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Feel a bit low after parents eve - ds needs help with writing.

(39 Posts)
harryhausen Tue 19-Mar-13 22:24:41

Ds is in y1. His reading level is fine - only fine bumbling along the national average. His teacher however said she's getting concerned with his writing and spelling.

At the beginning of the year he mixed up a lot of letters, mainly got b's and d's mixed up. However at patents evening tonight she says now he's not improved on this at all. He also still spells out his words purely phonetically even though he can read the words. Some are really common words like spelling 'said' as 'sed' or 'house' as 'hows' etc. He can read them but can't seem to put them into practice when writing a sentence.
The teacher says its really holding back his progress. To be honest, I can't help comparing him to my dd when she was that age and the difference is hugehmm

The teacher is suggesting I do daily writing and spelling practice at home. She has put big 'b' and 'd' letters all over the classroom and has tried to focus more on the words with certain letters in - but she says he'll understand then go and write them purely phonetically all incorrect again within moments.

She seemed interested in the fact I mentioned that he's always making little books of drawings - but makes them so they read backwards. His pencil control is excellent.

She says she's not worried yet but is watching for signs of dyslexia.

Has anyone else been through similar? I'm a bit baffled as we work really hard at home with reading and writing etc and have done from a young age. Is the teacher doing enough? What else could/should she
be doing?

It's like all his learning isn't joined up. One minute I'm thinking, he's only 5 - but the next I'm thinking, oh no I'm one of those who failing their childhmm
(Or that may just be me being very dramatic!)

It's hard to read things on MN sometimes because all I seem to read about are the children reading Roald Dahl independently at nursery or somethinggrin

harryhausen Tue 19-Mar-13 22:33:23

Gosh. Sorry that was so long.

tribpot Tue 19-Mar-13 22:35:50

My ds is still very similar in year 3. His comprehension is very good and he can write very well when he is typing (the elusive finger spaces are always present, for starters!) as if he associates typed words much more closely with what he can see in his books.

I personally think giving a 5 (or indeed 7) year old extra practice to do is completely over the top. In lots of European countries your ds wouldn't be at school yet and mine would only just have started (although I accept they would have been learning some of these skills in nursery instead of school).

In terms of spelling phonetically - I'm afraid I think phonics are partly the cause of this. My ds literally cannot grasp that a word has a spelling, as far as I can tell, he thinks you just write down the letters that make the sound. I'm assuming at some point he's going to suddenly make this connection! But I'd rather he enjoyed reading, and writing stories, than got hung up on spelling at an early age (which is ironic because I am a complete spelling Nazi with adults).

Hopefully you'll get some views from teachers here but I do think it was a bit unfair of the teacher to say it's holding him back. He's five years old. And he is absorbing everything he can.

harryhausen Tue 19-Mar-13 22:49:30

Thanks tribpot. That's quite a reassuring answer. Sometimes I feel he's still really young, but then remember my dd was writing perfect huge essays at the same agegrin Although my ds is very young in his year.

You're right. I'm in such a flap about it. He's 5! I think I just wasn't expecting such a downer of a parents evening. The teacher looked really stern (and she's normally so nice!).

I beginning to have my doubts about phonics - for my ds anyway. We've spent ages teaching him all about the sounds of words and now suddenly we're telling him "oh well it's just spelt like that".

I'm disappointed that he's not spelling the common core words though. The teacher didnt seem to have an idea about how to help him with this apart from practice at home. He reads them, but can't connect that they're the same words when writing.

I'm swinging between this is ridiculous and arrrgh! My son's bring left behind!

harryhausen Wed 20-Mar-13 08:22:19

This is some of his writing from yesterday.

Bill and the dragoon

Once (c backwards) a pon a tim ther was a doy cold bill and he wos the onle persoon in clas but then sun won als cam in but not a boy a dragon (d the wrong way around)

Now I love his story idea and he's really enthusiastic. However all the words he's misspelled he can read and when tested on them in spelling he can spell them. He can't seem to recall the words in sentences, even words he's written right within the same sentence.

He's 5. A late June birthday. Should I worry? Sometimes his numbers are backwards and like I said, he tends to draw a story backwards when 'making' a book.

My DH thinks I'm over worrying (but I went on my own to PE). The teacher seems to be saying that its all about practice at home. I feel like I've been left alone with it. Is she just anxious about the phonics tests they'll be having at the end of y1?

I'm beginning to dislike the whole phonics thinghmm

redskyatnight Wed 20-Mar-13 08:35:13

I'm really surprised the teacher has asked you to work on spelling and not inverting letters. I thought at this sort of stage the focus was more on content than getting the spelling and presentation exactly right. As in, the child can spend so long worrying about their spelling that they never get any sort of story going. The passage you've included above sounds very "normal" for this sort of age.

My DD only stopped inverting letters at the start of Y2, her spelling was similar to that when she was in Y1 and she's on target for being a Level 3 writer at the end of KS1.

Of course practice at home won't hurt, but I would just try to introduce it naturally rather than making it a big deal. Would he like to write a letter to his grandparents maybe?

toomanyfionas Wed 20-Mar-13 08:45:18

Well he's doing better than my 5yo who the school has pegged as super smart! I like his story and I think it's too early to pressure him about spelling. I'd see how he goes for now.

harryhausen Wed 20-Mar-13 09:08:40

Gosh Redsky, that's encouraging.

I'm a bit taken aback too if I'm honest. There are some real high flyers in his class who are obviously writing at a much higher level (so the parents tell me!)

I'm not normally such an anxious parent over such things, it's just the teacher seems so concerned about it, it's left me feeling quite worried.

We've decided to write a story book (and illustrate it) to leave in the book corner. Also, we may do some simple book reviews as he really loves books and hopefully he won't notice that its the writing we're concentrating on. I just wish I could shake the hmm feeling. I suddenly feel under a whole heap of pressure.

harryhausen Wed 20-Mar-13 09:10:34

Thanks toomanyfionas (love the name). That's nice to know.

Now I feel like I have to tread a fine line between all the extra work at home the teacher has asked for and making if look like I'm not pressurising him. Arrrgh!

TheChaoGoesMu Wed 20-Mar-13 09:14:05

I thought that was quite good tbh. He is only 5.

crazymum53 Wed 20-Mar-13 09:26:47

Teachers like it if dcs are at a similar level for the different areas of English but most children find writing more difficult. Possibly what the teacher means is that the content and style of his writing mean that he should be at a higher level and the only reason he isn't quite there yet is inverting letters (which isn't really the same thing as spelling).
If this helps I remember dd having a similar problem in Y1 and she did have some extra support for a while from a TA which really helped. This just involved going through key words and forming letters correctly and this is probably the sort of thing that the teacher would like you to do at home.
By the time dd reached KS2 though her writing really took off and she went from being considered "behind" at writing to one of the best writers in her year.
One more thing, has your son had his eyes tested recently? dd wears glasses and sometimes writing can be affected if a child isn't seeing the letters correctly. A new pair of glasses did also improve her writing skills.

harryhausen Wed 20-Mar-13 09:27:09

Thanks chaos. The more people who answer similar, the more confused I'm getting as to why the teacher has flagged it up to me as an 'issue'?

I suppose all I can do is take it on board and practice with him. Bless him. All he wants to do when he gets home is play Lego (like a 5 yr old!)

harryhausen Wed 20-Mar-13 09:30:11

Thanks Crazymum. That's very helpful. I will try to calm down and get on with helping him (god help me when I have a real problemgrin)

No he's not had his eyes tested. Only once I think in school, maybe when he was in nursery.

pinkandsparklytoo Wed 20-Mar-13 10:40:39

My son has turned 6 today and can still only just about write his name. His teacher flagged up his pencil grip and writing as his only issues. he is in top set for maths though so maybe it balances out. He refuses to practice writing anything at home. He is a great reader though.

wheresthebeach Wed 20-Mar-13 12:54:15

Try not to worry - he's young in the class which is going to impact. At our school there was huge concentration on 'tricky words'. The teachers constantly pointed out that they were called 'tricky' for a reason! Said being one of them. My DD spelt it sed until Year 3.

We had similar discussions, and ended up doing Apples and Pears with our DD to support her spelling. I wish we'd started earlier as it would have sorted things out quicker for her. She too spelled phonically.

Apples and Pears will support phonics and give great writing practice too. Just something to think about for the future.

In the meantime...breath deeply...he's only five.

GladbagsGold Wed 20-Mar-13 13:11:35

DD is in Y1 and they have a really helpful chart on the wall (and send a copy home) which lists all the different ways to spell a sound.

So when DD spells something wrong but phonetically right, I can suggest she looks at the chart to see if she thinks she could pick a different option. So its more of a 'well done lets see if we could make it look like it does in the books' rather than 'you've spelt it wrong' iyswim.

She also has a fab teach full of memonics, Sally Anne Is Drawing, Big Elephants Can Always Understand Smaller Elephants etc etc.

If you are worrying, ask for a meeting with teacher and DH, so you can make a specific plan, as it sounds like teacher was a bit vague.

Most importantly - is he happy? I hope he is not called Bill and this is his way of telling you that his teacher is a dragon wink

harryhausen Wed 20-Mar-13 13:21:32

Thanks Pink. Again, reassuring to hear.

Wheresthebeach what's Apples and Pears? Is it a learning program or a book?

Gladbags - thankfully he's not called Bill but now I'm reading all sorts into his story.

Apart from this he's reasonably happy. Apart from a few playground squabbles over games etc. There are 21 boys in his class though in a class of 29. I think he's taking his time to find out where he 'fits' amongst them. There's some strong characters (including himself at times as he's fairly bossy). He's quite a geek really, and until last night I thought he was doing really well.
I may go back and see the teacher in a week or so. She made it all sound really bad which maybe she didn't mean to (I was the last parent to be seen last night and it was over running by 20 mind so she may have been shattered and couldn't do the smiley face anymoregrin

GladbagsGold Wed 20-Mar-13 13:34:45

Noooo!!!! Please don't read into it, though DD's latest story was about a dangerous volcano, a dragon is probably a lot less of a worry.

I suspect Knackered Teacher Syndrome had set in, yes. Sometimes I think they feel they can't just say that everything is fine and they 'have' to find something which could be improved. Which then gets lost in translation into 'something that's drastically wrong'.

Forgot to say earlier - I have an older DS and since his school insisted on more frequent reading all aspects of his English have come on in leaps and bounds. If you are going to 'do more at home' I would probably make this ten minutes more reading. It is helpful and also enjoyable.

harryhausen Wed 20-Mar-13 13:40:22

Gladbags, I meant to add a grin after the comment about reading into his story.

I'll try and stop over thinking it and calm down, while planning to do more in general at homesmile

Rooble Wed 20-Mar-13 13:59:30

My DS's teacher (also Y1) took me on one side earlier this year for exactly this reason. She suggested that we spend five mins each day practising forming one letter correctly. This has transformed DS's handwriting (as long as he's concentrating).
Subsequently, I've been helping with the same thing in school. The particularly striking thing to me is that many children find it easy to recognise letters and trace letters, but when they have to recall how to form them correctly they find it very difficult, so we make little mantras to mutter while we're forming them, eg: "start at the top, straight down, half-way up, round, down to the line and smile". A more creative person might come up with something more poetic!
We don't do five mins every day (there's too much to do and I'm not convinced five year olds need homework more than they need Lego), but maybe a couple of times a week.
Good luck

harryhausen Wed 20-Mar-13 14:34:09

Ahh thanks Rooble. Gosh you guys are so helpful.

That's exactly my ds's problem. I spent a long time on letter formation with him in Reception and he can do it really well, but can't recall it in his writing.

At the moment she's just flagged up b's and d's and the odd 'p' to me. So far, I've told him - the stick is the man's body. The B is his bum, and the D means he's had his dinner (ie big tummy at the front). My ds responds well to bodily functionsgrin

I haven't come up with anything for P yet! I dread to think....grin

I've also drawn out smiling B,D and P's and stuck around the kitchen.

I'm hoping it all helps.

toomanyfionas Wed 20-Mar-13 18:15:08

It's a shame you are feeling so pressured.
Please don't stop him from playing with Lego, it's so good for their maths, science and problem-solving skills.
The 5mins a day going over one letter sounds like a great idea as does talking it through.

Our school uses a literacy programme called Casey the Caterpillar which is letter formation based on a story. Invented by Barbara Brann. Not sure if it is available to individuals as opposed to schools as she go round teaching the teachers the programme but possibly worth googling.

Good luck OP and hope the anxiety subsides a bit. Your boy sounds great.

xigris Wed 20-Mar-13 18:27:49

We had parents evening a few weeks ago, DS1 is also in year 1 but is a November baby so one of the oldest. We've been told that he's one if the brightest children in the class (this is not a stealth boast!! - you'll see why!). At the end we got to have a look at his school work and well, his teacher deserves a gifted and talented medal for being able to read that boys handwriting! I work with doctors and I had trouble trying to make out a lot of it grin. His lovely and very experienced teacher is head of the infants, she says that his handwriting isn't great but that his comprehension etc is very good and that his handwriting will improve over time. She believes that it's a very "boy" issue and is because the muscle between the thumb and forefinger at this age in boys is very tight which impacts on their fine motor skills hence the "poor" handwriting on comparison to girls. Obviously this is a bit of a generalisation but she has 20+ years of experience. We asked if we should do some writing practice at home and her answer was an emphatic NO unless he himself chose to. Personally, I think that your DS and mine are so young that they don't need the extra pressure and should just be encouraged to enjoy school and, at this stage, develop at their own pace. I loved his story BTW! smile

xigris Wed 20-Mar-13 18:28:58

PS she is a massive fan of Lego as it's brilliant for fine motor skills development. We were advised to encourage it

Costypop Wed 20-Mar-13 18:34:10

Just had my PE with my 8year old(year 3) the teacher said the whole class isn't too good with their writing so she is going back to basics with them. She also asked to do some extra handwriting practice at home but for joined up as this is what they are doing after Easter and my ds hasnt got the best writing, so if we can show him a few things at home he will understand more when it comes to doing it in school.
DS also gets 10/10 in his spelling tests but when doing a bit of free writing is prone to not using the correct words ie sor instead of saw, so got this to work on too. But I think it's most likely that he isn't playing enough intension to what he is doing :/

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