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I have a 10 year old boy. We are doing paragraph town and I had him attempt a short writing exercise in the back of the the teacher’s manual. “Write two descriptive paragraphs being about a different topic, if about a lake, one paragraph might be about the natural surroundings and the other about the wildlife. Connect the two paragraphs with the appropriate words in the topic sentence of the second one.”
 

We did a dead words interactive writing journal months ago that should have eliminated “good”, the one sentence in the first paragraph is indeed descriptive, but really he needed a couple more of those good descriptive sentences in each paragraph. 


This took TWO DAYS! The first draft (which I thought totally unnecessary) contained ... after listing a couple activities. I told him no ... in descriptive paragraphs and add more details. Add more description in the second paragraph, draw the reader in, make your reader say “I want to go to the beach, it sounds relaxing or exciting or fun.” 

 

 

 

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1. Has he written paragraphs before? Does he have a firm grasp of what one *is* at this point, or is it still a very new idea? 

2. What criteria do you have for a paragraph? My DS8 finds checklists really helpful! For this assignment I might list the number of sentences required per paragraph & remind him to avoid “banned” words (with a list of what those are). Once he had that, I might require active verbs, a clause, or a specific type of figurative language (or offer a list & say “Choose one!”). 

For his first paragraph, I would have him ask himself “So what?” after his description. The beach has seemingly endless water. So what? (Why should the reader care?) Is it beautiful? Does it make you contemplate the power of nature? Is it a soothing reprieve from a stressful world?

For the second, I would have him expand each of the activities he listed into its own independent sentence. Gather with friends for a game of beach volleyball. Spend quality time with your family building sand castles. Take a much-needed break from your stressful job to relax beneath the warm sun. The possibilities are as vast as the ocean itself. 

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7 hours ago, Shoes+Ships+SealingWax said:

1. Has he written paragraphs before? Does he have a firm grasp of what one *is* at this point, or is it still a very new idea? 
 

He does know and understand what a paragraph is, he is just very brief and to the point. He sees this as a waste of his time and energy and his self proclaimed excellent descriptive skills. 
 

2. What criteria do you have for a paragraph? 
 

I reminded him that:

1) paragraphs generally have at least 3 full good sentences and include sentence variety

2) topic sentences 

3) descriptive words that paint a picture 

4) draw the reader in

I might have to add some more hard rules such as minimum number of sentences and a check for dead verbs/words. 
 

Those are great questions to have him ask himself. I had not thought of them. Thanks!
 

 

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Fwiw, his second sentence is so lovely, I think I would have rather read that then all the rest written possibly without heart and soul.

Perhaps try using a picture prompt for description? Has he recently been to the beach to have any thoughts on it? 

It doesn't sound like the curriculum is particularly giving you the structure you want. SWB has very structured activities for creating descriptions in WWS1.

I think you may find criticizing/correcting his work only has the effect of shutting him down, not improving. If you wish to criticize *yourself* fine. Simply note to yourself what you might do better on the next assignment. But for this, I would suggest asking him what he thought was his most beautiful sentence or the sentence of which he was most proud and leave it at that. 

Pudewa makes the observation the boys are often all about the action, the verbs and adverbs, and girls want the adjectives and adornment. Maybe not, but it could be. Or maybe just personality. If a person is not engaging with the task but might engage with a different task quite naturally, that's fine. He just needs to write as an authentic version of himself as he sees the world now, not someone else. And his 2nd sentence shows he has beauty in his language, just maybe not in large quantities. So you could caption pictures with single sentences or try poetry.

Edited by PeterPan
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On 3/3/2021 at 5:12 PM, Kezia said:

We did a dead words interactive writing journal months ago that should have eliminated “good”, the one sentence in the first paragraph is indeed descriptive, but really he needed a couple more of those good descriptive sentences in each paragraph. 

For the record, I don't approve of eliminating "good" 😉 . Sometimes "good" really is the right word! 

But yes, there were certainly better words for this specific essay. 

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11 hours ago, PeterPan said:

Fwiw, his second sentence is so lovely, I think I would have rather read that then all the rest written possibly without heart and soul.

Perhaps try using a picture prompt for description? Has he recently been to the beach to have any thoughts on it? 

It doesn't sound like the curriculum is particularly giving you the structure you want. SWB has very structured activities for creating descriptions in WWS1.

I think you may find criticizing/correcting his work only has the effect of shutting him down, not improving. If you wish to criticize *yourself* fine. 

We had just read chapter 5 of PT the previous day. He came up with that one nice sentence all alone after I told him about the assignment. I praised that sentence he made all alone. It took him about 50 seconds of thought. So after he started with that, I expected more decent sentences to follow. 
 

I try not to be too critical, but really feel it is not lack of knowledge, scaffolding, or tools in his toolbox, but he is just not wanting to put forth much effort. We were using a writing strands based curriculum writing twice a week, but he was writing very short pieces and not expanding. It was written to the student, he was not utilizing suggestions or following instructions to a ‘T’ and not growing with it. He also was not enthused about any of the exercises. So I read a lot and over the last two months have discussed and done a hodge podge of curriculum orally. Trying to move back toward putting pencil to paper. 
 

I have the sample of WWS 1 and I do like the way it is set up. I have read so much about 5th grade being early to start it. 
 

 

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27 minutes ago, Kezia said:

done a hodge podge of curriculum orally.

Ooo, oral composition is good!!

https://mindwingconcepts.com/pages/methodology  Here, just something to jump start you. You're on the WTM board, and WTM has, for 20 years (haha) encouraged people to build NARRATIVE LANGUAGE as the basis for expository language. Now Common Core and the speech therapists are on board with the values of narrative language. 

The link I'm giving you above shows the clear connection between narrative language and expository writing. All of this, whether you're listening to WTM or to the SLPs doing intervention for kids who struggle at a clinical level (like mine) are going to start with a SOURCE. And what you'll notice about what's happening with him is that the curricula (Writing Strands, MCT, etc.) aren't necessarily starting with SOURCES.

So I'm much more concerned if, given a source, he cannot do the task. But if he can do it with a source/model, then you keep doing it and building. 

What are his narratives like in real life? What happens if you ask him to tell you about his favorite movie or his afternoon outing with a relative? Can he give coherent instructions for a task, explain a process, tell you about an object he wants, or argue a position?

If he can do these things in real life and just isn't engaging with the curriculum, the problem is the curriculum. And sure, he may very well have some ADHD or some trouble telling himself to engage with a task he finds boring. 

So my suggestion is to read about narrative language, maybe watch some of the terrific youtube instructional videos you can find on the blog of that site I linked you, and see if he does better with models. See if he does better if you modify the assignment to fit his specific interests. Like that task said the beach, but what if it had been the planet for his current favorite movie? What if he had a mental picture and a graphic organizer (like the 5 star approach at the link below) to help him organize his thoughts? If he found the topic interesting and prethought the writing using a good organizer and was using speech to text, what could he get out?

https://mindwingconcepts.com/blogs/news/78787201-winter-s-coming-narrative-expository-setting-lesson?_pos=7&_sid=57c89d102&_ss=r  Here's the star organizer and an explanation of how to use it. It's what they're trying to get you to do, but they're giving you zero supports or structures. We just try to connect our students to the level of support that gets it going. 

Edited by PeterPan
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31 minutes ago, Kezia said:

I try not to be too critical, but really feel it is not lack of knowledge, scaffolding, or tools in his toolbox, but he is just not wanting to put forth much effort. We were using a writing strands based curriculum writing twice a week, but he was writing very short pieces and not expanding. It was written to the student, he was not utilizing suggestions or following instructions to a ‘T’ and not growing with it.

Perhaps take a look at Killgallon Sentence Composing. The activities revolve around mimicking beautiful sentences from literature he would likely be familiar with & the assignments are very clearly structured - you’ve either done what they asked or you haven’t. Then don’t accept work that doesn’t do what the assignment asked. It does little good to move on to composing paragraphs if he can’t (or won’t) compose sentences thoughtfully.

He may not yet have the maturity to independently use a student-directed curriculum to gain new skills; perhaps it’s better for now to leave that for review items or areas where he is stronger. 

Edited by Shoes+Ships+SealingWax
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You might also look at Inspiration or Kidspiration software. They have app versions as well as desktop. They allow you to create maps of the material then hit a button to SHAZAM them into an outline and again SHAZAM into a word processing file which you can then export/email/whatever. 

I used Inspiration extensively with my dd, including when she was doing WWS. He could create the points of there star in there, fill it in, convert, and write. He should be able to use tts (text to speech) with that as well.

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4 hours ago, PeterPan said:

You might also look at Inspiration or Kidspiration software. They have app versions as well as desktop. They allow you to create maps of the material then hit a button to SHAZAM them into an outline and again SHAZAM into a word processing file which you can then export/email/whatever. 

I used Inspiration extensively with my dd, including when she was doing WWS. He could create the points of there star in there, fill it in, convert, and write. He should be able to use tts (text to speech) with that as well.

Thank you! Mindwingconcepts does look interesting and is presented in a way that it seems most kids can easily relate to the concepts. I will also look into the inspiration software.
 

I figured I would be ridiculed for doing writing orally. 
 

He can leave out key events in oral narrations about his day or what he did while at his cousins house, but that is remedied with more precise questions. He can orally narrate WWE 4 fine, I have not tried having him write any narrations out, yet. I did scribe a couple, they were fine.
 

We also do killgallon occassionally 
 

 

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20 minutes ago, Kezia said:

I figured I would be ridiculed for doing writing orally. 

:biggrin:  Oh honey, we have so many types around here. Ds has ASD2 with a gifted IQ and language disabilities. I'm in the WHATEVER WORKS camp, lol. 

The goal is to remove barriers and get it working. My ds struggles to write even single words and requires assistive tech. Scribing is in his IEP. My dd never had an IEP and got top scholarships, but she needed a scribe or other supports, oh my. How old is your dc? Have you thought about coming over to the LC board? We bite and are really mean, lol. No seriously, you can talk how to handle writing there, K-8, wherever you want.

When she was young, I would type what she dictated. As she got older, I would write the outline she dictated onto a large sheet of paper or whiteboard, and then she could type her narrative with that. Later, as her compositions got more complex, she found her own ways. She used software for mindmapping, but she'd also blend her chicken scratch notes to hold her thoughts with tts.

She really struggled to learn to type, so she was about 7th gr before that came in.  Top scholarships mind you, but a long road to get there, lol.

Acknowledge the beauty in his soul, but use tech to open doors. Try it several ways and see what opens him up. ADHD usually comes with working memory deficits, so it's appropriate to use tech or scribing to hold his thoughts so he doesn't LOSE them while he's trying to get them out. 

Fwiw, my dd also had word retrieval issues when she got her neuropsych testing to get her ADHD diagnosed. It's one of her plaguing problems, because with low processing speed (60+% lower than IQ, a disability) and poor word retrieval, getting her thoughts out is really hard! You don't know how hard it is for him because it's all internal, not stuff he's telling you, kwim? So if you were asking about evals, sure that could be something to consider if you watch things and he continues to need support. ADHD is crazy common and there can be those subtle bonus challenges. It's not an excuse but more just understanding and getting information on why it's happening to work with them better.

27 minutes ago, Kezia said:

He can leave out key events in oral narrations about his day or what he did while at his cousins house

Interesting. Well I guess see where you think he fits in the stages of narrative language from that link I gave you. 

You might start reading about ADHD. It's so super common and you might find some strategies that would work.

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On 3/5/2021 at 6:35 AM, PeterPan said:

You're on the WTM board, and WTM has, for 20 years (haha) encouraged people to build NARRATIVE LANGUAGE as the basis for expository language. Now Common Core and the speech therapists are on board with the values of narrative language. 

Your son really does have some great descriptive words, nice!

I worked recently in a public school where they are expecting kindergarteners to write a narrative.  I have not been in total agreement of this, as I believe there needs to be enrichment and language shared orally first. While the teacher draws out oral language, she/he can do a great deal of modelling and reading the product together... 

I just looked up the CC standards and I notice it can be a combination of drawing, dictating and writing, but this school expected the kinders to do the writing.  It seems to me that a whole lot of time and effort is being expended, whereas if they waited a few years (while doing oral language and teaching the basics of writing, with punctuation, grammar...) they will still get there, but without the stress on the child/teacher so early on, and it may come to the student more readily at a later grade (developmentally ready).  Maybe Common Core has finally realized this? (In relation to the above quote?). Just a thought...

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Honestly, it looks within the realm of fine for 10 years old, there are some lovely phrases in there! My 10 year old son would write something very similar, probably not as nice.

I am doing CW Homer with him this year, at half pace. There is no way in the world I'd attempt wws with him yet - his brother did wws1 last year in 7th.

Fwiw - most of our writing here is discussion, even with my older kids.

For the 10 year old, I also like to ask him to visualize how words change a story. So, for your son's second sentence, maybe ask him to imagine the opposite, what words would describe that beach on a stormy day in winter (dark, rainy, big waves, scary, loud etc) then find the antonymns of those adjectives (bright, sunny, ripples, calming, soft sounds - so what else can be heard?). Sometimes a contrast helps to focus on what makes a story feel the way it does.

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First, what a beautiful second sentence!   That is really good for a ten year old, IMHO.  Another ten year old might have written more sentences, but they would be shorter and less well thought out and crafted.

Secondly, is it the writing itself that is the problem (the physical act of writing).  I go back and forth with my child between having them orally dictate writing to me (and then editing it once it's on paper), and writing themselves.   I've noticed that going back between these methods helps my child more than just using one or the other.   Sometimes, it's hard for a child to keep a thought in their head long enough to write it down, especially when doing more difficult writing.  That's a skill separate from the writing itself, so I do dictation along with regular writing because it allows my son to get more creative writing done than he would get done if he was writing everything down.  (By "creative writing" here I don't just mean stories...I mean the act of creating the writing).   That gives him extra practice with content, but then when he writes down stuff while creating content, that's a different skill.   I expect longer writing from the narrated works than from things he creates and writes down himself. 

 

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On 3/7/2021 at 4:09 PM, ***** said:

Your son really does have some great descriptive words, nice!

I worked recently in a public school where they are expecting kindergarteners to write a narrative.  I have not been in total agreement of this, as I believe there needs to be enrichment and language shared orally first. While the teacher draws out oral language, she/he can do a great deal of modelling and reading the product together... 

I just looked up the CC standards and I notice it can be a combination of drawing, dictating and writing, but this school expected the kinders to do the writing.  It seems to me that a whole lot of time and effort is being expended, whereas if they waited a few years (while doing oral language and teaching the basics of writing, with punctuation, grammar...) they will still get there, but without the stress on the child/teacher so early on, and it may come to the student more readily at a later grade (developmentally ready).  Maybe Common Core has finally realized this? (In relation to the above quote?). Just a thought...

Fwiw I think asking the K5er to WRITE the narrative is cracked. However developmentally, I think 5yo are actually supposed to have a complete narrative. There are stages of narrative development beyond that (complex and interactive) but I think developmentally they often have complete narratives by that age. https://mindwingconcepts.com/pages/methodology  So working on narrative ORALLY is super important and valuable and difficulty with narrative is important to attend to. 

Don't quote me on the ages for the stages, lol. I don't remember if the curriculum (which I own, sigh) gives them. I don't remember if the testing like the TNL=test of narrative language comes back with age equivalents either. I have a new report coming. I don't own that test but I had my SLPs buy it to run it. Good data good stuff.

So yes, as usual, Common Core has an element of good and cracked implementation.  

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