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How Do You Help Your Kids Revise Their Writing?


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When working with a child pre-writing, writing or revising, how do you decide what aspects of content, meaning and style you want to help them improve and which issues you will ignore for the time being?

And then, how do you actually help them improve aspects that are much more abstract that concrete grammar issues?

My kids are very, very, VERY reluctant writers. They are analytical sorts who excel in reading and grammar, but just about die getting words on paper. Their general attitude toward writing is, "I don't know. I don't know. I don't know. Fine, whatever, I don't care! Just tell me what to write and I will copy it!" It is a painful process for everyone involved.

A lot of what they write is either stilted, repetitive, monotonous 5 word sentences that say very little, or perfectly grammatical but meaningless nonsense that in no fulfills the assignment. No matter how many times we've gone over it, their writing is still peppered with topic sentences like, "This paragraph is about fish." Last week my 9 year old wrote an explanatory paragraph composed entirely of rhetorical questions. 🤨

I often find myself completely overwhelmed looking at their pre-writing or written work. Where should I even start? What should I comment on? How do I help them "see" that an idea is completely off-topic or a sentence doesn't make sense? Do we just work on a few key issues (which ones?) and then accept that it is what it is...even if it is far from a logical, coherent, polished piece of writing?

How does this work at your house?

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1 hour ago, wendyroo said:

When working with a child pre-writing, writing or revising, how do you decide what aspects of content, meaning and style you want to help them improve and which issues you will ignore for the time being?

And then, how do you actually help them improve aspects that are much more abstract that concrete grammar issues?

My kids are very, very, VERY reluctant writers. They are analytical sorts who excel in reading and grammar, but just about die getting words on paper. Their general attitude toward writing is, "I don't know. I don't know. I don't know. Fine, whatever, I don't care! Just tell me what to write and I will copy it!" It is a painful process for everyone involved.

A lot of what they write is either stilted, repetitive, monotonous 5 word sentences that say very little, or perfectly grammatical but meaningless nonsense that in no fulfills the assignment. No matter how many times we've gone over it, their writing is still peppered with topic sentences like, "This paragraph is about fish." Last week my 9 year old wrote an explanatory paragraph composed entirely of rhetorical questions. 🤨

I often find myself completely overwhelmed looking at their pre-writing or written work. Where should I even start? What should I comment on? How do I help them "see" that an idea is completely off-topic or a sentence doesn't make sense? Do we just work on a few key issues (which ones?) and then accept that it is what it is...even if it is far from a logical, coherent, polished piece of writing?

How does this work at your house?

I never ended up using a formal writing curriculum for long, although I tried several, because my kids never flipped the switch from reciting boring facts to convincing me that what I was reading was worthwhile info., something that reflected their voice. I ended up teaching them my own writing process.

I approach writing from the perspective that 90% of all of writing is persuasive in some way. We are trying to convince people of something, to read, to buy, to agree, etc. We are an argumentative family by nature and my kids grew up learning the fine art of sarcasm and sharp, witty responses. Soooo, to my mind, the best way to get my kids writing well was to get them to write like we talk.

When my peeps came to me to ask for an outing or a favorite meal, the request would often start with “I think we should have ice cream for dinner.” followed by...”Hear me out, Mom!” Then they’d launch into a wind up/lead in, a background story, some compelling arguments about precedent and fairness that they HOPED set the stage for success. Finally, they delivered a closing argument that tried to bring it all home. Hmph. We harnessed that.

How it worked with something like ‘fish’ is that “WHY SHOULD MOM CARE ABOUT FISH?” would be the writing prompt. They’d use what they’d read to try to interest their reader. They did all of their pre-writing, drafting, revising, and editing BEFORE developing a title. I’ve written this way as far back as I can remember. *shrug*

As far as revising, I’d have them write first drafts on every other line. I’d make a copy, and cut it into sentences. We’d physically manipulate them into something that made better sense to our ears when speaking.

I also had my peeps write shorter responses, 1-3 paragraphs depending on their age, so I could be relentless about edits but only in one area at a time. We’d focus on different things with each revision and we usually did two or three. “Today, let’s focus on the organization and strength of your arguments. Next time, we’ll tackle grammar and punctuation.”

Now, I don’t have to do that anymore. For round 1, I write notes in the margin like: Does this sentence support your argument? Is this convincing? What does this *word/phrase* refer to? Which argument do you think is the strongest (arrows pointing)? For my younger—What do you think of the expression, “save the best for last” or would you prefer to “put your best foot forward”? How can you apply your answer to your writing b/c these are the kind of choices that good writers make. For round 2, I use standard editing marks.

I use boxing metaphors too for discussions about style, lol. Like—Your entire piece is a match with several rounds. Pace yourself. Sentences are like blows. Some are quick jabs. Some are longer combinations. Some are mighty uppercuts that drive home a point.

We did/do fewer writing assignments but go deep with the writing process. And, yes, at some point we have to call it quits. There will always be things you want to change, even in a final draft. I also have to be careful not to change every word that’s misused (connotations are a biggie here) because it’s discouraging. I do want them to try out big and unfamiliar words. I may explain how/why I’d say it differently and leave their choice intact. For my DDs 8th grade year, I had her choose one of her final drafts, the one that she was most proud of, and talk about what she’d learned from the process and whether she would/wouldn’t do anything differently.

I don’t know if any of this is at all helpful? I feel like it’s a bit of verbal diarrhea, lol.

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2 hours ago, wendyroo said:

When working with a child pre-writing, writing or revising, how do you decide what aspects of content, meaning and style you want to help them improve and which issues you will ignore for the time being?

And then, how do you actually help them improve aspects that are much more abstract that concrete grammar issues?

My kids are very, very, VERY reluctant writers. They are analytical sorts who excel in reading and grammar, but just about die getting words on paper. Their general attitude toward writing is, "I don't know. I don't know. I don't know. Fine, whatever, I don't care! Just tell me what to write and I will copy it!" It is a painful process for everyone involved.

A lot of what they write is either stilted, repetitive, monotonous 5 word sentences that say very little, or perfectly grammatical but meaningless nonsense that in no fulfills the assignment. No matter how many times we've gone over it, their writing is still peppered with topic sentences like, "This paragraph is about fish." Last week my 9 year old wrote an explanatory paragraph composed entirely of rhetorical questions. 🤨

I often find myself completely overwhelmed looking at their pre-writing or written work. Where should I even start? What should I comment on? How do I help them "see" that an idea is completely off-topic or a sentence doesn't make sense? Do we just work on a few key issues (which ones?) and then accept that it is what it is...even if it is far from a logical, coherent, polished piece of writing?

How does this work at your house?

I actually don't do any writing instruction until high school. (hiding in a corner with my English Ed degree)

There are so many "right" ways to teach writing.  Mine is a bit out of the box (or maybe completely out of the box) but it seems to have been effective enough for my two in college.

Most of my kids enjoy writing, but I'm pretty sure that if I got involved the love would fade quickly.  Especially for elementary school, I don't even really assign writing.  I bought them a book of writing prompts that they will pick up occasionally when the mood strikes.  When I had really little kids they would sometimes draw pictures and write a story to go with it.  Dd14 used to (and probably still does) enjoy writing her own comic books.  Dd12 likes to write poetry on her own.

Just like over-analyzing literature can turn some kids into reluctant readers, I think that over-evaluating writing can have a similar negative effect.

Dd14 just entered high school and so I have started to evaluate her writing.  She enjoys it and wants to get better.  My plan is to make a photocopy of each assignment and grade each assignment twice -- once to make sure she is accomplishing the bare minimum of my standards for ninth grade and once really harshly to show her all of the things that she can improve.  

 

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So far, I've given no thought to style or revision for kids under 11.  This has worked fine so far.  My 11 year old has dramatically improved her paragraph writing this year with instruction, and my 13 year old is gently moving into essays.  

For the 11 year old, I am having her outline a short chapter form A Little History of Archaeology.  There are other books in this series.  My older is doing a paragraph from Little History of Philosophy and a paragraph from Little History of Economics each week.  Great series.  Anyway...

- After she writes her outline, I have her read through her notes and then write a one sentence overview/summary.  Typically, this sentence becomes the paragraph topic sentence, at this point now with very little modification.  

- I then have her go through the notes again, and have her pull out the 3-5 most important details relating to the topic sentence.  We spend a lot of time talking about relevance to the summary paragraph- does the archaeologist's age/nationality/birthplace matter to the topic (sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn't), etc.  She then sees if any of those details can be combined into a more complex sentence structure, and then writes 3-5 sentences for the body of the paragraph.  

- Finally, and this is where we are currently working, I ask her to re-read the topic sentence, reread the body, and try to find a way to wrap things up.  Can we rewrite the topic sentence using other words, or with added insight from the details of the paragraph?  Not every paragraph needs a conclusive conclusion.  Some would be better with a transitional sentence if the topic yields itself to another hypothetical paragraph.  So we practice both, but not on each and every paragraph.  

 

The best book for teaching fiction IMO is The Most Wonderful Writing Lessons Ever.  While aimed at elementary, the breaking-down of fictional writing into recognizable patterns applies to everyone and is useful to everyone.  

 

To contrast this, my 9 year old is currently reading a book like Let's Read and Find Out or a short fairy tale or Aesop's Fable, and then writing a 2-3 sentence "summary" and illustrating it.  The only thing I correct is capitals and punctuation, and any spelling I think she should know or that she should have copied form the book.  I don't even actually ask for a summary.  I say, "Tell me 2-3 interesting things about this book/story, using full sentences."   I think this method helps us avoid silliness like "This book is about fish."  That obviously isn't interesting!  But by asking for interesting things, what I am really doing is teaching how to write the body of a paragraph.  I would not expect topic sentences until much later.  If you'd like to talk about topic sentences, why don't you read their "interesting things" sentences, then you write the topic sentence for them, buddy-writing style.  

Kid writes:  "Clown fish live with anemones."  "Anemones can shoot microscopic poison darts."  "Starfish can survive out of water for several hours."

You write: "Tide pools contain many different types of life, specially adapted to the rough conditions at the edge of the ocean."  (It doesn't have to be perfect, the goal is to get the idea that the topic sentence is like a net that holds all the rest of the paragraph together.)

You can then reverse the exercise, where you write the topic sentence first and have them find three sentences.  Or have them write the topic sentence and you write the details, or you write the details and have them come up with a TS.  Lots of options here to make this more of a game.  

 

 

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I would look at Mindwings.  They have programs explicitly for autism.  They have a level where kids are “filling in blanks” in formulaic examples.

If you have totally off-topic writing as your baseline — I think it is good.

If other times the same kid has totally off-topic writing, I would not complain about “this paragraph is about fish.”  Hey — they identified a topic!  If they go on to provide details, and it’s the same kid who sometimes is totally off topic — I would just be happy with this for a little while.  
 

There is nothing wrong with providing more support and scaffolding, and I think a lot is needed for kids who are totally off topic.

 

I also think Mindwings is good for picking an appropriate goal.  Then an appropriate goal can determine appropriate feedback.  

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2 hours ago, Monica_in_Switzerland said:

I think this method helps us avoid silliness like "This book is about fish."  That obviously isn't interesting! 

I think this is where we run into some problems. Due to ASD and other issues, my older two boys especially can't seem to pinpoint what is or isn't interesting, what does or does not make sense, what their audience may or may not reasonably know.

Around 3rd grade I start having my kids write one narration sentence a day about the literature they are reading. I tend to get sentences like, "They couldn't do it." and "Three children started the conversation."

These are kids who are reading literature for ~30 minutes a day, free reading for about 2 hours a day, and listening to read alouds for 1-2 hours a day. They are exposed to SO MUCH LANGUAGE; their comprehension, knowledge and vocabularies are measurably huge! And yet when it comes to writing it all falls apart.

And these are not kiddos who will write anything voluntarily...really, truly, nothing!! Not a comic book or a caption on a picture or a greeting card.  I mean, they have no problem copying the words "Happy Birthday" onto a card. They are fine with copywork and narration; it's not the physical act of writing they loathe. The hang up is all in the idea generation.

If I ask my 11 year old to write an email to my mom letting her know she forgot her scarf here, he will grudgingly produce, "You left your scarf here." - terse, yet I guess functional. But if I ask him to write one sentence expressing something he likes about having lizards for pets, he will produce something like, "Lizards are fun." And it is only through prodding and coaching that I can get him to, "It is fun to watch the lizards hunt for food." And yet the next day if I ask for one sentence expressing something he likes about playing guitar, we will be right back to, "Guitar is fun."

This does not feel like a situation where I can take a hands-off approach and rely on time and maturity to teach these skills adequately.

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1 hour ago, wendyroo said:

I think this is where we run into some problems. Due to ASD and other issues, my older two boys especially can't seem to pinpoint what is or isn't interesting, what does or does not make sense, what their audience may or may not reasonably know.

Around 3rd grade I start having my kids write one narration sentence a day about the literature they are reading. I tend to get sentences like, "They couldn't do it." and "Three children started the conversation."

These are kids who are reading literature for ~30 minutes a day, free reading for about 2 hours a day, and listening to read alouds for 1-2 hours a day. They are exposed to SO MUCH LANGUAGE; their comprehension, knowledge and vocabularies are measurably huge! And yet when it comes to writing it all falls apart.

And these are not kiddos who will write anything voluntarily...really, truly, nothing!! Not a comic book or a caption on a picture or a greeting card.  I mean, they have no problem copying the words "Happy Birthday" onto a card. They are fine with copywork and narration; it's not the physical act of writing they loathe. The hang up is all in the idea generation.

If I ask my 11 year old to write an email to my mom letting her know she forgot her scarf here, he will grudgingly produce, "You left your scarf here." - terse, yet I guess functional. But if I ask him to write one sentence expressing something he likes about having lizards for pets, he will produce something like, "Lizards are fun." And it is only through prodding and coaching that I can get him to, "It is fun to watch the lizards hunt for food." And yet the next day if I ask for one sentence expressing something he likes about playing guitar, we will be right back to, "Guitar is fun."

This does not feel like a situation where I can take a hands-off approach and rely on time and maturity to teach these skills adequately.

My son is on the spectrum and he is the same way to a slightly lesser extent. He talks as you say but *can* be more prolific when he is asked to write. He only writes for specific purposes tho and I have to be very clear about what my expectations are. If he could get away with two words, he would. He has learned, however, over a very, very, very long time to follow the same process every time and use a grading rubric to ensure he's including everything that's needed. My DS needs the expectations for the final product upfront and then he does much better. He doesn't write for fun. His emails to dad say, "Hi, Dad." That is his version of small talk. So...yeah... In the beginning with DS, my rubrics were absurdly specific: Include at least three complete sentences. Use one adjective or adverb in each sentence. Capitalize proper nouns. Include ending punctuation. That kind of thing. Over and over and over and over again. We are 1/3 through Algebra 1 and I am still having to make him write out each step of every problem sitting at my elbow. If I let him slide a single day, he'll revert to shorthand that makes sense only to him.

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48 minutes ago, wendyroo said:

 

If I ask my 11 year old to write an email to my mom letting her know she forgot her scarf here, he will grudgingly produce, "You left your scarf here." - terse, yet I guess functional. But if I ask him to write one sentence expressing something he likes about having lizards for pets, he will produce something like, "Lizards are fun." And it is only through prodding and coaching that I can get him to, "It is fun to watch the lizards hunt for food." And yet the next day if I ask for one sentence expressing something he likes about playing guitar, we will be right back to, "Guitar is fun."

This does not feel like a situation where I can take a hands-off approach and rely on time and maturity to teach these skills adequately.

In these situations I would follow up with simply the word "Why?" (or something similar such as How? depending on the sentence.)

Lizards are fun.  Why?  And let the kid answer orally.  And then tell him to write it down.

Guitar is fun.  Why?  If he says he doesn't know, then have an oral discussion with him and then tell him to write it down.

Maybe bribery would work?  Give an M&M or something similar for every word that they write.  That will maybe encourage longer sentences.

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2 hours ago, Amoret said:

I think that if my kids were that reluctant and were missing the mark by such a degree that I didn't know where to begin with helping them to revise, I would rethink what I am asking them to do. I would spend a lot of time thinking about what I want them to learn in terms of writing and how I could best engage their interest and play to their strengths in order to achieve those ends.

This.

It does sound like a daunting task for you to pick and choose what to focus on in such a big assignment. So maybe break it into smaller chunks before having the kid put it all together. In other words, don’t worry about the organization of the paper; don’t worry about the paragraph construction; just focus on making good sentences.  Once they master that, concentrate on paragraph organization and focus.  Once paragraphs can be constructed well then concentrate on how to organize these well written paragraphs. And so on.  This is what I’m doing this school year and the results are still to be seen.  But at least I’m not ruining our relationship over editing writing assignments, and I’m assuming we are making some forward progress on it writing journey.

Killgallon’s sentence composing and paragraph books may be helpful. They have the student observe the “masters” and learn what makes it such a good sentence. Then the student imitates those good things. And eventually creates their own imitation of the masters.   Lots can be done orally.  It’s one of my “keeper” curriculum choices.

 

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50 minutes ago, domestic_engineer said:

So maybe break it into smaller chunks before having the kid put it all together. In other words, don’t worry about the organization of the paper; don’t worry about the paragraph construction; just focus on making good sentences.  

Yeah, that is the approach I have been taking...unfortunately, they are failing to truly master anything.

I spent all of 3rd and 4th grade with my oldest focused on sentences. Going into that he had already mastered all of the grammar, punctuation and capitalization. As a second grader he knew how to properly use semi-colons and punctuate quotations. So for two full years we focused on writing longer, more interesting sentences...and it was largely a flop. If given direct instructions he can do it. He can take his description of a painting ("There is a tree.") and add an adjective and a "where" prepositional phrase. If told to, he can change it to use a more active verb: "A tall tree stands in the field."

But even after two full years, he can't do any of that independently.

So in 5th grade we moved on to paragraphs. Again, he completely understands the proper structure of a paragraph. If given a paragraph he can tell you if the topic sentence is appropriate or which detail sentence doesn't belong. But when he goes to write a topic sentence, his mind goes blank, even if we did scaffolded pre-writing and he knows generally what it needs to say. And we end up with "There are many facts about the Eiffel Tower. It is tall. It is in Paris. It is made of metal. We can learn about the Eiffel Tower." 

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I was going to recommend Killgallon also, they have sentence books and paragraph books. However, it sounds like your dc could *do* those books successfully but not carry the skill away to other writing. Plus @domestic_engineer

already said it.

If you give a topic sentence can your ds add additional sentences? Removing the blank page or how to start issues, but then fall back on the oral scaffolding to fill it out? What about an outline for the paragraph that has a detail for each supporting sentence, would that be enough of a start?

I'm sure you have worked through many of these random thoughts of mine already, in your calm, focused way. Just trying to help think about a finer approach to process break-down.

 

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What if you put it on a loop schedule? For week/assignment 1, we will focus our editing on sentences to use strong word choices. For Week/assignment 2 we will work to improve our paragraphs’ topic sentences. For week 3, we will work on adding strong phrases to our sentences. For week 4, we will work on strong supporting sentences within our  paragraphs .... etc. 

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I'm sorry, i missed in your sig that you were dealing with various SN.  

How about doing something like a mind-map about a topic.  Those things that look like blobs connected by lines.  You can model it, then ask for independent mind-mapping.  Then perhaps colored highlighters to group things that might be able to be combined into a single sentence.  Then, you might be able to say, "Write out the green sentence."  Green things highlighted might have been Paris, 19xx, and considered ugly.  How can ds turn those into one sentence about the Eiffel Tower?

 

Just some ideas.  I hope you get more specific advice from others dealing with ASD.   

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My dd was a nontraditional learner, pretty right brained/visual spatial.  She did great at copywork.  She knew what good writing looked like.  She didn't herself manage to do any particularly good writing until halfway through 7th grade.  

We did the copywork in WWE 1 through 3 or 4.  She did Remedia Publishing's books on Outlining (there are two of them).  We used the Hamburger visual for what a paragraph (or paper) should look like.  We read The Conclusionator by Prufrock Press.  

 In 5th grade, she did the Ready to Write Prompt box Gr. 2 and 3 from Lakeshore Learning.  She used a dry erase marker to fill out each card.  That's it.  No additional writing.

She got to where she could write summaries very well (thanks WWE).  But I had to specify the number of sentences (3).  (Honestly, she's a big picture thinker and could summarize something in three words.)

I can tell you that she never got to where she could write fiction from her head.  She's a nonfiction girl all the way.  But she turned the corner in 7th grade and is a pretty great writer now (research papers generally for her classes).

So my advice is keep getting examples of good writing in their heads, but maybe don't worry about the timeline.  They are still very young. 

And if they are big picture thinkers at all, come to it from that perspective.  Formula writing is okay, if your formula is good.  Paragraph should have intro sentence, body, and concluding sentence (like Hamburger visual).  Paper should have intro paragraph, body, and concluding paragraph (like Hamburger visual).  Nothing wrong with  a formula.  It's a great starting point.

 (By the way, she adds adjectives to things in her college writing to make it better.  She did not do that in junior high. )  Oh, and she hated Killgallon and talked me out of using it with her because it's focus is on good fiction writing.  That's not her vibe.  I taught her how to write summaries of fiction, and research papers mainly.  

HTH if any of this might apply to your kids.

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I think I'm with a lot of other people on this thread and would not do a writing program for your kids at the moment. 

The way I always try to break these things down is by "skills." Clearly, due to their ASD, the "skill" your kids are lacking is figuring out what might interest a reader and what kinds of things they are trying to communicate. If I were you, I'd work on this skill gently and conversationally as much as possible. This is something they clearly partially need to grow into, and moreover, they'll almost certainly take LONGER to grow into it than other kids. 

I would also think about whether there's anything AT ALL your kids may wish to communicate to someone. Because trying to communicate things you don't care about to someone nameless is just... boring and uninspiring. For DD8, we did a lot of brainstorming and came up with projects she was kind of, sort of interested in. And this year, we've defaulted to mostly writing math proofs as her writing, because she finds them less unpleasant than other kinds of writing.

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18 minutes ago, perky said:

My dd was a nontraditional learner, pretty right brained/visual spatial.  She did great at copywork.  She knew what good writing looked like.  She didn't herself manage to do any particularly good writing until halfway through 7th grade.  

This gives me hope. My kids are young, but I just see so little progress. And if left to their own devises they avoid all forms of writing so assiduously that they get no casual, real-life practice.

We did the copywork in WWE 1 through 3 or 4.  She did Remedia Publishing's books on Outlining (there are two of them).  We used the Hamburger visual for what a paragraph (or paper) should look like.  We read The Conclusionator by Prufrock Press.  

We have done WWE. My oldest did 1 - 3. My second son did 1 and 2, and then had to switch to something more open and go to use during ABA therapy. They have both breezed through the two Remedia outlining books. We use various visual models for paragraphs...they understand them intellectually, but really struggle to produce them in practice.

 In 5th grade, she did the Ready to Write Prompt box Gr. 2 and 3 from Lakeshore Learning.  She used a dry erase marker to fill out each card.  That's it.  No additional writing.

She got to where she could write summaries very well (thanks WWE).  But I had to specify the number of sentences (3).  (Honestly, she's a big picture thinker and could summarize something in three words.)

This is where we fall apart. Neither of my boys are big picture thinkers, and neither can summarize to save their lives. All the way through WWE, they never really figured out how to find the main idea of a passage. My oldest is currently slowly working in WWS 1, and he still really struggles. He knows that when writing a one level outline, he should look for "the main thing or person that the paragraph is about", but the best he can do is choosing a noun from the topic sentence and hoping for the best. He normally gets it right if the paragraph is about Mars, but he could never pinpoint that a paragraph was about Mars' climate or the discovery of Mars.

I can tell you that she never got to where she could write fiction from her head.  She's a nonfiction girl all the way.  But she turned the corner in 7th grade and is a pretty great writer now (research papers generally for her classes).

My boys aren't even big fiction readers, and they have shown no interest in writing fiction. 

So my advice is keep getting examples of good writing in their heads, but maybe don't worry about the timeline.  They are still very young. 

And if they are big picture thinkers at all, come to it from that perspective.  Formula writing is okay, if your formula is good.  Paragraph should have intro sentence, body, and concluding sentence (like Hamburger visual).  Paper should have intro paragraph, body, and concluding paragraph (like Hamburger visual).  Nothing wrong with  a formula.  It's a great starting point.

 (By the way, she adds adjectives to things in her college writing to make it better.  She did not do that in junior high. )  Oh, and she hated Killgallon and talked me out of using it with her because it's focus is on good fiction writing.  That's not her vibe.  I taught her how to write summaries of fiction, and research papers mainly.  

My boys HATE Killgallon as well. They can both easily do the exercises rearranging sentence parts - they are both very good pattern matchers. But any exercise asking them to write their own sentences from the model is torture.

HTH if any of this might apply to your kids.

Thank you!

 

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I repeat this anecdote a LOT, but I had to seriously remediate my little sister's writing when she was a junior and a senior in high school. The thing she seemed to absorb from her classes was to 

 

1) Write using passive voice

2) Add as many fancy words she didn't quite understand as possible 

and 

3) Cite lots of sources, whether they supported her arguments or not. 

 

We wound up having to basically start from scratch with her writing in grade 12. It wasn't possible to work with the things she was producing, because they were illogical, badly written, and confusing. And yet she's a bright kid who's now at a good college! 

What we wound up doing is telling her to write down what she's trying to say as if she's talking to me or texting to me, as if she's trying to convince me of something. So... we basically told her to abandon every single thing she learned in high school and start over and build on her texting abilities. And this resulted in VASTLY superior essays than what she was doing before. 

I guess this is to say that uninspired, formulaic writing that feels meaningless to kids doesn't obviously do very much to help them... and that also, you can take a much older kid with a more developed ability to COMMUNICATE (which is, after all, is what writing is all about) and you can build on that ability to communicate instead of building on their "writing instruction." 

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5 minutes ago, Not_a_Number said:

I would also think about whether there's anything AT ALL your kids may wish to communicate to someone. Because trying to communicate things you don't care about to someone nameless is just... boring and uninspiring. For DD8, we did a lot of brainstorming and came up with projects she was kind of, sort of interested in. And this year, we've defaulted to mostly writing math proofs as her writing, because she finds them less unpleasant than other kinds of writing.

I haven't found anything. Really, they are not oriented toward other people. They don't even really see other people as people, per se, just things in their environment.

They sometimes want to show their grandparents things they make, but emphasis on show, not tell, and really, they only sustain that interest for ~30 seconds. My mom can often press them into answering one or two questions with one or two words. So, "What is it?" "A snake." "How did you make it?" "With yarn." 

After years of Writing with Ease, if I am asking the questions, I can prompt them into complete sentences:
Them: "A snake." Me: "It is..." Them: "It is a snake." 

And after years of combining sentences in Daily Grams, if I get them to "It is a snake." and "I made it with yarn.", they could successfully combine them into "It is a snake I made with yarn." But, really, that is a lot of prompting and hullabaloo to go through to generate that one oral sentence. And in no way would they be motivated to communicate that idea; it would have to be forced on them.

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1 minute ago, wendyroo said:

I haven't found anything. Really, they are not oriented toward other people. They don't even really see other people as people, per se, just things in their environment.

There's nothing that interests them that they'd want to communicate at all? Any kind of science, or math, or computer thing, or anything? Instruction manuals? Anything weird? Any enthusiasm at all? 

DD8 isn't as difficult as this by any stretch of the imagination, but she's also a reluctant writer who excels at the mechanics (it's all the math and science and engineering genes), so I do sympathize. This is why we've gone to only doing proofs for writing... there's no emotional load there, and that's easier for her. 

Maybe the next question is what exactly you want them to be able to write for. What goal are you trying to accomplish? What would you like them to be able to do with this ability? 

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Okay, I don't know how to quote from your post, but the thing about Mars sounds pretty age-appropriate, actually.  And picking a word in the topic sentence and hoping it's the main idea sounds like a good strategy.

If I were you, I would look at some more workbooks and pick some up that target specific skills that you can see need to be addressed.  You've got plenty of time, I promise.

That's how I handled dd's writing issues (she hated it so very much).  I just picked a specific skill to target and worked on that for awhile.  When they hit high school, you can refine things.  My understanding is that a "switch" does kind of flip for kids around junior high, developmentally.  And with ASD, that switch might flip a little later.  But just keep targeting a skill, one at a time.

HTH

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16 minutes ago, Not_a_Number said:

I guess this is to say that uninspired, formulaic writing that feels meaningless to kids doesn't obviously do very much to help them... and that also, you can take a much older kid with a more developed ability to COMMUNICATE (which is, after all, is what writing is all about) and you can build on that ability to communicate instead of building on their "writing instruction." 

This is my biggest worry because Peter and Elliot also greatly struggle to communicate logically and coherently.

It's not their sentences or grammar or vocabulary. Those are all strong. It's generating logical ideas and translating them into words.

For example, Peter was reading about Cleopatra and the uncertainty about how she died. He said that he didn't think she had died from a snake bite because she knew a lot about poison. I asked how her knowing about poison meant it was less likely she had been killed by a snake. I think he had an idea in his head about how the two were connected, but he could not put it into words at all, and after a fair amount of struggle, gave up and said, "Because."

The same problem shows up in math. He can look at an isosceles triangle with the different angle measuring 80 degrees and know that the other two must each equal 50. But for love or money he can't put into words how he knows it.

One of Elliot's therapists asked him the other day what our lizards' names are. Elliot could not form any coherent answer. Granted, it is not a perfectly straight forward question because the kids all call them different things. But, still, I think most 9 year olds could answer something like, "We all call them different things. I call them Dot, Newbie and Medium One." Certainly my 5 year old could answer that...and go on to narrate several more coherent paragraphs about the ins and outs of lizard ownership!

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6 minutes ago, wendyroo said:

The same problem shows up in math. He can look at an isosceles triangle with the different angle measuring 80 degrees and know that the other two must each equal 50. But for love or money he can't put into words how he knows it.

Well, you know me -- I might work on that. That might honestly be the easiest bridge to writing -- it's so logical and so unemotional and there are right answers and it's easier to explain what you should and shouldn't include. (And it does require taking the perspective of a reader.) 

 

7 minutes ago, wendyroo said:

This is my biggest worry because Peter and Elliot also greatly struggle to communicate logically and coherently.

It's not their sentences or grammar or vocabulary. Those are all strong. It's generating logical ideas and translating them into words.

Yeah, I'd agree this is your biggest problem. That's why I'd probably give up on academic writing and just work on this in the teeniest possible steps. Find anything they want to communicate AT ALL and work with them on it so that they get a tiny bit closer to what they want. 

I think thinking about what you want out of all this is a good question. I would guess from what you've said that this is going to be an area of difficulty for the rest of their lives, and they'll have to figure out how to manage this. So... what should the writing be for? Do you want them to be able to write e-mails? To communicate their needs in writing? To be able to put comments into computer programs? (I'm just making random stuff up here -- not trying to be insulting.) 

So... I guess I'd start there. Figure out what's a plausible goal and think about how to get closer to it. 

And I'm sorry you have to deal with this 😞 . It sounds very frustrating. 

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Some may not agree with me but I’ve stopped asking my ASD son to ‘explain’ things. He just isn’t wired that way. I have adjusted my expectations and asks. I ask him to ‘do’ things. He doesn’t have to understand why we do all of the things we do anymore than a 2yo needs to understand why we wear shoes in a grocery store. I can say in 19 different ways ‘why’ and it would never click. Like Forest Gump’s mama, I tell DS how things are and what he needs to do. DH THRIVED in the military because rules are rules and explanations needn’t be provided all the time. Your decision is what it is. That said, my DS has deduced A LOT from observing and listening but I do not and will not explain everything. I do not believe my son needs to think or communicate like everyone else to be a wonderful, functional, highly capable adult.

My DS is just a more extreme version of my DH tho so I’ve had 25 years of practice with this approach. DH used to fight me all the time about replacing raggedy, too small clothes, for ex. To DH/DS they still have use, holes and all. SMH. I don’t ask them ‘if’ they want to get rid of things anymore. I tell them to give me the things, explicitly and without debate. Spending money on anything new is always going to register as pointless to them but my objective is to achieve performative compliance not agreement. They haven’t adjusted/changed. I have.
 

How that works WRT to things like math, means being ok with DS showing his thought processes instead of narrating them (and performative compliance is still a challenge). It’s enough. Expecting DS to ever willingly discuss or explain things the way my  DD does will only frustrate us both. The same is true of writing. In this house, DS knows ‘fake it til you make it’ as a mantra. I’m ok with him showing me something in print, in a conventional way that others can follow, rather than narrating it. If you’re open to giving sentence frames, you can ensure they include conjunctions like, “I think _____ because _____”. This can also be part of the rubrics mentioned above. Some number/percent of sentences must include a conjunction. Repetition and consistency with this really can help.

Your example of your son explaining why Cleopatra was unlikely to have died of poison would have passed muster here. As far as I’m concerned, that would be plenty of explanation for my son at that age. 🤷🏽‍♀️

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I'm sorry if this advice is totally off-base, because I know all kids are so different.

My son is a reluctant writer who grumbles daily about his writing assignments and struggles to explain things or add details. It's like pulling teeth to get him to explain WHY he likes playing games, or reading a certain book or whatever.

But he really LOVES writing assignments that have him take on a different voice. Sometimes I'll ask him to write a short letter as if he were a certain historical figure -- or a character in a fable -- and he does a great job. Usually it's a little over the top, but also really funny and lively. I think writing in the different voice is liberating for him, because normally he tends to be a perfectionist -- which I think feeds into being kind of crunched up and unwilling to explain one's ideas. 

Editing to ask -- do these problems come up when your kids do oral narrations too?

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21 minutes ago, Not_a_Number said:

There's nothing that interests them that they'd want to communicate at all? Any kind of science, or math, or computer thing, or anything? Instruction manuals? Anything weird? Any enthusiasm at all? 

DD8 isn't as difficult as this by any stretch of the imagination, but she's also a reluctant writer who excels at the mechanics (it's all the math and science and engineering genes), so I do sympathize. This is why we've gone to only doing proofs for writing... there's no emotional load there, and that's easier for her. 

Maybe the next question is what exactly you want them to be able to write for. What goal are you trying to accomplish? What would you like them to be able to do with this ability? 

Neither Peter nor Elliot have any innate drive to communicate anything beyond anger/hunger/desire for concrete objects/etc. Even those communications are fairly basic. Peter will say, "That's mine!" and Elliot will answer, "No!" and they are at a bit of a stalemate. To me, it is obvious that Peter's next logical statement should be, "I made it with Papa." And then Elliot should counter with, "But Mom said I could look at it." But that wouldn't occur to either of them. That is a major skill they are working on with Elliot in ABA, but there has been little progress.

They do LOVE asking questions. They get mixed up in their head, and sometimes ask pretty muddled ones, but the ideas they are trying to ask about are sometimes very deep and complex...it is just the words that sometimes don't come out in a coherent structure.

They are also fact-collecting machines and can rattle off facts fairly coherently...if you ask. They very rarely share information just for social bonding or shared attention purposes. They are good at answering who/what/when/where questions. By default they answer in 1-2 words, but if pressed they can answer in simple complete sentences. Mostly I pick up on what they are reading and learning by what questions they are asking.

It's the why and how questions that often stump them. Not if they have been explicitly taught the information. "Why is global warming a problem?" Either of them could rattle off facts about sea levels rising, severe weather events, coral bleaching, etc. But ask "How did you fold that paper airplane?" and they struggle to independently generate any words to describe any of the steps they took. Their instinct is to grab the book with the instructions and just read them to you because they are unable to summarize what they did in any way.

My writing goals for them:
- Writing a simple email to a friend/colleague/landlord/utility company expressing an idea or problem
- Adapting their email writing by including background info the recipient will need (right now they struggle to understand that everyone does not know all the same things that they know)
- Summarizing an event/idea/meeting/plan/article/lecture/story...be it in notes, list form, an outline, mind mapping, a paragraph, Powerpoint, etc.
- Writing well-developed 3-5 sentence "short answers" in a timely fashion with little strife
- Logically explaining the steps they took to solve a math problem
- Explaining a conclusion that can be drawn from an analysis (ie Due to X, Y, and Z, it makes sense to choose the Deluxe Cell Phone Plan.)
and, eventually,
- Writing lab reports
- Cranking out adequate college intro and STEM essays. They don't have to be particularly eloquent or awe inspiring (I have looked at many samples from various Writing 101 classes, and the standards are pretty low), but "This essay is about Mars" and 20 word paragraphs just aren't going to cut it. Their writing can remain fairly formulaic, but they need to learn how to use the formula to produce logical, coherent, well-supported argumentative essays between about 500 and 2000 words. This skill may not be something they ever use as an adult, but it will open the doors to many careers...and who knows, Elliot still talks about wanting to be an paleontologist and professional bowler, and one of those two careers will require quite a bit of writing. 😄

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16 minutes ago, wendyroo said:

Neither Peter nor Elliot have any innate drive to communicate anything beyond anger/hunger/desire for concrete objects/etc. Even those communications are fairly basic. Peter will say, "That's mine!" and Elliot will answer, "No!" and they are at a bit of a stalemate. To me, it is obvious that Peter's next logical statement should be, "I made it with Papa." And then Elliot should counter with, "But Mom said I could look at it." But that wouldn't occur to either of them. That is a major skill they are working on with Elliot in ABA, but there has been little progress.

They do LOVE asking questions. They get mixed up in their head, and sometimes ask pretty muddled ones, but the ideas they are trying to ask about are sometimes very deep and complex...it is just the words that sometimes don't come out in a coherent structure.

They are also fact-collecting machines and can rattle off facts fairly coherently...if you ask. They very rarely share information just for social bonding or shared attention purposes. They are good at answering who/what/when/where questions. By default they answer in 1-2 words, but if pressed they can answer in simple complete sentences. Mostly I pick up on what they are reading and learning by what questions they are asking.

It's the why and how questions that often stump them. Not if they have been explicitly taught the information. "Why is global warming a problem?" Either of them could rattle off facts about sea levels rising, severe weather events, coral bleaching, etc. But ask "How did you fold that paper airplane?" and they struggle to independently generate any words to describe any of the steps they took. Their instinct is to grab the book with the instructions and just read them to you because they are unable to summarize what they did in any way.

My writing goals for them:
- Writing a simple email to a friend/colleague/landlord/utility company expressing an idea or problem
- Adapting their email writing by including background info the recipient will need (right now they struggle to understand that everyone does not know all the same things that they know)
- Summarizing an event/idea/meeting/plan/article/lecture/story...be it in notes, list form, an outline, mind mapping, a paragraph, Powerpoint, etc.
- Writing well-developed 3-5 sentence "short answers" in a timely fashion with little strife
- Logically explaining the steps they took to solve a math problem
- Explaining a conclusion that can be drawn from an analysis (ie Due to X, Y, and Z, it makes sense to choose the Deluxe Cell Phone Plan.)
and, eventually,
- Writing lab reports
- Cranking out adequate college intro and STEM essays. They don't have to be particularly eloquent or awe inspiring (I have looked at many samples from various Writing 101 classes, and the standards are pretty low), but "This essay is about Mars" and 20 word paragraphs just aren't going to cut it. Their writing can remain fairly formulaic, but they need to learn how to use the formula to produce logical, coherent, well-supported argumentative essays between about 500 and 2000 words. This skill may not be something they ever use as an adult, but it will open the doors to many careers...and who knows, Elliot still talks about wanting to be an paleontologist and professional bowler, and one of those two careers will require quite a bit of writing. 😄

Those sound like good goals! 

The interesting question would what the appropriate scaffolding for those goals would be. I would think that spending some time thinking about the POINT of communication is would maybe be helpful? Maybe work on some very, very simple examples with them about why various people might say various things and what information they have? It sounds like that's a major hurdle. 

I wonder if doing something experimental would be helpful, where they'd have to do some trial and error about communicating something?  Like, say, something like folding a paper airplane or something else that requires someone to actually use something they produced? 

What work do you do with Peter on his social communication stuff? It sounds like Elliot is doing that with his ABA therapist, so that seems useful, although I'm sorry it's not working. 

I guess what it sounds like to ME is that they are simply not ready to do serious writing at this point. There are too many barriers. The question is more whether you could work on the barriers. 

I hope you don't mind my experience-free input, by the way 😞. I definitely don't know much about this. Just brainstorming about what could possibly work. 

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39 minutes ago, wendyroo said:

Neither Peter nor Elliot have any innate drive to communicate anything beyond anger/hunger/desire for concrete objects/etc. Even those communications are fairly basic. Peter will say, "That's mine!" and Elliot will answer, "No!" and they are at a bit of a stalemate. To me, it is obvious that Peter's next logical statement should be, "I made it with Papa." And then Elliot should counter with, "But Mom said I could look at it." But that wouldn't occur to either of them. That is a major skill they are working on with Elliot in ABA, but there has been little progress.

They do LOVE asking questions. They get mixed up in their head, and sometimes ask pretty muddled ones, but the ideas they are trying to ask about are sometimes very deep and complex...it is just the words that sometimes don't come out in a coherent structure.

They are also fact-collecting machines and can rattle off facts fairly coherently...if you ask. They very rarely share information just for social bonding or shared attention purposes. They are good at answering who/what/when/where questions. By default they answer in 1-2 words, but if pressed they can answer in simple complete sentences. Mostly I pick up on what they are reading and learning by what questions they are asking.

It's the why and how questions that often stump them. Not if they have been explicitly taught the information. "Why is global warming a problem?" Either of them could rattle off facts about sea levels rising, severe weather events, coral bleaching, etc. But ask "How did you fold that paper airplane?" and they struggle to independently generate any words to describe any of the steps they took. Their instinct is to grab the book with the instructions and just read them to you because they are unable to summarize what they did in any way.

My writing goals for them:
- Writing a simple email to a friend/colleague/landlord/utility company expressing an idea or problem
- Adapting their email writing by including background info the recipient will need (right now they struggle to understand that everyone does not know all the same things that they know)
- Summarizing an event/idea/meeting/plan/article/lecture/story...be it in notes, list form, an outline, mind mapping, a paragraph, Powerpoint, etc.
- Writing well-developed 3-5 sentence "short answers" in a timely fashion with little strife
- Logically explaining the steps they took to solve a math problem
- Explaining a conclusion that can be drawn from an analysis (ie Due to X, Y, and Z, it makes sense to choose the Deluxe Cell Phone Plan.)
and, eventually,
- Writing lab reports
- Cranking out adequate college intro and STEM essays. They don't have to be particularly eloquent or awe inspiring (I have looked at many samples from various Writing 101 classes, and the standards are pretty low), but "This essay is about Mars" and 20 word paragraphs just aren't going to cut it. Their writing can remain fairly formulaic, but they need to learn how to use the formula to produce logical, coherent, well-supported argumentative essays between about 500 and 2000 words. This skill may not be something they ever use as an adult, but it will open the doors to many careers...and who knows, Elliot still talks about wanting to be an paleontologist and professional bowler, and one of those two careers will require quite a bit of writing. 😄

I think your goals are mostly great (save the explanation part). This is the independent written work my DS is producing as a 7th grader and he easily gets As. He would **NEVER** say this much out loud. Could I or his teacher probe to fully develop his ideas? Yes. Would it be productive? No.

TBH, I think the idea of explaining everything is a largely female-friendly concept of successful communication. It doesn’t suit all and needn’t be used by all.
 

AE8DA5CA-E589-4B33-8507-E07611F71E77.thumb.jpeg.246fe0303997f1adc4fbb8978671f37b.jpeg3D55945B-4972-43A3-9A8A-C78DC858AB03.thumb.jpeg.5e76b19bc8caa6c0582d11ecaaac10c7.jpeg

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1 minute ago, Sneezyone said:

TBH, I think the idea of explaining everything is a largely female-friendly concept of successful communication. It doesn’t suit all and needn’t by used by all.

What's the difference between "explaining" and "communicating"? 

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9 minutes ago, Not_a_Number said:

What's the difference between "explaining" and "communicating"? 

In my mind, communicating is being able to get others to know what you want/need/think. We communicate verbally and non verbally. Explaining is providing justification. Is some justification/explanation necessary for fully functional adults? Sure, just not to the extent many women prefer. The explanatory output expectations exemplified by NCLB really hurt boys in general but ASD boys in particular.

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Just now, Sneezyone said:

In my mind, communicating is being able to get others to know what you want/need. We communicate verbally and non verbally. Explaining is providing justification. Is some justification/explanation necessary for fully functional adults, sure, just not to the extent many women prefer. The explanatory output expectations exemplified by NCLB really hurt boys, in general, but ASD boys in particular.

I think if your goal is writing essays, though, you have to be able to provide evidence. 

I have to say, I don't think of essay-writing as a particularly feminine endeavor... same with writing proofs for math, which are certainly a form of explanation. (I probably don't think of those as feminine because I've often been the only girl who's really excited about those activities in my surroundings, lol.) 

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7 minutes ago, Not_a_Number said:

I think if your goal is writing essays, though, you have to be able to provide evidence. 

I have to say, I don't think of essay-writing as a particularly feminine endeavor... same with writing proofs for math, which are certainly a form of explanation. (I probably don't think of those as feminine because I've often been the only girl who's really excited about those activities in my surroundings, lol.) 

Writing proofs for math is a performative expectation that can be developed/trained over time with explicit instruction. Instructors  clearly say what is expected as evidence and grade accordingly. It seems to me that what OP is describing is a dissatisfaction with the amount of ELA explanation without having clearly established for DC what an acceptable level of explanation is or looks like. My DS is not even remotely close to a mind reader and he needs explicit instruction. I’ve found it necessary to be very prescriptive. My DS does not get ‘excited’ or show excitement the same way as others. I know he’s happy when he’s singing or humming to himself only b/c I’ve known him so long, lol.

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1 minute ago, Sneezyone said:

Writing proofs for math is a performative expectation that can be developed/trained over time with explicit instruction. Instructors  clearly say what is expected as evidence and grade accordingly. It seems to me that what OP is describing is a dissatisfaction with the amount of ELA explanation without having clearly established for DC what an acceptable level of explanation is or looks like. My DS is not even remotely close to a mind reader and he needs explicit instruction. I’ve found it necessary to be very prescriptive.

We might be talking past each other here. Do you mean proofs written in words? Because I've never seen explicit expectations for those. 

You might be right that explicit scaffolding is required here, but I'm also guessing that Wendyroo's kids struggle much more than your son with the basics of communication. Like, it sounds like they don't know how to argue their point, period, which is a really serious issue for a lot of her goals. 

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15 minutes ago, Not_a_Number said:

We might be talking past each other here. Do you mean proofs written in words? Because I've never seen explicit expectations for those. 

You might be right that explicit scaffolding is required here, but I'm also guessing that Wendyroo's kids struggle much more than your son with the basics of communication. Like, it sounds like they don't know how to argue their point, period, which is a really serious issue for a lot of her goals. 

No, I don’t mean geometry-style, two-column proofs. I mean the basic steps involved in showing your work. All forms of explanation including line by line showing of work are a challenge. And, no, I don’t think my son is much different. He doesn’t talk much at all, ever, unless directly addressed with a question. He writes much better than he speaks b/c of explicit instruction WRT output expectations over several years.

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6 minutes ago, Sneezyone said:

Writing proofs for math is a performative expectation that can be developed/trained over time with explicit instruction. Instructors  clearly say what is expected as evidence and grade accordingly. It seems to me that what OP is describing is a dissatisfaction with the amount of ELA explanation without having clearly established for DC what an acceptable level of explanation is or looks like. My DS is not even remotely close to a mind reader and he needs explicit instruction. I’ve found it necessary to be very prescriptive.

To some extent I agree. My children clearly need tremendous amounts of scaffolding and prescriptive expectations.

OTOH, I don't think there is anything particularly feminine about expecting children to be able to "explain how to do a load of laundry" or "explain why you multiplied the side length of the square by 4 to find the perimeter" (assuming they know how to do to those things).

Those types of tasks are the bread and butter of many traditionally masculine professions.

I'm not asking them to wax eloquently about how a poem feeds their soul - I don't count that as a life skill. But as adults they will definitely have to enumerate and explain the steps of a process and explain the rationale behind a decision.

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6 minutes ago, Sneezyone said:

And, no, I don’t think my son is much different. He doesn’t talk much at all, ever, unless directly addressed with a question. He writes much better than he speaks b/c of explicit instruction WRT output expectations over several years.

Is he able to read fiction and understand motivation? It sounds like he can from the responses to that prompt. 

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23 minutes ago, wendyroo said:

To some extent I agree. My children clearly need tremendous amounts of scaffolding and prescriptive expectations.

OTOH, I don't think there is anything particularly feminine about expecting children to be able to "explain how to do a load of laundry" or "explain why you multiplied the side length of the square by 4 to find the perimeter" (assuming they know how to do to those things).

Those types of tasks are the bread and butter of many traditionally masculine professions.

I'm not asking them to wax eloquently about how a poem feeds their soul - I don't count that as a life skill. But as adults they will definitely have to enumerate and explain the steps of a process and explain the rationale behind a decision.

I think the *desire* to have an explanation of those things is, largely, a feminine one. Do you need to explain how to do laundry or do you need to be able to do it/demonstrate it? Some professions require you to teach/mentor others but others simply require the ability to perform the task. This is, I think, why my cousin and DH have been so successful in the military.
 

Obv. Some ability to explain is necessary for supervisory positions but your boys are young and they will get there in time. I think where we disagree is the degree/extent to which that explanation needs to occur. The scaffolding, the explicit instruction, the clarity with respect to expectations will bring improvements. It may never be exactly what you or I would do or say but it will probably be enough.

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3 minutes ago, Sneezyone said:

I think the *desire* to have an explanation of those things is, largely, a feminine one.

Again, most people I've known who like writing persuasive essays or proofs are men. And I mean proofs written in paragraphs, like these: 

https://artofproblemsolving.com/news/articles/how-to-write-a-solution#follow-the-lemmas

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13 minutes ago, Not_a_Number said:

Is he able to read fiction and understand motivation? It sounds like he can from the responses to that prompt. 

Yes and no. He’s observant so he can tell you what he sees but he has a hard time with nuance and motivation. He has actually learned a lot of ‘motivation’ themes from the things we discussed in history, faith studies, and MOVIES! (I boiled things down to about 10 motivators and emphasized them across the curriculum— hunger, greed, anger, jealousy, etc.) so he can recognize those.

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Just now, Sneezyone said:

Nope.

Ah, it shows, lol. @wendyroo will know what I mean, I think... 

Anyway, it's a "huge nerd" profession. Lots of spectrum behavior. As girls in math graduate school would say, "The odds are good, but the goods are odd." That is... if you're one of the few girls, it's easy to find a date, but you might have to put up with a LOT of quirks.  

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Just now, Not_a_Number said:

Ah, it shows, lol. @wendyroo will know what I mean, I think... 

Anyway, it's a "huge nerd" profession. Lots of spectrum behavior. As girls in math graduate school would say, "The odds are good, but the goods are odd." That is... if you're one of the few girls, it's easy to find a date, but you might have to put up with a LOT of quirks.  

I’ve been ‘Putting up with the quirks’ for over 25 years. My DH is a electronics nerd and SWO. There are a lot more professions out there for these folks than mathematician.

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Just now, Sneezyone said:

I’ve been ‘Putting up with the quirks’ for over 25 years. My DH is a electronics nerd and SWO. There are a lot more professions out there for these folks than mathematician.

Oh, sure, I know. I was just saying that mathematicians are not the least spectrum-y people in the world 😉 . 

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6 minutes ago, Not_a_Number said:

Again, most people I've known who like writing persuasive essays or proofs are men. And I mean proofs written in paragraphs, like these: 

https://artofproblemsolving.com/news/articles/how-to-write-a-solution#follow-the-lemmas

I love "How to Write a Math Solution". I was never taught (because no explanations were ever required during my math education), so it was very helpful to see "best practices" clear listed and illustrated.

I would love for my boys to eventually get to that point because math is one of their huge strengths, but it won't take you far if you are incapable of writing down anything but a final answer for a problem.

It especially impacts them when they get answers wrong. Today Peter solved, "A lattice point is a point with integer coordinates such as (2,3). In how many ways can we pick 3 lattice points such that both coordinates of each point are positive integers less than 5, and the 3 points form a triangle?" His complete solution was some unlabeled arithmetic scattered around a page and one boxed answer...which was incorrect. After struggling with it for 45 more minutes he reached the correct answer and realized that conceptually he had been very close all along, but had failed to account for one issue. That whole time there was no way I could trouble shoot his thinking because he could in no way verbalize how he was organizing the problem or the steps he was taking to solve it.

I think for us, it is the dichotomies that are the hardest part. To have an 11 year old who is getting ~85% of the AOPS Intro to Counting and Prob. problems right on the first try, but doesn't have the common sense or impulse control to not stick metal items in outlets or ransack the closet for medicine that might taste good. He can read about the steps our sun will go through in becoming a white dwarf and correctly remember them a year later, but can't verbalize even one step that he took in replacing his guitar string the previous afternoon. He can carry on a strong conversation in Spanish with his Colombian tutor, but when his guitar teacher asked him if he liked the Beatles, Peter just sat in silence unable to formulate even a yes or no answer.

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39 minutes ago, wendyroo said:

I think for us, it is the dichotomies that are the hardest part. To have an 11 year old who is getting ~85% of the AOPS Intro to Counting and Prob. problems right on the first try, but doesn't have the common sense or impulse control to not stick metal items in outlets or ransack the closet for medicine that might taste good. He can read about the steps our sun will go through in becoming a white dwarf and correctly remember them a year later, but can't verbalize even one step that he took in replacing his guitar string the previous afternoon. He can carry on a strong conversation in Spanish with his Colombian tutor, but when his guitar teacher asked him if he liked the Beatles, Peter just sat in silence unable to formulate even a yes or no answer.

Yeah, the asynchronies are just HARD. Even with smaller asynchronies, it's just hard to get your mind around them, and that makes it hard to know what to do with it. 

I wonder if trying to get him to write down things for himself would be a more fruitful approach? Like, communication to future Peter? You can think of math solution writing like that... trying to figure out what you did so you can troubleshoot. 

Do you think his thinking is largely non-verbal inside his head? Is that one of the things tripping him up? 

I wonder if you could just have them write... lists of facts or something and maybe then work together on organizing them? It sounds like they might enjoy just getting a laundry list of facts down and then you could talk about what fact could kind of fit into next?  

Sorry, these are all questions and no answers 😕 . I don't have experience with kids like this, I'm just thinking what I'd try if I were you. 

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On 1/10/2021 at 10:12 AM, wendyroo said:

When working with a child pre-writing, writing or revising, how do you decide what aspects of content, meaning and style you want to help them improve and which issues you will ignore for the time being?

And then, how do you actually help them improve aspects that are much more abstract that concrete grammar issues?

My kids are very, very, VERY reluctant writers. They are analytical sorts who excel in reading and grammar, but just about die getting words on paper. Their general attitude toward writing is, "I don't know. I don't know. I don't know. Fine, whatever, I don't care! Just tell me what to write and I will copy it!" It is a painful process for everyone involved.

A lot of what they write is either stilted, repetitive, monotonous 5 word sentences that say very little, or perfectly grammatical but meaningless nonsense that in no fulfills the assignment. No matter how many times we've gone over it, their writing is still peppered with topic sentences like, "This paragraph is about fish." Last week my 9 year old wrote an explanatory paragraph composed entirely of rhetorical questions. 🤨

I often find myself completely overwhelmed looking at their pre-writing or written work. Where should I even start? What should I comment on? How do I help them "see" that an idea is completely off-topic or a sentence doesn't make sense? Do we just work on a few key issues (which ones?) and then accept that it is what it is...even if it is far from a logical, coherent, polished piece of writing?

How does this work at your house?

We use IEW that is structure heavy.  IEW focuses on structure and has checklists.  I'm a firm believer that it is difficult to work on style until they've mastered structure and I also believe structure is far more important the style.

I really think IEW would help you with this immensely.

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