Need help phrasing dd's concerns about teacher and writing

(32 Posts)
katalex Wed 13-Feb-13 13:06:49

DD is in year 3 and is 7 (8 next month). Throughout year 2 her teacher told us several times that she wasn't writing enough - only 2-3 sentences when at least 6 were expected. She couldn't think of any way to address this other than telling her repeatedly that it wasn't enough. This year we had the same feedback at the October parents evening and one of her teachers (part time, job share (mon-wed) said that she was trying to address this by giving dd smaller targets e.g. 2 sentences in 10 minutes. I don't know if this was shared with other other teacher (thurs/fri). The first teacher went on maternity leave in December and the cover teacher took over in January. A few weeks into this term she said to me that dd doesn't write enough and she was not aware of the plan the previous teacher had to give her smaller targets. Dd has been getting more and more anxious about this recently and says that the thurs/fri teacher just gets cross with her when she sees that she hasn't written enough. She was in tears about it last night and she now dreads the Big Write session because she knows she will be told off.

She is now expected to write at least half a page and it is only going to get worse as she gets older so I feel that they should be doing something to help her. DD says that she has ideas but just can't get them onto paper. This is becoming a real issue. In last year's report her teacher said that she had an excellent understanding of sentence structure and a very good vocabulary but she doesn't provide enough evidence of it.

DD said that only children on the bottom table for English get help with their work so I suggested that maybe she should be put on the bottom table (she is currently on the middle table - out of 5) but she didn't like that idea and it may just demotivate her even more.

I've made an appointment to see the thurs/fri teacher on Friday so that we can talk about this. Am I right in thinking that the teacher should be doing something to help her?

Do you think that I should tell the teacher that dd is scared of her getting cross with her or leave that bit out and just tell her that she dreads the Big Write sessions and finds it difficult and then ask what she can do to help? I've never spoken to this teacher before so I can't guage how she would react. I don't want to make things worse for DD but on the other hand I want her to know how DD feels.

Sorry this is so long, I didn't want to leave anything out.

LIZS Wed 13-Feb-13 13:09:52

Do you know why she can't put more down , if not ask for the teacher's input . Is she having an issue formulating ideas , worried about making mistakes in spelling and grammar, spending too much time thinking or is the effort of writing itself an issue ?

Hi there
Firstly I think you are doing exactly the right thing by going to talk to the teacher. I'd perhaps phrase it as "DD is getting really upset at the thought of "big write" and finds it hard to write as much as is expected. She seems to think she is trying really hard but still can't do the required amount" Really emphasise your dd's upset and that it has been an ongoing thing rather than a one-off . Try not to come across too much as "You should be doing something to help her" (but yes she should! grin )

I'd then ask the teacher what she thinks the issues/difficulties are for dd and how can you help her at home/ are there any additional strategies that could be implemented in school? Try and phrase it as a "what can we all do to support her and reduce her distress?" rather than "what are YOU going to do about it!" If you think the 10 min timer thing was helping you could mention this.

Do you know why she can't get the stuff onto paper? I have known instances where a child has a mild to moderate problem with dyslexia, dyspraxia or ADD, but the teacher just felt that the child was being really laid back/not concentrating. I wouldn't necessarily mention this at a first meeting in case it looks a bit pfb/telling the teacher how to do her job but I would bear it in mind.

Try and get your DD to do some writing with you at home (practice for the "big write"? ) and watch carefully. Is she finding the physical pencil to paper aspect hard? Does she have lots of ideas but forget really quickly what she was going to write? Is she worried about spelling? Is she very easily distracted by every little sound etc even when she is trying hard to focus. You could feed these back to the teacher as "Wwhen she has done writing with me at home I have noticed that....".

katalex Wed 13-Feb-13 13:29:03

She says she has ideas but just doesn't know what to write. Even when it's factual writing, you can give her a list of facts but she can't put them into sentences.

DeWe Wed 13-Feb-13 13:32:32

Could it be difficulty in knowing how to start?
I know my dsis was like that, she'd faff around for half the time because she couldn't think of how to start, and then not finish because of that. once she'd started she was better.

What dm did was would give her 1 minute sentences. Dm would say a topic (eg Birds) and dsis had to write a sentence in a minute. ("A bird came and landed on my hand") That helped her in getting on with it.

LIZS Wed 13-Feb-13 13:36:12

Sounds like she may be having problems processing the information efficiently . That is typical of dyspraxia/dyslexia/auditory processing/working memory issues . Ask if she could be expected to produce less so she gains confidence, maybe a handout with the task broken down into stages to prompt her, could she write bullet points instead of paragraphs, ask them to observe how she is writing and whether she flags as her hand /wrist gets tired or she needs to fidget - could she be allowed a short break mid way if needs be. At this age writing should be fun not pressured.

katalex Wed 13-Feb-13 13:39:57

Thanks educatingarti, that's really helpful. I don't think the timer thing was helping based on the work in her book that I saw recently but it was probably only done for about a month.

When she does her homework and there is any writing involved, I talk to her about it first and she has ideas but getting the work done is a very stressful experience. Often I have to dictate to her what she should write, otherwise she will end up handing in a blank page. She does get distracted very easily and it takes a lot of patience to keep her attention. She will go off into a daydream and it's hard to get her back so tasks that should take 30 minutes can take hours. A couple of weeks ago she tried doing her homework on her own. She wrote two facts and then asked for help. I wrote some ideas down for her and left her to it. A while later I found her watching tv and she told me that I'd made her forget what she was going to write. It took another hour to get her to finish and I had to dictate the rest to her. Rewards never motivate her.

LIZS Wed 13-Feb-13 13:45:52

Sorry but you need to stop helping her so much with the homework . It is giving the teacher a false impression of her capability which is what her classwork is being compared to.

katalex Wed 13-Feb-13 13:49:56

That's interesting about auditory processing LIZS. I wonder if she does have an issue with that. I can be standing very close talking to her and she hasn't heard a word that I have said. I can also call her name several times whilst being in the same room and end up shouting at her for ignoring me. She always says that she hasn't heard me. I guess this is probably when there is a distraction like tv or computer. The other day a delivery man knocked on the door while I was in the bathroom. She said she didn't hear it. she was playing on the Wii but it wasn't loud at all.

Good idea about breaking down the task into chunks.

I agree with what Liz says.
When you say "she goes off into a daydream and it is hard to get her back" do you know what is hard about it? If you keep prompting"Ok - what is next" what happens?

I see you've already tried writing down her ideas. How would she do if you asked her to write a sentence for each bullet point you had put down.

Does she go off in a daydream when doing anything else eg maths, practical things like getting ready for bed/brushing teeth?

katalex Wed 13-Feb-13 13:53:55

I always assumed the teachers would know that she got a lot of help with homework considering she produces so little on her own at school. If I was going to stop helping her then I will need to warn the teacher that she is very likely to get a blank page back every Monday. Also, if the teacher tells her off for not writing enough in class then wouldn't she be more cross with her for not doing any of her homework?

WowOoo Wed 13-Feb-13 13:57:47

I completely agree with LIZS.
If I help with written work I always put a post it on 'done with a lot of support/some support'.
Sometimes when the results are poor, I'll put 'done independently and he struggled'.

I read somewhere on Mnet about going to them and making them stop what you're doing. It was an expert and a talk about homework and parenting - search for it; it's so useful.

If she has homework over a week, it might be better to do say 4 lots of 10 mins rather than half an hour.

It is so hard, isn't it? Good luck. Ds1 has some research to do later and has to write that up. Should be fun.... grin

katalex Wed 13-Feb-13 13:58:58

When she's not paying attention, prompting doesn't really help. She's already lost interest and got fed up and won't do any more.

Bullet points don't help - she says she doesn't know what to write.

She gets distracted doing anything. I can ask her 3 times to brush her teeth and she will say she didn't hear me ask. I could ask her to get something from her room and she will be up there for 10 minutes doing something completely different.

WowOoo Wed 13-Feb-13 13:59:23

They can concentrate better at home though. No noisy classrooms and fewer distractions.

But hide remote controls for Wii and TV!
No sneaking away and no fun til something's done.

Floggingmolly Wed 13-Feb-13 14:03:59

How else could the teacher have addressed it other than by telling her she wasn't writing enough? confused. The solution is already implicit in that - write more.

katalex Wed 13-Feb-13 14:05:46

Unfortunately rewards don't motivate her. I have tried saying things like she can't play in the snow until her homework is done and she still sits there telling me she can't do it. It makes weekends miserable and I work full time so it feels like a waste of half a day trying to get homework done when we should be spending time together having fun.

katalex Wed 13-Feb-13 14:07:44

How is telling her to write more going to help when she doesn't know what to write? I really hope that's not all her teacher is going to suggest, otherwise she is going to have a miserable rest of the year.

CinnabarRed Wed 13-Feb-13 14:10:58

Has she been assessed for ADHD? I don't know much about it, but I understand that girls with ADHD often present as dreamers and drifters, rather than hyper-physical can't-sit-still types. Which is one reason why girls are significantly under diagnosed.

LIZS Wed 13-Feb-13 14:12:54

then you decide when she can sit down quietly for 15 minutes - preferably after a snack and something fun to relax her (1/2 hour on Wii perhaps) - go through the homework , discuss what it is asking for, how she might reply and let her get on with it . After 15 minutes she has a break. Repeat for however long it is supposed to take. Put away and make a note in her homework book or diary. I'm sure you have the best of intentions dictating but she isn't learning anything from that and the teacher thinks she can produce that quality and quantity in the time allowed - hence the comment to wrote more. Not that the comment is especially helpful unless she sits down and they discuss it further ie. you could expand this idea to include because or describe the monster more etc. In the Big Write could she start by writing herself a list of questions so each sentence is a response to - where is it set, why are they there, what does it look like or would teacher print off a sheet along those lines?

It may be that she has some issues with ADD and/or short term memory/working memory. Try googling to look at symptoms. If you think it sound like your DD you could pursue it via your GP.

When she next does homework, try sitting next to her while she does it. As soon as she starts to "go off" prompt her. Try a physical prompt (touch on hand or shoulder) as well as a verbal one. See how she copes doing it like this but spend no longer than 30 mins. Let the teacher know what you did and how DD coped/didn't cope. You could also describe this to your GP.

You need to stop dictating her work. If she can't cope when you have written bullet points, send what she has done into school with your bullet points and a note for the teacher explaining.

Smartiescoffer Wed 13-Feb-13 14:26:21

My dd is in year 2 and has just started doing big writing. The teacher sends home a slip of paper on a Monday with the title for the week's big write and a few questions such as what will happen? What wow words will you use? Etc. we then get til Friday to talk about it and they do the big write on the Friday. Wondering if your dd's teacher could give you the title in advance so that your dd has a plan in her head of what she's going to do and how she's going to start.

My reason for suggesting sitting with her and prompting is as follows:
She is obviously finding concentration hard.
It would be helpful to find out if she is just finding it hard and then giving up or whether, even with constant prompting she is finding it impossible to concentrate. If the latter, no amount of telling her to write more or putting in rewards and sanctions is going to work. It is nigh on impossible for a teacher or TA to spend that amount of time on one student in a class-full. It would be useful feedback for a teacher if you could let her know what happens.

Keep the prompting calm but firm, don't get cross and try not to enter into arguments. grin

katalex Wed 13-Feb-13 14:43:20

She hasn't been assessed for ADHD but having just googled it, it may be worth mentioning to her teacher. I've never heard of the inattentive form and she certainly seems to match a lot of the symptoms that are listed.

I will definitely tell the teacher that she gets a lot of help with her writing homework and that we will try educatingarti's suggestion of me sitting with her for 30 minutes with a few prompts and see what happens. I genuinely thought that they would know this wasn't all her work but I want them to see the full extent of the problem. Maybe the teacher does just think she's not paying attention or that she's being lazy but that's the last thing dd would want. She thrives on praise and encouragement and gets very upset if anyone thinks badly of her.

isthatallyouvegot Wed 13-Feb-13 14:48:29

Katalex I have just been reading through the posts and this one;

How is telling her to write more going to help when she doesn't know what to write? I really hope that's not all her teacher is going to suggest, otherwise she is going to have a miserable rest of the year.

Hits the nail on the head! smile. In what way is telling a 7 year old that she needs to write more supposed to support her? She is clearly struggling for some reason...and it is obviously isn't because she is not motivated otherwise she would not get upset by the fact she hasn't produced more. I would suggest that you meet with her teacher, ask again about how your daughter is progressing and then ask politely what other suggestions she has to tackle the difficulty she appears to be having. Don't forget to point out how long this has been an ongoing problem for, and so far any nothing seems to of improved the difficulties your Dd is having, then ask again what other suggestions they have. Failing this ask to speak to the schools SENCO and see if he/she has any suggestions.

Hark at me, I have been posting threads very similar to this and now I'm handing out advice. confused

katalex Wed 13-Feb-13 14:58:02

Thanks isthatallyouvegot. It's so frustrating and we really need to nip this in the bud before it's too late.

Thanks everyone for your advice. You've been really helpful smile

Let us know how you get on!

GraceGrape Wed 13-Feb-13 15:10:10

Does your DD have trouble getting started with a piece of writing? When I've had pupils like this, I've allocated an adult (either myself or an LSA) to sit with them for a few minutes at the beginning of a task and get their thought processes sorted out and the first couple of sentences written. This might give her confidence to continue with the rest of the task. It does depend on adult availability but doesn't have to be every writing session. Even if she gets support some of the time it should help her to grow in confidence with the writing process. All children have the right to be supported with their writing, not just the least able. Teachers should spend at least one session a week guiding each group.

afussyphase Wed 13-Feb-13 16:46:14

Would it help if she drew a tiny sketch or picture or something to remind her of what she was going to write next? So instead of written bullet points, tell the story in pictures and then write about it?

toomuchicecream Wed 13-Feb-13 20:15:39

Can she tell you what she wants to say? Could you get her to record it, then play it back bit by bit, writing it down as she hears it?

prettydaisies Wed 13-Feb-13 22:18:35

About talking to the teacher about ADHD. By all means mention it and see what she says. But it is a medical condition and hence needs diagnosing by a doctor. Teachers are not paediatricians or GPs!

socharlottet Wed 13-Feb-13 22:24:27

I have a Y3 DD and we have been told to get the DC to say what they are going to write the night before they do a 'Big Write'

P)S I hate 'Big Write' it sounds ungrammatical!

makemineapinot Wed 13-Feb-13 22:29:12

You could ask the teacher if they use mind mapping - I've found that to e really useful with some Holden. There's a website (kidspiration?) which allows you to put things down in mind map format and it formulates it as prose.

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