Year 2 DS - vast difference between maths and english

(24 Posts)
Llareggub Sat 05-Oct-13 21:02:58

I'm looking for some advice about my DS, who is in year 2. His reading and writing is really quite poor. I don't know whether he is really struggling or just choosing not to perform, but our reading practice at home is really stressful for us all.

Anyway. He has always been into numbers, and loves maths. In fact at one point he wanted to do sums before bed instead of stories, and thanks to some helpful advice on here we found some great stories that involve solving maths problems to solve a mystery. Perfect for him.

A friend of mine is looking at schools for her DS rand showed me a maths entrance exam for Christ's Hospital. It is for year 7 entry. I was pretty stunned because my DS could do it all. In fact, he got really excited about it and we did it together. Well, I watched whilst he calculated stuff in his head. I'm really quite stunned.

In his last report at school it said that he is below age expectations for literacy and above for maths, so I was aware of there being a difference but I am pretty stunned at his maths ability.

What, if anything, can I do to support him? Specifically, I want him to improve his literacy skills without boring him to do death. He tells me that he thinks phonics is dull and in fact his little brother probably knows more than he does. He has always tried to memorise words and guess them from the pictures rather than decode them.

It's parents evening soon and I don't know whether to tell his teacher about his rather extreme in maths or what I have discovered about his ability. She is lovely and very approachable but I don't know whether to just leave it to her.

Incidentally, his vocabulary is excellent and he often shows great insight; I'm just getting very worried about his lack of reading and writing.

Periwinkle007 Sat 05-Oct-13 21:15:18

does he find reading and writing difficult do you think? if he has excellent vocabulary and he is obviously bright I would wonder if there may be dyslexia or something involved. I could be completely wrong obviously but it would make me wonder.

I would ask the teacher for her opinion on his reading and writing and how you can support/encourage him in it. But I would also 'mention' how surprising it was that you discovered by chance he could do this maths. then leave it at that. It will probably make her look at his maths ability more closely but still leaves it to her to take the lead on it and doesn't make you seem deluded or pushy or difficult or anything.

I would seriously look at his reading and writing ability though if you are concerned. Yr2 is when they would normally pick up on dyslexia symptoms.

Llareggub Sat 05-Oct-13 21:31:05

Yes I had wondered about dyslexia. He does occasionally write his letters backwards. But I'm not sure really. I think because he finds numeracy so easy he doesn't like to do things he finds harder.

He just doesn't seem to "get" phonics. When we read books (me narrating) he likes me to use my finger and I am convinced he knows when I skip words. I do it to test him a bit. When he first started reception he sounded out "rats" phonetically and then said "mice" which he could have got from the picture. I think he was teasing me.

He just won't read. He won't even try to sound out words. When we do his spellings he can do them because he memorises them, so I wonder if it really could be dyslexia? I am tending to think not, but I have no idea really.

keepsmiling12345 Sun 06-Oct-13 14:57:17

I think you really need to focus on the reading and writing simply because as he gets older (but I've noticed even in Y2) so much maths requires the DC to read a maths problem and then answer. So he could have the most advanced maths ability but won't be able to demonstrate it because he can't read what the question is asking. I would talk to his teacher and explain your concerns. You could even say that, whilst you are pleased he seems to find maths easy, you are concerned about his reading and writing, both for its own importance and because you realise it is critical even for numeracy.

Llareggub Sun 06-Oct-13 16:17:10

Yes, I am in doubt I need to do something with regard to his reading skills. Last year we moved and he had to change schools. He was put back to the beginning of the reading scheme which I'd hoped would help his confidence but it seems not.

cakebar Sun 06-Oct-13 19:42:36

My DS (year 2) is good at maths but very behind in writing. He can do all the maths at school very easily, I'm not sure he could do a year 7 maths paper (!) but he has yet to come across maths at school that he couldn't do in year R. As he is so weak at writing we haven't asked for any kind of extension in maths as writing is such a basic skill that I think he needs to put all his effort into that. I don't want everything at school to be challenging for him. At home we do lots of craft to help fine motor skills.

With the rats/mice thing, it sounds like something my dd would do, she isn't particularly interested in reading and will sound things out correctly but isn't paying enough attention to what she is doing to make the final leap. When I tell her to listen to what she is saying she will then read correctly.

Ferguson Sun 06-Oct-13 21:41:35

Hi -

A book that I think can help with phonics, reading and spelling is the Oxford Phonics Spelling Dictionary. It lists words according to the initial SOUND, not just the letter as in a 'normal' dictionary' It has lots of hints and tips, is attractively presented and in a style that might just 'grab' a maths brain more than other books. At under £7 from Amazon, it could take a pupil right through primary, and even into secondary school.

You can see sample pages from it HERE:

Llareggub Sun 06-Oct-13 22:43:26

Yes, I'm not particularly interested in stretching him at school with regards to his numeracy. I'm more interested in improving his literacy skills. He will happily do maths for fun at home but he has lots more that interests him too!

We were supposed to read a book together this evening and write a book report. He is very into gardening so we read a gardening book together (aimed at children) and he will write his report on that. I couldn't get him to read a story but he did have a go at some of the words in the gardening book. We compromised and he read the titles and I read the paragraphs. Altogether we read around 14 pages in this way, and he remained fairly engaged.

I wonder if we could just ditch the Biff, Chip & Co and read non-fiction only instead?

Llareggub Sun 06-Oct-13 22:46:06

Thanks Ferguson, I will take a look at that. What happen tonight when we were reading is that he could not see the letter 'T' in "POSTS" or in STICKS. He seemed quite surprised when I asked him about sounding out the sounds, as if he had never heard of such a thing!

He has told me quite stroppily that he just doesn't get phonics. To be honest I'm not 100% either!

tiredbutnotweary Sun 06-Oct-13 23:35:39

A few things occur to me reading your posts.

Firstly if he was unable to see the T, as you described, he may have a vision problem, this could include eye tracking issues that would not be picked up by a regular optician. If you write the same words in large font can he see all of the letters then? An eye tracking issue would also affect his hand writing - you would need to see a behavioural optometrist to know whether or not he is suffering from this type of vision problem. Google or check MN for more info on this.

Secondly it sounds like phonics does not make sense to his mathmatical brain. When you consider that in maths, 1 is always 1, but in phonics a single letter can represent a number of different sounds and that one sound can be represented by a number of different letters and combination of letters it's not hard to understand why it may not make sense to him.

Are you happy to provide a bit more detail - what reading level or band is he on, how small is the text of the books he brings home to read, how did he do on the phonics test last year, is his writing messy but with correct spellings or is he still spelling phonetically (unlikely from what you've said I think)?

Llareggub Mon 07-Oct-13 00:02:56

Thank you for that, that's a really interesting post. He is on stage 4 (just) of the biff, chip and kipper series.

As for his handwriting, it is messy but I can tell he just rushes. He takes more care over numbers. He won't try and spell. If he has homework he pushes and pushes and won't write a word unless I spell things for him. I'd have to ask his teacher. He often leaves letters out of words. I suspect he can only spell the ones he has memorised, and he has a really good memory.

He did voluntarily write a shopping list but neither of us could read it later. It wasn't decipherable at all. He will write the first 2 letters then squiggle.

I don't know about the phonics test. We're in Wales and we weren't given the results. His report states he is underperforming for his age.

His brain amazes me. He designed a child lock out of Lego in a holiday home we use, built it and it worked. We returned a year later and recreated it in minutes.

He has had quite a lot of emotional upset over the last few years. His father is an alcoholic and we separated 2 years ago. He is currently uninvolved in our lives. I wonder if this might have had an impact?

Llareggub Mon 07-Oct-13 00:04:53

As for font - quite large in the school reading books but smaller in the books we read together at home. He will occasionally read words in the smaller font though.

chauffeurmummy Mon 07-Oct-13 00:42:51

He sounds fab!! If I were you I would be mentioning the maths discovery and also really pushing the school to find out what's going on with the reading/writing as a gap that big needs investigating. Best to get to the bottom of things whilst he is still little as trying to unravel it when he moves up the school is much harder!!

Mashabell Mon 07-Oct-13 07:15:27

Quite a few children with very logical minds, and who are very good at maths, find the inconsistencies of English spelling very difficult to cope with. My son was like that. What saved him was getting hooked on the Dr. Who books which led him on to the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. Asterix and The Beano helped too, but he is still not the hottest speller, despite going to Oxbridge and now uni a lecturer.

With regard to writing, I used to tell him to concentrate on what he wanted to say and not to worry about the spelling, that with practice it would mostly come right eventually. English spelling is too infuriatingly illogical for logical minds.

aciddrops Mon 07-Oct-13 10:21:07

He sounds like me youngest son. He is very dyslexic. He also has Irlens and I have just found out that he is very long sighted too so needs glasses.

I'd have him tested for dyslexia if I were you.

For reading - maybe try specialist dyslexia friendly computer games like Nessy and Wordshark.

tiredbutnotweary Mon 07-Oct-13 10:34:46

Ok that's really helpful and I agree he does sound fab, with an amazingly advavanced understanding of mathmatical concepts. Like you and others have mentioned his challenge with reading and writing need understanding because otherwise it will hold him back.

I would be pushing the school for a formal assessment, however you need to be aware of what this will and won't provide. A label of dyslexia provides a few benefits (like more time in tests and hopefully more support from school) but it won't actually solve his problem, for that you need to understand what his specific issues are.

Some of this you might be able to work out yourself. For example, can he blend a word if you sound it out for him? Let's take the word 'stand', some children, if the word is sounded out for them can 'hear' it straight away even though they can't do it if they sound it out themselves, others will struggle to 'hear' the beginning, others will struggle with the end sounds. This is all useful to know as you are pinpointing exactly what he struggles with.

Ultimately the solution is most likely that he just needs to spend more time doing it, with enough repition he'll get there, it will feel very different to him when maths comes as easily as breathing, however just because something is hard doesn't mean it isn't worthwhile.

I would ask the school for his phonics results - you are entitled to them. I would also be learning as much about phonics as possible. At this point you have a number of options - you could try teaching him a basic vocabulary using the whole word method via flash cards, focussing on the first 100 most used words first.

You could go back to basics with him phonetically, checking firstly his 1:1 coresspondances for the alphabet, then ones like sh, ch, th and then moving onto ai, ee, igh, etc. (search for the Letters and Sounds website) you could combine both, get the 100 most used words as flash cards and getting him to sound out say 5 until he is secure with them.

To do this so that it makes sense to him you need to understand the phonics code yourself perhaps explaining to him that written words are sound puzzles. For a lot of words the code is regular, using consistent rules. For other words the code is less regular (in the sense that the spellings are fairly rare). An example of this is the word bury. In most words ur will represent the /er/ sound (allowing for accents of course).

I found a good understanding of the phonics code really useful in supporting my DD learning to read, this is because although her school taught phonics the books they sent home were whole word books. I dealt with this by accelerating my DDs phonic knowledge so that she could understand how to sound out the phonetically tricky words herself, no guessing required. Knowing for example that if there is only one consonant between two vowels then you usually say the long vowel sound for the first vowel is a very helpful rule that applies some (but by no means all) of the time. It helps with understanding hopping versus hoping for example. Knowing that at the end of words y represents either /ee/ or /igh/. There are lots of rules to learn, but they do work for a considerable proportion of the words.

On Amazon you can get the Letters and Sounds work books and magnetic tiles with digraphs and trigraphs as well as the first 300 frequently used words. My DD had a few words on the fridge, she would sound the words out until she could read them without sounding them out, then we would move the words to the side and build a 'word wall', adding say 5 new words in a line to sound out and learn, add to the wall and so on. Soon enough she had a wall with 100s of little words, all learnt by sounding out (all be it that some were 'tricky').

There is a very cheap phonics programme called Phonics International, I think that the phonics code is free for you to download - it has all of the common and medium common correspondences. This programme has lots of written passages to work on specific correspondences and this may appeal to you as there are no pictures.

From Amazon you can order the relatively cheap Read Write Inc black and white booklets for their reading programme. The good thing about these is before you sit down to read a book you practice the phonics code, read or sound out the green (phonetically regular words) the red tricky words and after the story and comprehension questions you practice the speed words. I used to give one tick for correctly sounding out a word and two for reading it on sight (as in DD had sounded it out enough times to now know what it was).

I realise this is a lot of info for you, but I think your support will be key in helping your DS to succeed.

For your DS I would be explaining how important learning to read and write are and that he needs to spend say 10 minutes every morning learning basic phonics or sounding out words on the fridge (lots of praise, reenforcement of the rules) and 10 minutes reading from a non picture sheet or a Read Write Inc type book (i.e. a phonics book not a whole word book). Make this as much of a treat as you can, so sandwhich reading work between maths work, give him a biscuit / some sort of edible treat while he reads.

I would carry on getting him to read little bits of the books you read to him. Again I noticed on Amazon that there are quite a lot of maths children's story books, so high interest for him to help reinforce the idea that reading and maths are interlinked.

For writing get him a hand writing book with 4 lots of guide lines and practise spellings and little sentences with the spellings he's practising. No more than 10 minutes for each activity.

So half an hour in total for him, nearly every day but quite a bit more time for you depending on how good your knowledge is regarding phonics. The 'if at first you don't succeed try, try, try again' attitude will pay dividends. Of course I have no idea if you can find those 30 minutes easily, I just think that if you can it will pay dividends in the long run.

Periwinkle007 Mon 07-Oct-13 13:25:50

in a rush - will pop back later but just saw you say he says he can't see the t in a word for example.

It can be eye convergence issues, it can be irlen syndrome/eye stress/scotopic sensitivity (my daughter has coloured glasses for this and you wouldn't believe the difference it made) this CAN be linked to dyslexia, indeed some people count it as a form of dyslexia.

Llareggub Mon 07-Oct-13 14:34:09

Again, thanks for all your contributions. I will take him for an eye test and will speak to the school next week at parents evening,

I have bought him a few magazines to read together and I will try and improve my phonics knowledge.

Not sure about irlen syndrome. He is very physically active and excellent at sport. He isn't clumsy at all. He does however, get very fidgety and hardly ever stops moving.

cakebar Wed 09-Oct-13 21:42:30

One thing I didn't say earlier as I wasn't sure it would help, but my ds learnt to read very quickly using phonics because he has a mathematical brain, it was no different to parsing a code for him. As I said earlier, he has other issues but phonics, taught properly was the key to reading for him. He brought home many reading scheme non fiction books - does your school have these? Maybe you could get them.

youarewinning Wed 09-Oct-13 22:02:07

Oh furguson that dictionary looks fab.

I would say get them to help his reading and writing by using his logical brain as a key to overcoming his barrier to literacy.

My DS has the same extremes (as well as other SN's).

Look into:
*how well can your DS grip a pen (can he use a knife and fork?)
*how well does he describe things when talking (does he use adjectives?)
*how well does his reading/comprehension allow him to understand a maths problem? (can he read and do question better if he has it read to him?)

These sorts of things will help you unlock whether its a fine motor difficulty, comprehension difficulty or espression (so social) difficulty. Once you've sussed what the barrier is you'll find ways to overcome it.

I'm sure as the teacher is approachable she'll be willing to find time or find someone to observe him and suss it out.

Best of luck.

youarewinning Wed 09-Oct-13 22:07:40

Oh and my DS only reads non fiction. Finally the school have given up making him/ moaning at him about it. He reads non fiction fluently but not fiction!

steppemum Wed 09-Oct-13 22:37:37

op - if it is a dyslexia issue, for some children there are things like using a coloured cellophane overlay that really help, so it may be worth getting it diagnosed.

I would try to find as many none fiction books as you can - things like Guiness Book of Records?

Llareggub Thu 10-Oct-13 00:17:11

Thanks again for the responses. He isn't well today so I finally got him to read 6 whole words by playing Top Trumps. It was hard work.

I am speaking to his teacher next week. I'd like her to tell me what he can do at school, just in case he is different there. I have a feeling he is refusing to read and there is an element of "can't be arsed" going on...

aciddrops Thu 10-Oct-13 15:27:09

My DS often refuses to read. However, now that I know he has terrible eyesight, and that he has problems with reading in general, I can understand why he doesn't want to do it. It can be a huge effort for them.

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