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Grade 6, Age 11 (soon to be 12) feedback on paragraphs


Ting Tang
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I just started using the free grammar and handwriting books from Pearson-Scott Forseman Grammar and Writing Handbooks -- Pearson Scott Foresman (neocities.org).  The curriculum gives examples of "weak" and "strong" writing voices.  I do not feel my 6th grader understands how to improve his writing, and he is very sensitive to criticism.  He is also doing a few written narrations here and there, but I wondered what your thoughts were on these paragraphs, which I attached as PDFs.  One is to describe a favorite vacation spot, and the other is to explain where he would like to travel and why.

One of them I corrected, and the other I did not correct.

Though he is sensitive to criticism, I don't think he internalizes and mulls over assignments, either.  He thinks if he writes a great deal, it is pleasing to me.  I have considered a writing service and outschool classes for feedback. 

Do you think this is typical of a 6th grade boy, below grade level, etc?  I feel his writing is way below his level of intellect, vocabulary, etc.  We used MCT language arts last year but abandoned the paragraph writing.  I personally feel his writing is very dull, but I do not want to hurt his feelings.  Yet I don't understand how to encourage him to do better.  I also don't know what should be typical of a 6th grader, and I do not want to be too hard on him, either.  Maybe I expect too much? I don't want to keep making suggestions and never see an improvement, and my husband thinks letter grades might be a way to remedy that. 

fave trip.pdf travel to because.pdf

Edited by Ting Tang
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I think those are great paragraphs in terms of ideas, details and organization.

I think his Michigan paragraph has lots of great details - the mine, the agates, the little fish. It starts with a strong topic sentence, is organized chronologically, and uses diverse sentence structures. The grammar and punctuation are rough, but a lot of that would be easily auto-corrected if he were typing.

I think the Texas paragraph starts awkwardly because in the topic sentence he says he wants to go to Denton, but the entire paragraph is actually hyperfocused on just going to the factory. If he reworked his topic sentence to reflect that the factory is where he really wants to do, I think the paragraph would flow more easily. Other than that, I think it is a strong paragraph which is well structured and includes a lot of details. The conclusion sentence is awkward, but that is because he is trying to link it back up to Denton which is largely disconnected from the actual topic of the paragraph.

Did your son brainstorm or outline before writing these paragraphs? Have you considered letting him type or dictate or talk-to-type his writing? I know with my kids, if I force them to write by hand, they write less quantity and poorer quality...or just shut down when faced with the overwhelming task of handwriting that much.

With my fifth grader, I have him brainstorm by using talk-to-type to get phrases onto paper quickly and painlessly. He prints that, cuts the phrases apart, and groups/orders them into a rough outline. Then he types or talk-to-types his rough draft from his outline. Lastly, he edits for spelling, grammar and punctuation. Right now he can produce one longer, stronger paragraph similar to what your son wrote, or he is getting better at linking 3-5 shorter paragraphs into a connected essay.

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@wendyroo Thank you so very much for taking the time to read both of his paragraphs and for offering g your thoughts and suggestions. It seems you do not feel I should panic just yet? lol my third grader understands these assignments better, but she is different from my son. I would like for him to learn to type, but maybe the talk to text would be great, too. We will try it! I will have him do more planning/outlining. And that’s an excellent suggestion for his Texas manufacturing plant paragraph. My hope is with practice, his writing will improve. It also feels so subjective, and I don’t always recognize what is age-appropriate. Thank you again!

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11 minutes ago, Ting Tang said:

@wendyroo Thank you so very much for taking the time to read both of his paragraphs and for offering g your thoughts and suggestions. It seems you do not feel I should panic just yet? lol my third grader understands these assignments better, but she is different from my son. I would like for him to learn to type, but maybe the talk to text would be great, too. We will try it! I will have him do more planning/outlining. And that’s an excellent suggestion for his Texas manufacturing plant paragraph. My hope is with practice, his writing will improve. It also feels so subjective, and I don’t always recognize what is age-appropriate. Thank you again!

My kids are all reluctant writers, and they have done well with Lantern English. I just sign them up for the 8 week writing courses. I really like Lantern's concrete, matter-of-fact instruction. And I love outsourcing the feedback and grading to someone who has a better understanding of age appropriate expectations - and someone my kids will listen to less defensively than if I try to offer them feedback.

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9 hours ago, wendyroo said:

My kids are all reluctant writers, and they have done well with Lantern English. I just sign them up for the 8 week writing courses. I really like Lantern's concrete, matter-of-fact instruction. And I love outsourcing the feedback and grading to someone who has a better understanding of age appropriate expectations - and someone my kids will listen to less defensively than if I try to offer them feedback.

Write at Home, a bit pricier, has a bee session coming up, too. I’d need to decide soon, but I am keeping both in mind! 

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  • 2 weeks later...

Ting Tang - if it helps at all, here are my two most recent paragraph assignments from my 7th grade twins (age 12, they are young for 7th grade / July birthdays). You can see that my daughter (favorite things to bake) tends to be a bit more conversational and, well, wordy in her writing compared to my son (bees and flies). However, I'm struggling to get both of them to EDIT more effectively, so I don't think this is an uncommon thing for this age to struggle with.

We have used Lantern English with some success in the past, but these paragraphs were part of assignments from chapters in The Paragraph by EPS. I've really liked these workbooks - I do them out loud (mostly) with my kids, but you could pretty easily assign them as an independent thing if you needed to.

My Favorite Things to Bake.pdf Why Bee and Flies Are Not So Different.pdf

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On 10/28/2023 at 10:17 AM, keirin said:

Ting Tang - if it helps at all, here are my two most recent paragraph assignments from my 7th grade twins (age 12, they are young for 7th grade / July birthdays). You can see that my daughter (favorite things to bake) tends to be a bit more conversational and, well, wordy in her writing compared to my son (bees and flies). However, I'm struggling to get both of them to EDIT more effectively, so I don't think this is an uncommon thing for this age to struggle with.

We have used Lantern English with some success in the past, but these paragraphs were part of assignments from chapters in The Paragraph by EPS. I've really liked these workbooks - I do them out loud (mostly) with my kids, but you could pretty easily assign them as an independent thing if you needed to.

My Favorite Things to Bake.pdf 17.03 kB · 2 downloads Why Bee and Flies Are Not So Different.pdf 24.57 kB · 3 downloads

Thank you so much for sharing! I really appreciate this!  I have samples of my own writing, but sometimes I think expectations are greater these days. But at the end of the day, these are still children learning to write, even if it is 2023.  

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I strongly recommend that you leave his handwritten work free from any corrections from you.

Type his work up yourself, complete with mistakes.  Turn off any autocorrect functions in your word processor.  Then work together to fix all grammar and mechanics errors.  Start by asking if there is anything that he can see that needs to be corrected.  This will tell you what he can detect on his own.  Then prompt him to go through and look for specific types of errors.  Does every sentence begin with a capital letter?  And so on.

I'd do the above several times to get him used to the process.  Then introduce actual editing.  This is changing organization and ideas.  Focus on one thing to fix each time.  If there is a common theme to what needs to be fixed in this regard, keep focusing on that until he incorporates it into his writing spontaneously.  Once he's doing this, move onto something else.

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On 10/30/2023 at 11:23 AM, EKS said:

I strongly recommend that you leave his handwritten work free from any corrections from you.

Type his work up yourself, complete with mistakes.  Turn off any autocorrect functions in your word processor.  Then work together to fix all grammar and mechanics errors.  Start by asking if there is anything that he can see that needs to be corrected.  This will tell you what he can detect on his own.  Then prompt him to go through and look for specific types of errors.  Does every sentence begin with a capital letter?  And so on.

I'd do the above several times to get him used to the process.  Then introduce actual editing.  This is changing organization and ideas.  Focus on one thing to fix each time.  If there is a common theme to what needs to be fixed in this regard, keep focusing on that until he incorporates it into his writing spontaneously.  Once he's doing this, move onto something else.

Thank you so much for the suggestions! We should move in this direction.  

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  • 2 weeks later...

I have found that, for us, the MCT Writing books work better when a particular level of writing is being mastered rather than when it is being introduced. Thompson takes a very “big picture” approach, which doesn’t always work well as a starting point.

We causally read through Paragraph Town when DS was first learning to write paragraphs. Here or there we completed an assignment from the back of the book, either orally or written, but held off on most of them until a good deal later, when he’d been writing simple paragraphs for about a year. 

Have you ever looked at the Killgallon Sentence Composing or Paragraph Composing workbooks? Those are a really excellent tool for teaching how to vary sentence length, incorporate phrases / clauses, & utilize figurative language while scaffolding the content generation aspect.  It might really help bridge the gap & allow him to write in a style he would enjoy reading. 

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