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Do I ask for a formal meeting with teacher - and what am I asking for (problems with written work)

(8 Posts)
Takver Mon 13-Jun-11 19:19:58

Sorry, this is rather long. I've posted before about dd's problems with written work - both spelling and more general putting of ideas on paper. She also has occasional meltdowns in class, and at least twice the school have suggested referring her to the behavioural counsellor. We've always agreed that this would be a good idea, but then as far as I can establish there are no more problems for a couple of months, so they decide everything is fine.

I did have a brief chat with her teacher & TA just before half term, having gone in to ask for a meeting, and basically was reassured that there were no problems, no need for a meeting etc.

DD's come home again today in tears, having been sat over one piece of work all day. Their first session this morning was meant to be 'write down 10 questions that you would like to know the answer to about food'.

DD wrote down three, then failed to write any more. From what I can establish + my knowledge of dd, at some point in the process she got herself in a complete state (not the first time this has happened). She says that the TA helped her think of a couple more ideas, which she did write down. Then the teacher 'made some more suggestions, but then I forgot them before I could write them down, and then she shouted at me as if I'd hit someone or done something really terrible'. She had been working on this piece all morning, then had to stay and keep at it in the afternoon when the rest of the class went outside to listen to a story.

I have no doubt that dd behaved abominably - but this isn't the first time that there's been a very similar sequence events over a piece of written work.

On each occasion we've sat down with her at home and she's completed the work (this evening we suggested writing down some 'question words' like What/How/Why and using each one to complete a sentence, and she was fine). But this doesn't seem like a good solution in general, for her or the teacher, and I really feel that we need to talk to her about it more formally.

The problem is that I think I'm not quite sure what I'm asking them to do. Is it unreasonable to think that if dd is totally failing to do a piece of work, then keeping her sat over it all day isn't going to improve matters?

More generally, while she can write one or two sentences reasonably effectively (handwriting is fine, spelling bad but some words ok, punctuation generally ok) she doesn't seem able to ever write more than this.

There was a 'see your child's work' day before Easter, and none of her written work was more than 4 to 5 sentences. Am I right in thinking that this is very little for year 4? And again, is it reasonable if so to ask for some support?

I think at least part of the cause of her meltdowns is that she has lots of ideas that she wants to put on paper, but is incapable of expressing anything but the most basic of concepts in writing.

anthonytrollopesrevenge Mon 13-Jun-11 19:43:08

I can empathise as I have similar problem with DS in yr 3. Just can't seem to write in sentences or express himself in writing. He's bright enough otherwise and has excellent spelling but poor punctuation. Reading is fine though he hates it and so does not practice. I don't know what to do about it either, I feel he's made little progress in the last 2 years. So can't help but do sympathise.

Eglu Mon 13-Jun-11 19:50:29

I'm not sure what could help her issues in doing the work, but I don't think them making her sit at a piece of work all day after she has become very wound up over it is at all helpful. I would be really cross if they did that to my child.

Takver Mon 13-Jun-11 20:05:04

Its difficult, I think she doesn't help herself - she gets into a complete state, and so it isn't clear whether she can't do the work - or won't do it.

And indeed once she's calmed down, and got the message that really the content of the sentences isn't actually that vital (ie, it isn't the end of the world if she doesn't really care about the answers, or if she knows the answers already), she can do it (though not to a very good standard).

It's frustrating, as we've been through all this before in yr 1/2, where it took almost the entire first year with her teacher before the latter came to the conclusion that dd wasn't refusing to write, she just couldn't. She then had some additional phonics help which did make a difference, to the point where things seemed ok in yr 3. Unfortunately I think now the work has progressed, but dd hasn't, IYSWIM.

sarahfreck Tue 14-Jun-11 11:26:42

I think I might be asking if she is showing any general signs of dyslexia or dyspraxia. They can both affect thought organisation/short term memory as well as actual writing and spelling.
What is her fine and gross motor control like?
Does she misread lots of "little" words (like and, the, in and so on)?
Does she audibly tire as she reads a couple of pages of text?
Does she misspell a word in a variety of different ways in one piece of writing?
Does she have problems copying accurately from the board?
Does she find it difficult or remember things and organise herself? ( PE kit, packed lunch etc)
If there are any signs, I'd ask to get her formally assessed. If she is dyslexic or dyspraxic then the school will be more aware and she will probably get shouted at less! They will also have access to specialist advice on how to help her tackle the difficulties. It can also help with emotional reactions if the child realises that there is something causing the problem. IME bright children with mild to moderate dyslexia can often be missed as they have developed a lot of coping strategies and can sometimes be misunderstood as "a daydreamer" or "lazy" by the teacher.

Takver Tue 14-Jun-11 11:50:13

Its a hard one to say, sarah. We've looked around at quite a lot of the 'symptoms of dyslexia/dyspraxia' etc - and dd only shows a few of the symptoms (and I suspect a lot of people probably could answer 'yes' to at least 3 or 4).

Her fine motor control is extremely good - ironically she can draw well for her age, create fiddly mobiles etc. Gross not so good - she can't run effectively at all, found learning to pedal hard, etc. But perhaps not out of the range of 'normal' (ie, clumsy kid rather than medical problem . . .). She reads really well, both to herself and out loud, and part of the difficulty in school I think has always been that she was an early fluent reader, which masked a lot of her other problems (or made them look like stubborn-ness).

I kind of wish there was an easy 'set of symptoms', IYKWIM.

Seeline Tue 14-Jun-11 12:27:51

My DS (also Y4) has had problems with writing too. He is a very good reader (age 12) and his verbal skills are good. His problem is getting down all the information he has in his head onto the paper (coupled with the fact that he doesn't like the physical process of writing and tends to be rather a perfectionist so keeps rubbing things out and starting again).
Things that have helped him are:
Using some sort of timer to keep track of progress
More frequent verbal reminders of how long he has got left to complete something
If he has to do a certain number of things, writing a list of the numbers and crossing one off each time he completes one
Using a white board (or a piece of rough paper) to quickly jot down his initial ideas - even single words help
Using a dictaphone to quickly record his ideas verbally and then listening back to it whilst writing down in 'English'!
Maybe worth asking the teacher if she has any ideas for similar coping strategies. Leaving a distressed child with the same piece of work all day is not the correct approach IMO.

Takver Tue 14-Jun-11 17:49:59

That's a really helpful list, seeline - your ds sounds very similar to my dd. She also keeps rubbing out, doesn't want to hand in work that is 'not good enough' (despite the fact that clearly the teacher would rather have some work than none!), etc.

We've sent an email to the HT as she's also the SENCO asking for a meeting, and I'll ask if they'd be willing to try those or other similar coping strategies in class.

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