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Son in yr 1 struggling with writing & teacher using a 'Timer' to hurry him!!

(45 Posts)
3LittleHens Sun 07-Oct-12 14:38:19

My son has never been that interested in writing or drawing, and up until now I have not been too worried about it - taking the view that he will never be an artist, but more importantly, the writing will surely come. (He is however excellent at reading and good at sums).

I was recently informed by his teacher that she now has a large class - 28 in total (Reception and Year Ones) - "so things have got to speed up now, and I am using a 'timer' to hurry his writing up."

It was about 2 days later that the penny finally dropped, and my thinking was if you have a child that is struggling with a subject, how would this help? Surely being timed, when there is clearly a problem, would only put horrible pressure on a child? In my view, a child who struggles needs help - not pressure?

(I know she does it with my son's friend, because he finds reading difficult, but apparently when she uses the timer, he totally clams-up!).

However, since this chat with his teacher (2 weeks ago), I have been helping my son for 20 minutes or so every day after school. I started off with the basics -ie. CORRECT letter formation, using join the dots etc., and he is going great guns and really seems to be enjoying it now that he knows HOW to do it!

I am not a teacher, and I would be grateful for your views - ie. has anyone had a similar experience? Has it helped their child? Has it made the situation worse? What makes other schools successful with their childrens writing - ie. how do they do it? Should I tell the teacher to please stop doing it?

(Incidentally, this primary school very recently had an Ofsted report, which very clearly states that its writing standard for Year 1 is below average. Perhaps this is a new strategy to force children in to action - afterall by the time the next Ofsted audit is carried out, they'll want to show a marked improvement, not to mention good league table results).

squeakytoy Sun 07-Oct-12 14:47:45

personally I think yabu not to have been taking much interest in your childs writing at home before now..

nameuschangeus Sun 07-Oct-12 14:49:33

Please say something to the teacher. My ds1 had a bitch similar teacher in year 1 and it set him back loads.

adeucalione Sun 07-Oct-12 14:57:17

A friend recently told me that her DS's teacher is using a timer with her DS, but in his case it is because he is reluctant to invest the time in writing a good quality piece, so he procrastinates a lot and nothing ever gets written down.

His teacher started using a timer so that she could 'promise' him that he only had to write for 10mins (or whatever it was), and he could clearly see when he would be able to stop, making it less of an open-ended and onerous task I suppose.

It seemed to work for him but It seems like an unusual step to me, and I agree that it could add pressure and have a negative impact - I suppose, like anything, it depends on the child.

OutragedAtThePriceOfFreddos Sun 07-Oct-12 14:59:13

Ask the teacher why she is doing it. She wants your child to lean to write well too, she's not doing it just to annoy you or be a bitch.

I'm sure she has a reason why she thinks it will help, so ask he what it is before making judgements. Maybe she is doing it to encourage your child to do his writing instead of sitting and daydreaming or doin nothing.

If you know he can do it when you are helping him, then you know he can do it. Maybe because he doesn't particularly like it, he doesn't put much effort in in class, and she has to have some kind of tool to keep him on track because she can't be over his shoulder the entire time as she has so many other children to supervise at the same time.

3LittleHens Sun 07-Oct-12 15:10:01

Dear Squeakytoy
Please don't berate me - I feel bad enough about this already - I need some constructive advice, not critism. Believe me, I beat myself up enough about this already, and as I stated, I am addressing it every day now, and he is going great guns.
You haven't actually answered ANY of my questions - as I say, I would be very grateful for any constructive advice on using the 'Timer' method.

hobnobsaremyfave Sun 07-Oct-12 15:15:57

Some posters just like to show themselves up as ignorant twats OP, add to your spreadsheet of twatishness and ignore.

kim147 Sun 07-Oct-12 15:24:45

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

3littlefrogs Sun 07-Oct-12 15:29:03


I had no idea when I sent ds1 to school at the age of 5 that it was MY responsibility to teach him to write.

He wasn't making much progress, then another mum in the playground showed me the practice books everyone else was using (from WH Smiths).

I bought the books, spent some evening and weekend time with him, (and subsequently with his younger brother), he caught up very quickly. DS 2 could read and write before he started school, because he joined in with the practice sessions.

This was 20 years ago, but I think it is the same today, with large class sizes, the teacher can't give the one to one help that most children need.

Don't feel bad. It is all new with your first child.

Sassyfrassy Sun 07-Oct-12 15:35:37

There are different ways a timer can be used. Some children spend a long, long time thinking about what to write and end up with nothing in the book. A five minute thinking time timer can help. For others, they need see how much time left, often with a clear expectation of how much should be written.

I find that there is now a lot of pressure on producing a large amount of writing in each lesson. Senior teachers, ofsted and other authority figures will go over your books with a fine toothed comb and if there isn't sufficient quantity, quality and a hundred other things then you are in for a very uncomfortable talk.

ContinentalKat Sun 07-Oct-12 15:43:26

How exactly is the timer used?
We just did a new writing exercise this morning called 'speed writing'. Dd (Y2) has a set of tricky words to learn. The game is to write down, in cursive, as many as possible in 30 seconds. It supposedly helps to automatise hf words. She managed 2.5 'they' in 30 seconds.

I think that when using specific games like above a timer can make sense.
In most other circumstances I would find using a timer counterproductive, it just puts unnecessary pressure on the child.

I would grill the teacher further re. the exact benefits of using a timer.

Tailtwister Sun 07-Oct-12 15:48:03

I would definitely have a word with the teacher OP. Then you can ask her what you could do with him at home to help him improve.

squeakytoy - I do find your comment to the OP father unfair. If the school requires some learning/practice at home then they should be clear and say so. I was asking a P1 teacher (Scotland) the other day what she wanted children to be able to do before they started. She said not to do anything specific at all! I wanted some guidance as DS1 is taking an interest in writing and if I'm going to be helping him I want to do it in a constructive way. She said it didn't really matter, despite the fact they teach cursive handwriting.

The work you're doing at home sounds great OP.

BackforGood Sun 07-Oct-12 15:52:01

What adeu, outraged, and sassy said.
Many children benefit from having the task of that piece of writing (which can seem overwhelming) broken down into smaller sections, or smaller tasks.
So, they don't have to think about the whole piece, but, by 'x' I want you to have written the title / copied the learning objective / written the date / or whatever the first bit of the task is. then they get the next bit..... By 'y' I want you to have done the first sentence {insert bit more instruction as to what this will include}.
Also, as some say, the idea of an "endless task" is too much, so showing them that they only have until the end of the set time to work on this, it makes it less painful for a none-keen writer, rather than putting pressure on.
It really would make a lot of sense to have a chat with the teacher and say you've not come across this idea of using a timer before and were wondering how it helped the children - (s)he will then be able to explain to you how it's being used.

TroublesomeEx Sun 07-Oct-12 15:54:19

3littlehens I just wanted to say, I would also find out exactly what the issue is and why they are using a timer.

Some children respond quite well to having a set period of time - almost like they can feel it happening and see the time passing if they have a timer. They also know they're not going to be left there indefinitely writing.

Some children find it easier to write as much as they can in 10 minutes than they find it to write 2 paragraphs for example.

How the timer is used is far more important than the fact that it is being used at all. If that makes sense.

The teacher will (hopefully) have a whole load of tricks, techniques and strategies designed to get reluctant writers to write. Not all approaches will work with all children. Hopefully, they are just trying to find a way of working with your son.

So, for example, if the planning stage is done - all the 'talk for writing' bit and he knows what he has to write, he has his word bank to hand, he has the modelled sentence or whatever on the board, then giving him a set amount of time to do his writing might be better for him.

Or it could be turned into a game "come on then, let's see how much of this you can get written down before the timer pings"

TroublesomeEx Sun 07-Oct-12 15:55:55

In fact, what sassy said!

It's unlikely that in this day and age a year 1 child would be held to the timer with a threat.

The pressure on teachers to get reluctant writers to put pen to paper is huge. And you can't just say "he's not really ready for formal education yet".

Because formal education is the system we're in and SLT and Ofsted want to see results.

MadameDefarge Sun 07-Oct-12 16:11:13

hm. my ds had that. experienced all sorts of pressure on him to perform. you might find it useful to ask the senco for an ot assessment, to rule out physical issues such as dysgraphia or dyspraxia. if they are reluctant then go to your gp and request the same. dyspraxia is classified as a disability therefore comes under gp remit. my ds was diagnosed as dyspraxic....via gp. i found it much quicker to go via gp and means you have the upper hand. sadly budgets impact on school referrals. if it comes back all clear then you can proceed in tandem with school. if there is no physical or processing impediment ( ie ds hand writing on 2nd centile, cognitive on high 80s...) tools like timer may well be appropriate. good luck

MadameDefarge Sun 07-Oct-12 16:15:34

and squeaky - what a pointless and aggresive post. what is your problem?

hobnobsaremyfave Sun 07-Oct-12 16:18:48

Madame I am begining to think that Squeaky has taken over from Fabbychic as the "bitchplopper" of mumsnet.

bamboostalks Sun 07-Oct-12 16:19:44

Well it is only early in year 1 still. I mean how good are they going to be? These children are 5! In many countries, they would not have picked up a pencil yet. The foundation stage focuses on emergent writing and now they're moving into more formal purposeful writing. I think our standards are v high. He sounds fine to me. I do not do anything extra in the way of writing at home. How horrid to be forced at 5.

jamdonut Sun 07-Oct-12 16:33:45

What Sassyfrassy said.

Some children find it so difficult not to get distacted from their task. You can have, say, 1/2 hour to do a piece of writing, and at the end of that time there are always children who have only got as far as writing the date ,and, if you are very lucky, the Learning Objective. For year one, you would expect to get 3 or 4 sentences at least in that amount of time. So a timer ,for however long, is a way of visualising the time, especially if they are not ble to tell the time from a classroom clock,yet.

MadameDefarge Sun 07-Oct-12 16:44:20

ah, fabbychic. am i alone in also rather missing m....o?

hobnobsaremyfave Sun 07-Oct-12 16:44:44

grin madame

MadameDefarge Sun 07-Oct-12 16:48:30

good to see you hobs...its been too long....

hobnobsaremyfave Sun 07-Oct-12 16:56:55

Always happy to see you too Madame grin

Timeforabiscuit Sun 07-Oct-12 17:01:59

DD has started reception, and she is not at all keen on the writing!!

What I tried was getting her to do painting, colouring in, join the dots type things in play so she can at least do the motor control bit without it being too formal.

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