete paragraph (esp. of the essay type) until at least 5th-6th grade *for average writers*, and especially not before covering the groundwork needed for successful paragraph writing:

- what is a complete sentence
- practice in writing complete sentences
- what is a complete paragraph (what kinds of sentences are needed to make a complete paragraph)
- heavy scaffolding in brainstorming and organizing the sentences needed for complete paragraphs

For 3rd grade, we broke ALL writing by hand into tiny bites and interspersed with non-writing activities. So no more than 5-10 minutes, or 3 sentences, of any kind of writing / handwriting / dictation practice at one sitting. Shift to a non-writing activity. Later in the day, come back for a 5-minute "bite" of copywork/handwriting practice. Go do something else. Late in the school day, come back around for a final quick 5-10 minute "bite" of writing of some kind. So a total of 15-20 minutes of pencil holding, with about 2/3 of that being "generative" (i.e., other than copywork). I know that doesn't sound like much, but over the course of a week that adds up to an hour or a little more of actual writing. From someone who hates writing. LOL.

We did a lot of different writing in grades 3-4 just to mix it up and help reduce the hatred of writing, and used it to practice generating writing (brainstorming); writing complete sentences; proof-editing (GUM); etc. Some things we did in those mid-elementary grades -- and all were heavily scaffolded with me being an integral part of the process, either doing the activity alongside them, or giving guidance and gentle nudges/ideas:

- still did some of Peggy Kaye's Games for Writing ideas, like making fun or funny lists (name 7 items to go in a witch's brew; list the 5 things you'd take a spaceship trip)
- maybe 2x/week did a "journal entry" of 2-3 sentences from a giant list of prompts I'd collected from online sources
- did "book reports" -- broke it down into "bites", first of filling out key information with 1-2 word answers, and then writing a paragraph (1 sentence a day!!!) of their review of the book -- so a "book report" would take a full week to complete, done in tiny little bites
- occasionally we "researched" something out of Geography or History, and spent a week doing the IEW process of key-word outline, fleshing out into complete sentences, making a complete paragraph, revising, editing, final clean copy (when DSs were 3rd & 4th, and then 4th & 5th grades, we did the 4 Holling C. Holding books + Beautiful Feet Geography guide & map pack -- 2 books per year -- lots of great extension research/writing ideas that we used in those grades for heavily scaffolded IEW paragraphs that would take a week to complete, as we broke them into such tiny bites)


If wanting a regular but gentle program at this age/stage, you might look at 8FillTheHeart's Treasured Conversations program Teaching Writing Through Guided Analysis  (gr. 3-5), or Writing Tales level 1 (gr. 3-4). Wordsmith Apprentice (gr. 4-6) is great for late elementary ages, and is done largely solo. It was the first thing DSs did that involved writing that they actually enjoyed! (:D

Edited by Lori D.
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4 hours ago, Æthelthryth the Texan said:

I am so glad to read the bolded. PS friend was just telling me how much writing her 1st grader did last year and I was trying to wrap my head around that. 

It’s just a waste of their time. False rigor in the extreme.

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2 hours ago, Lori D. said:

 I personally would not ask for or expect a complete paragraph until at least 5th-6th grade *for average writers*, and especially not before covering the groundwork needed for successful paragraph writing

I'm with Lori.  DS didn't have any learning challenges, but I didn't ask him to write anything until we started CAP Writing and Rhetoric program last year (6th grade).  We started in book 1 and quickly made our way to Book 3 which he is finishing now.  We will continue with the program indefinitely because it's going so well and DS loves it.

We did do some dictation and copywork throughout the years, and he had some writing involved in foreign languages, but nothing beyond a few sentences.

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I’m agreeing with what everyone else says above. 😊I also want to put a plug in for something I found through a thread here that worked amazingly well for my two DSs: 

How to Write a Super Sentence by Evan Moor.https://smile.amazon.com/Evan-Moor-Sentence-Workbook-Teachers-Supplement/dp/1557996067/ref=mp_s_a_1_2_sspa?keywords=how+to+write+a+super+sentence&qid=1564665349&s=gateway&sprefix=how+to+write+a+su&sr=8-2-spons&psc=1

My boys loved it *and* made progress!

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Just to add to your thinking process:

 the Simple View of Writing, a model that draws from the pinnacle process model originally developed by Hayes and Flower (1980). The Simple View of Writing suggests relationships between transcription level skills (e.g., handwriting, spelling), self-regulation executive functions (e.g., planning, organizing, attention), text generation (e.g., idea development and translation), and working memory (Berninger and Amtmann, 2003; Berninger et al., 2002; Gough and Tunmer, 1986; Juel, Griffith, and Gough, 1986).

https://mospace.umsystem.edu/xmlui/handle/10355/56828  

The article then goes on to say the difficulties at the high school level didn't correlate to BRIEF (a common ADHD/EF survey) scores or DASH (speed of handwriting). In other words, they could be physically able to get it out with their hands and still be struggling, and the areas listed in the Simple View of Writing would be the places to start.

I like Lori's suggestion of Peggy Kaye's Games for Writing. We've found her books always to be AMAZING with my ds, an eerily perfect fit. 

My ds is physically incapable, between his poor VMI and SLD writing, of doing large amounts of writing. His IEP says scribe for anything over a sentence and his OT is working on lists of words and a brief note (1-3 sentences). This is considered life skill writing, final outcome for him. My dd, to contrast, could physically write, but she had the rest of the package and difficulty all along the way with basically all the components in the simple view. For her, cognitive therapies like metronome work (which you can do for free) and TECH made a huge difference. It's still wicked hard for her, but we've gotten it as good as we can.

Personally, I wouldn't require/expect/care, definitely would not FIGHT over physical handwriting at all. It just isn't worth it. It will probably come in at some point on some functional level even if you do nothing and especially if you find whatever is glitching and making it hard. Metronome work was a big help for my dd. What you don't know, from your description, is whether the real issue is language, EF, what. That's what I would focus on. 

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1 hour ago, PeterPan said:

Just to add to your thinking process:

 the Simple View of Writing, a model that draws from the pinnacle process model originally developed by Hayes and Flower (1980). The Simple View of Writing suggests relationships between transcription level skills (e.g., handwriting, spelling), self-regulation executive functions (e.g., planning, organizing, attention), text generation (e.g., idea development and translation), and working memory (Berninger and Amtmann, 2003; Berninger et al., 2002; Gough and Tunmer, 1986; Juel, Griffith, and Gough, 1986).

https://mospace.umsystem.edu/xmlui/handle/10355/56828  

The article then goes on to say the difficulties at the high school level didn't correlate to BRIEF (a common ADHD/EF survey) scores or DASH (speed of handwriting). In other words, they could be physically able to get it out with their hands and still be struggling, and the areas listed in the Simple View of Writing would be the places to start.

I like Lori's suggestion of Peggy Kaye's Games for Writing. We've found her books always to be AMAZING with my ds, an eerily perfect fit. 

My ds is physically incapable, between his poor VMI and SLD writing, of doing large amounts of writing. His IEP says scribe for anything over a sentence and his OT is working on lists of words and a brief note (1-3 sentences). This is considered life skill writing, final outcome for him. My dd, to contrast, could physically write, but she had the rest of the package and difficulty all along the way with basically all the components in the simple view. For her, cognitive therapies like metronome work (which you can do for free) and TECH made a huge difference. It's still wicked hard for her, but we've gotten it as good as we can.

Personally, I wouldn't require/expect/care, definitely would not FIGHT over physical handwriting at all. It just isn't worth it. It will probably come in at some point on some functional level even if you do nothing and especially if you find whatever is glitching and making it hard. Metronome work was a big help for my dd. What you don't know, from your description, is whether the real issue is language, EF, what. That's what I would focus on. 

Thanks for the link. I will check that out. 

Honestly I haven't even asked him to do a thing apart from copywork in very small amounts. I haven't felt like it's age appropriate, so I did just about everything orally and or scribed except for the bare minimum of math, when I may have him do a worksheet or two, and none of them are the overly involved "write out the words for 100,572" sort of things. I just wanted to make sure now that he's turning 8, and starting some 3rd grade level work (although on Phonics and reading he's far closer to 2nd grade level) that I am not aiming too low with what I expect. I have no reason to think that there are any underlying issues at the moment- he can do the copywork just fine. His personality simply leans towards minimal amount of effort possible to get to be done and go play right now. It's just really hard to tell from who I know IRL what is age appropriate. The amount of writing my kids' PS peers do that their Moms talk about is mind boggling. They have journals and creative writing assignments and written math assignment in first and second grade. One mom told me they do a research paper in third grade. I have to wonder if it's like the science experiments I remember from when older dd was in PS where it was essentially science projects for parents. So I just like to hear where other homeschoolers expectations lie. It's a better gauge for me by far. 

Edited by Æthelthryth the Texan
ETA- he also does dictated spelling words, but not a ton. Just to help with phonics.
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He'd be a young 3rd grader, that's for sure. 

So what usually helps me is to look at grade leveled workbooks from major publishers. BJU, Teacher Created Materials, Evan Moor, something like that. And you'll see things like writing a complete sentence to answer a reading comprehension question. And you'll notice it will be only 1-2 of those and the rest will be multiple choice. And yes, maybe like 1 paragraph for science or something for a book report form (How to Report on Books gr3-4 or 1-2). 

Our ps ramps up the writing really heavily, but that's more like 4th when it's multipage reports. They gave me representative samples as part of our IEP process before last year. My ds is now so far off, it doesn't matter, sigh. 

The main thing is to do ORALLY the work, even if he's not writing by hand. Schools care exceptionally little about handwriting and those kids would be plopped in front of a computer and told to get it out. The effort, the oral composition, that part is really important. Call it narration, call it writing, call it whatever. You DEFINITELY want to be working on that language development. But the physical act of writing, sure, whatever. If he's balking at the language part, that's a bigger deal.

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25 minutes ago, PeterPan said:

He'd be a young 3rd grader, that's for sure. 

So what usually helps me is to look at grade leveled workbooks from major publishers. BJU, Teacher Created Materials, Evan Moor, something like that. And you'll see things like writing a complete sentence to answer a reading comprehension question. And you'll notice it will be only 1-2 of those and the rest will be multiple choice. And yes, maybe like 1 paragraph for science or something for a book report form (How to Report on Books gr3-4 or 1-2). 

Our ps ramps up the writing really heavily, but that's more like 4th when it's multipage reports. They gave me representative samples as part of our IEP process before last year. My ds is now so far off, it doesn't matter, sigh. 

The main thing is to do ORALLY the work, even if he's not writing by hand. Schools care exceptionally little about handwriting and those kids would be plopped in front of a computer and told to get it out. The effort, the oral composition, that part is really important. Call it narration, call it writing, call it whatever. You DEFINITELY want to be working on that language development. But the physical act of writing, sure, whatever. If he's balking at the language part, that's a bigger deal.

We definitely do work on language development. I make them narrate a ton. Lots of memorization. Lots of me reading aloud. And I do whiteboard sentences and have them correct for proper capitalization, punctuation (limited), tense to a degree, add in adjectives or verbs in sort of a mad lib way, etc. For some reason the whiteboard doesn't count in their heads as writing.

I use Abeka for Phonics and I feel like the program as it's presented has a LOT of writing, so I've ditched most of it, and only use the intensive phonics drill/practice. 

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4 hours ago, Æthelthryth the Texan said:

...  I just wanted to make sure now that he's turning 8... that I am not aiming too low with what I expect. I have no reason to think that there are any underlying issues at the moment- he can do the copywork just fine. His personality simply leans towards minimal amount of effort possible to get to be done and go play right now. It's just really hard to tell from who I know IRL what is age appropriate...


That reminds me of the title of one of Andrew Pudewa's most popular talks: "Teaching Boys and Other Children [to Write], Who Would Rather Make Forts All Day" LOL.

Yes that is absolutely age appropriate behavior. From a child's perspective: Why on earth WOULD an 8yo child WANT to sit still at a desk, have to grip a pencil correctly for longer than is comfortable or interesting, and have to do the hard mental work of simultaneously juggling all the different parts of the brain that come into play for successful writing:

1.) thinking of what to write
2.) getting that to go out of the brain, down the arm, and onto the paper
3.) and do this activity for long enough that your hand cramps in order to write enough sentences to make a paragraph
4.) AND then have to go back over it to make it better (revision), AND go over it AGAIN to get picky with it (proof-edit)
5.) AND then worst of all, have to RE-WRITE the whole thing as a clean finished copy

I just very recently was talking with my now 27yo DS#1, who was a very average writer all through homeschool (went on to get a Bachelor's degree where he very fluidly was writing 10-20 page papers for several classes every semester, LOL!), and I was floored when he told me how much he hated writing, and how having to write about something instantly made the book or the curricula that we were using go from being fun and interesting to very unpleasant. I had NO idea that writing was so distasteful to the average elementary-aged student! 

So I am all about the waiting until some of the physical abilities (endurance with pencil holding, as well as spelling and the physical act of writing are becoming easy and second nature), and the mental skills (ability to think of what to say, and how to order your thoughts) kick in to make the writing process go more smoothly. And also after there's been lots of practice with complete sentences and then building up to putting 3-5 sentences together that are all on the same topic. Also waiting for paragraph writing until after learning to touch type makes a HUGE difference, as there is no longer the dread of having to re-write by hand when you hit the revision (moving sentences/paragraphs around, adding more writing, etc.), the proof-editing, and final clean copy stages.

Just some ramble thoughts... Wishing you all the BEST in your writing journey with DS! Warmest regards, Lori D.

Edited by Lori D.
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On 8/1/2019 at 8:16 AM, mmasc said:

I’m agreeing with what everyone else says above. 😊I also want to put a plug in for something I found through a thread here that worked amazingly well for my two DSs: 

How to Write a Super Sentence by Evan Moor.https://smile.amazon.com/Evan-Moor-Sentence-Workbook-Teachers-Supplement/dp/1557996067/ref=mp_s_a_1_2_sspa?keywords=how+to+write+a+super+sentence&qid=1564665349&s=gateway&sprefix=how+to+write+a+su&sr=8-2-spons&psc=1

My boys loved it *and* made progress!

I ordered the e-book version of this. It looks super cute! I think he and youngest dd will like it. Thanks for the rec! 

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I have one of those TOO. He's also starting third grade, though he's turning 9 in less than a month. He's ahead in pretty much everything but writing and spelling. He still has to focus so hard for his handwriting to just be legible; there's no way he'd also be able to think up the material in his head at the same time. I haven't asked him to write a sentence he's crafted unless I've first written it out on his page for him to copy. He can troubleshoot problems in paragraphs (order, sentences that don't belong, etc), but unless he has a massive growth spurt I can't see us getting to paragraphs at all this year. 

For what it's worth I put him in Writing With Ease a year behind. He rarely gets any of the questions wrong and he can narrate the short excerpts in painstaking detail, but the copywork from high quality children's literature has been great for building some endurance and confidence in those little hands. We enjoy the stories too, and he's added a few to his reading pile. It takes zero prep work or reading ahead of him. I just pull a worksheet out of the back and flip over to that day in the TM portion. 

(Totally adding that Games for Writing book from Lori's post to his pile for the year...)

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Anecdotal / possibly irrelevant: My kid was definitely "writing averse" but could give detailed and sophisticated narrations orally. My local wise friend told me to scribe for him UNTIL HE TOLD ME HE WAS READY . . . I thought that was crazy talk, as it went against all my "teacher training" from college and wouldn't it make him lazy and no, I do not have time for this, and I really think he should do it himself. But I listened to her, and kept on scribing and scribing and periodically checking in if he was ready to take over or not yet, and it was wayyyyyy later than all his peers, and then one day, BOOM. 7th grade. He was ready, he declared that he LOVES writing, has made decent progress on writing his own novel, writes poetry in his free time, is inventing a language, and considers himself an author. My jaw is still dragging along the ground, but I can honestly say that all those years of scribing (for a perfectly capable neurotypical child who drew maps for hours and hours a day) has probably been the best thing I could ever have done for that kid. 

 

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