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Year 2 teachers, please help! Do I need to worry?

(4 Posts)
Oneveryworriedmum Tue 18-Nov-14 11:28:27

Ok, so I had parents' evening for DS, who is in Year 2 at a private prep. He is ahead for his age in reading and comprehension (great!), on track for maths (good) but rather behind in writing, particularly compared to his reading skills.
He is very articulate and in his written work, he shows some good ideas and uses many interesting words (which he mis-spells, but that's OK, according to the teacher, because they are rather ambitious). However, the basics are not in place.
His handwriting is terrible - you can barely read it, and spacing is creative to say the least - and his spelling and punctuation are all over the place (well, spelling is. Punctuation is non-existent: no full stops, no capital letters, no anything). This problem had emerged already at the end of Year 1, but obviously children in Year 1 are only just starting to make sense of punctuation and spelling so his Year 1 teacher didn't seem to think it would be an issue. My impression is that now the gap with the rest of the class, and with his other skills has widened.
He is also incredibly slow compared to the rest of the class - by the time they have finished two sentences, he has just about written the date (the teacher did say this). At home, he often complains that writing is tiring but doesn't seem to have a problem drawing all the time!
Thing is, he knows he should use capital letters and full stops to mark a sentence (they have done some kind of "correct the wrongly punctuated sentences" exercise and he did well at that), he knows the (age-appropriate) phonics spelling patterns (e.g. that ou and au represent different sounds) or the difference between where and were.
He just doesn't apply what he knows. His teacher thinks he's probably just a little young (but born end of March, so not so young?) and that things will fall into place at some point, but still suggested that I try to make him practise some more writing at home. Would you agree? Or do I need to worry? And how can I help speed up and apply what he knows to his writing?
Thank you so much!

JennyWren Tue 18-Nov-14 11:51:11

I can't help because I don't know the answers but I could have written exactly the same thing about my August-born Yr2 DS. He's in state school rather than private (although I'm not sure what difference that makes!). I try to encourage good handwriting at home, and I'm trying to find things for him to write - so we have a 'things to do after school today' whiteboard on the fridge, and he likes to write his own lists, and I replace his paper for doing homework with 'handwriting paper', with the top, middle and bottom lines to help him shape his letters well. And we use a lolly stick for finger spacing. I'm just hoping that one day he will realise that presentation is as important as ideas!

toomuchicecream Tue 18-Nov-14 20:02:41

When my year 2 pupils have finished a piece of extended writing I give them a highlighter to mark their capital letters and full stops. They all know that they should come in pairs - if they don't something is wrong. A significant number of my class now hand in work which shows they had full stops in, used the highlighter and realised the next capital letter was missing and have then changed their writing to put it in. Hurrah!! It also helps with those who put punctuation at the beginning and end but miss it out of the middle, because they end up with no highlighting at all in the main part of their writing.

What's his pencil grip like? If he isn't holding his pencil properly (tripod grip) he will really struggle to write neatly and at speed. What is the school doing to help with this ie pencil grip, extra handwriting lessons? I've spent a huge amount of my class budget on shaped, Stabilo handwriting pencils for each child as it's nearly impossible to hold them wrong.

It's really, really important that he gets his pencil grip and letter formation sorted out as soon as possible. He's already at the stage of having to un-learn bad habits before he can do things properly - the long that is left, the harder it will be for him. It can't just be left on the basis that he's young. My year 1 and 2 pupils have 2 or 3 handwriting sessions a week in a group of no more than 6 so my TA can really watch what they are doing and correct them straight away.

The same goes for his spelling. My year 2s have been learning for a while now how to decide which phonic pattern is the best bet for a particular word. I've got a very able writer whose spelling is dreadful - he can copy a word wrong in 3 different ways on the same page. I'm taking a zero tolerance approach with him. He's younger than your DS, but I'm not leaving bad spelling habits to become ingrained.

In terms of what you can do, I wouldn't worry. But I would start taking action. What are the school going to do about it? What resources can they give you to support him? There is a wealth of information on the internet. This is the site I recommend: but there are many, many more. In your situation I'd spend 10 minutes every day working on writing. The national handwriting association has got some great, cheap fact sheets to download too.

Above all - don't assume he's young and leave it to sort itself out as bad spelling and writing habits are hard to break.

Oneveryworriedmum Thu 20-Nov-14 13:07:40

Thank you so much, JennyWren and Toomuchicecream. Jenny, love the lolly stick idea! Toomuch, I might be wrong but my feeling is that, beyond telling me to practise writing at home with some school provided handwriting sheets, my impression is that the school isn't doing much, although I may be wrong. I'll look up the resource you mentioned and talk to his teacher again to see whether we can put some plan in place to help him out. Thank you!

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