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Writing advice and levelling

(19 Posts)
tiredbutnotweary Wed 22-May-13 10:54:52

DD (in reception) doesn't really enjoy writing very much, she finds it laborious and is very slow (relative to her friends who are good / fast writers - she's noticed they can write a page or more in the time it takes her to write two sentences). School teach cursive from the get go, so all her writing is joined up, not print.

Her letter formations are all correct but she really struggles with size consistency and placement on a line. At school she writes relatively little, but at home she is happy to write more because I let her use proper lined paper (4 lines instead of the one, which school won't allow), but she says she prefers it and at home her letters are the right size and in the right place. She is concerned about spellings, punctuation and capitals and likes it to all be "right".
Below is an example of her writing - is anyone happy to level it?

I love trees bicos they are lovely. I like flowers becaus they smel nise. I don't like bonjela.

So this took her about 20 minutes! She did all of the puntuation independently. The change in her spelling of the word 'because' is due to her 'seeing' her first spelling was wrong and asking me how to spell it. I wrote it out to show her and we talked through how it works phonically (the tricky bits, if that makes sense) and then I covered my correct version up. So the second spelling (which she wrote about 10 minutes later!!) was her own recollection, not copying.

Most of all, I'd appreciate advice on how to help her speed up (is it simply more of the same, which is me encouraging her to write three sentences on anything she likes) or should I perhaps encourage her to do mazes for example (she'd enjoy that more than writing I think)? How can I make writing fun when it makes her hand ache???

Periwinkle007 Wed 22-May-13 11:02:34

it could be she is much more worried about doing it right than all the others are. my daughter has terrible handwriting unless she has lines, letters are correctly formed but size, spacing and sloping are an issue on blank paper, draw her lines and she writes very tidily. Her friends may write more but that doesn't mean their writing is neat, spelling is recognisable or punctuation is right.

I think it will be like anything else it is just practice and reception are only going to be really building up writing more now.

when she says it makes her hand ache is it that she holds the pencil too tightly or presses very hard? how is her normal finger coordination and grip? she may need to build up the muscles and I think there are exercises they can do to help with this.

LemonBreeland Wed 22-May-13 11:05:13

tbh she is in reception and that is perfectly reasonable that she takes a long time to write a small amount. She obviously has friends who a re very good writers, but a lot of reception children would struggle to write that much.

The fact that she is a perfectionist will slow her down too. I don't think you need to push her to speed up, it will come in time.

freetrait Wed 22-May-13 12:46:30

I would do nothing. I think she is writing better than my DS in YR who now writes pages very well at end of Y1. Her friends happen to be ahead of the game grin.

DeWe Wed 22-May-13 14:01:08

For because:
Big Elephants Can Always Understand Small Elephants

is the way my dc were taught, and it was one of the first tricky words they could write. Except ds went through a stage of spelling it "becaule" (little elephants) grin

I can write two pages in the time it takes dh to write a few lines, but what he writes is much more sensible.

tiredbutnotweary Wed 22-May-13 14:30:53

Thank you all for your responses smile

Periwinkle - pressing too hard is definitely an issue - I do remind her about that and coordination is a problem on a macro as well as micro level (can't catch a ball, falls over own feet ... a lot, balance problems etc and has little patience for colouring in).

LemonBreeland - I agree it will come with time, but my general view is a little practice and often is how to get better at things BUT I don't like to suggest a little hand writing everyday as I think that would put her off. Hence wondering if mazes might be worth a try. Hand exercises sound like an avenue worth exploring, as it's things like that I'm looking for - you know stuff that could be fun but that would also help with her writing but without her actually writing iyswim?

freetrait - your experience is very encouraging, thank you!!

DeWe - I will see whether DD can remember how to spell 'because' in a few days, she's already showing signs of having far superior spelling skills than mine (admittedly that's not saying much), especially given how little she writes. If not then I will give your idea a go - certainly I learnt how to spell necessary by remembering there's a cess pit in it!!!

Annanon Wed 22-May-13 14:39:31

My Dd has never written that much in school and is not encouraged to do any independent spelling hmm

tiredbutnotweary Wed 22-May-13 16:10:49

Annanon - she didn't write that in school!!! She says the noise and other things going on are too distracting at school. In fact this is the main difference (writing wise) between her school and the private one we visited. There, all the children sat and wrote at the same time and the top and middle group were so far ahead I was shock

Her target before the last parents evening (a few months ago) was to write 2 or 3 sentences but she's only just started to do that and I think it's because of the properly lined paper and distraction free environment (i.e. she still doesn't do this at school).

I don't understand why they don't use hand writing paper at schools anymore!?!?!

Periwinkle007 Wed 22-May-13 20:02:47

how is her reading? If you tried to give her directions from one place to another would she be able to follow them? I just ask because I think it is worth keeping an eye on. lack of coordination as well could indicate dyslexia/dyspraxia problems. my very good reading daughter in reception is showing dyslexia symptoms but isn't a classic case, it is wide ranging and varies for every child. She is still so young it would be hard to tell what is just perfectly normal at this age and what isn't but do monitor it. Normally it wouldn't be possible to diagnose until about age 7 but worth bearing in mind.

Periwinkle007 Wed 22-May-13 20:03:57

sorry I didn't explain that well. my daughter finds writing on lines easier for her eyes to follow and keep her place. blank paper just turns into a mess in front of her eyes from what she says and then of course she is more messy anyway on it so it gets even more confusing, harder work and more tiring.

tiredbutnotweary Wed 22-May-13 22:21:29

Periwinkle, I think you hit the nail on the head! It's tricky though, can an advanced reader have reading problems?

One way I've noticed that DD is ready to move up a book band is due to her being able to read smaller text (from books I have read to her at home for example). If, however, the text is too small then she finds it hard, she line skips, looses her place and struggles with blending (it's like she's working so hard to see the word she can't hear herself anymore?!?). She's on gold band at school but at home she can read the Usborne white level books due to the large font size (they have some fantastic books too). She accidentally picked up a white banded corgi young pups (I think) from school and I took one look and knew she wouldn't be happy to read it due to the font size.

The other issue with smaller (but not too small) text size is that it slows her down and of course her stamina isn't great because, I think, her eyes get tired. Of course she's had her eyes tested at a bog standard opticians. However I spoke to a behavioural optometrist who, like you, said she's still young enough for her to grow out of it naturally.

In the meantime I just wish school would let her use lined paper as this does help her writing no end. Surely from a muscle memory point of view it's better that she writes things slowly but properly? Her writing on blank or even single lined paper starts off a normal size and then gets bigger and bigger and more all over the place!

Thanks Periwinkle flowers

Soapysuds64 Wed 22-May-13 22:33:31

My 7 year old dd has just been assessed as dysgraphic - she has no problems with reading or numbers, but her written work is very weak in comparison. The school has given her a writing slope and she has been using all kinds of pencil grips. In hindsight, I knew something was up when she was 4/5, but it was not until now that the disparity between her reading and writing could be seen. On a bad day, her letter formation is poor, no finger spaces, different sized letters, all over the page, can't colour in, very messy..... We have been advised not to do extra writing, but dot to dots and mazes, aswell as other activities which promote fine motor control and hand use, eg sewing and plasticine modelling. We were told that she would probably need a laptop, so we are workinhpg to improve her touch typing. That said, it old just be that she is slower getting writing - you won't know for sure until she is about 7 years old.

tiredbutnotweary Wed 22-May-13 22:49:12

Soapysuds - thank you that's really helpful too smile

DD has a maze book on order for her birthday (she loves doing them with her finger so I just need to encourage her using a pencil!). How does a writing slope help, or rather what does it do for your DD that helps improve her writing? Also has your DD used properly lined paper and if so did it help? My DD loves her playdoh, but I guess plasticine is harder to shape helping to build the muscles more and I guess I can replace sewing (ouch) with threading activities!

Soapysuds64 Wed 22-May-13 23:48:28

Threading would work ok, especially as she is that bit younger. The writing slope improves her posture, which means she is using the right muscles, not getting over tired...... Same with pencil grips. Tis early days, but might be worth a try. Lined paper makes a big difference, but I don't use proper handwriting paper (bu then again, she is 7.....)

One last thing - learning support at school mentioned that if she could feel the lines on the paper, she could keep in place better. You can buy special paper like this, but it is very expensive, so her teacher is using bendaroos on the paper for her to feel - not sure if this works yet.

Thing is, her reading and understanding in class has been so good, it was easy to spot (with hindsight!) as her writing was so bad! Her colouring and drawing has always been immature, she is clumsy and there is a family history of dyslexia but recently her confidence has been slipping and she had started to 'give up' with school work. I am now choosing activities for her which she is likely to succeed at to improve her confidence, rather than have he do things that she might struggle with - she has enough o that at school.

I wouldn't worry too much yet, she is still young. Just keep it in mind, google dysgraphia, and see what you can easily do to support it. Don't fall into the trap of making her practice writing at home though - this is felt to be counter productive - encourage her with other activities that stimulate / strengthen.

She might just have bad handwriting, but if she is found to have dysgraphia, ultimately she will need a laptop for her school work - not that big a problem in this day and age. Get her touch typing as soon as you can, so you can evaluate whether it is poor hand writing, or a problem expressing herself through handwriting (which is essentially what dysgraphia is/can be).

Hope this help, I'm no expert, just a step or two down the line.

Soapysuds64 Wed 22-May-13 23:50:27

Oh, she has also been to a specialist optician who specialises in vision therapy - worth checking out if there is one near you. She had no problems o that score though.....

WomblesOfCairngorm Thu 23-May-13 00:04:57

We seem to be in a similar situation to you. I really really wish ds was allowed to use lined paper at school, but apparently lined paper is not allowed in Reception - what ever happened to differentiation?!

We try to do lots of plasticine to strengthen muscles. Also he has just started playing the piano (three notes so far!). A pencil grip helped us a lot. Also he writes with a timer - 10 mins maximum whether finished or unfinished.

What is most fustrating is that at home he can now happily write quite a lot, yet at school he doesn't.

Periwinkle007 Thu 23-May-13 06:55:12

Ys i have discovered a good reader can have problems. My reception daughter is white band at school and now with her coloured glasses is reading the shorter chapter books. I do have to font select carefully though. From investigating it transpires they think more people are dyslexic than diagnosed because many bright children just learn to work round it. I suppose it depends what they are exposed to ie do they learn whole word recognition if using books that make that possible rather than phonics and how badly they are affected. These children tend to be thought of as just messy writers or careless as they can actually read. I think they are called functioning or compensating dyslexics. If gifted they are called dual exception children. The problem is thatit is so hard to know at 5 what is normal. Skipping or losing place isnt unusual especially as font size gets smaller but like you said you know she can read harder stuff with a bigger font. I think it would be worth trying to see a vision therapy opticians or behavioural optician. I asked the school specials needs teacher for advice and my daughter has improved greatly with her glasses but there are still some issues. School now have her flagged for monitoring which means in september when she starts yr1 they will assess her and see what specific help might be required. I think you should speak to her teacher.

tiredbutnotweary Thu 23-May-13 10:32:25

Thank you again for all of your posts - I have lots of things to look into for DD now!

Thinking about it, it seems fairly obvious now - I was told at school that I had writing like a "paralysed spider" (this was at senior, not junior school). My spelling is dreadful (though teaching DD to read through phonics is making a difference not only to my spelling but my reading too, especially all the made up names I used to just skip) - my eyes flick about when I'm tired or in poor light and I often have to re-read sentences. On one behavioural optometrist's site you could chose different coloured backgrounds - imagine my shock to discover that a light grey background enables me to read much faster on screen than normal. So time to stop sitting on the fence and wondering what if and make that appointment for DD!

Periwinkle007 Thu 23-May-13 10:45:45

I could have written your last reply there. exactly the same. I look back now and recognise the symptoms in myself, messy writing (I learned to try REALLY hard with presentation), inability to do comprehension exercises but could comprehend a book I was reading, great at maths so long as it wasn't written in a problem/sentence, appalling spelling, really struggled with languages, seemed to have to do 5 times as much work as other people when it involved written work compared to just answering verbally. I never achieved what people said I should have done either but I did try really hard.

As I say the difference for my daughter with her tinted glasses was instant. There are still problems, I am not going to pretend there aren't which is why I think it is more than 'just' the irlen syndrome symptoms and a bit more of the dyslexia stuff but now I can recognise it and try to teach her alternatives so when she is tired and she doesn't see full stops I have explained that she could use the capital letter as an extra clue/prompt. My attitude to it is that at the end of the day she will have to learn to cope with it, you don't get extra time etc in a job or be allowed to make mistakes so she will have to learn techniques that work for her. I am already anticipating that once they get on to things like comprehension exercises and maths problems we will have to work hard with her to help her learn a way to do it but hopefully as we are looking for it we will be able to.

DO get an appointment booked. If there is a problem and colours help then you can start with a coloured overlay for reading and you can buy coloured paper exercise books from some websites she could use for writing as they might help. We got DD coloured glasses because she had big issues with the interactive white board (which was the first sign we had, we hadn't realised the reading until it all came together when we got her tested). Glasses aren't cheap as there is no NHS funding for them (unless in Scotland) but ours cost however much the frames were (they kindly gave us them free as they would have been NHS ones anyway) £50 for the coloured tint and £37.50 for the lenses themselves so all in £87.50. I think the colour machine test was £45. We could have had the test slightly cheaper somewhere else but their glasses cost more and I decided to use the one the school suggested and was very pleased with them. Some places will quote hundreds of pounds for glasses, different make, different type of tint. All I can say is that my daughter is happy with hers and they are working so you don't have to pay for the extra expensive ones. the other thing to bear in mind is that a coloured overlay should not be the same colour as the coloured glasses, they should be tested differently. not sure I understand why there is a difference but there is.

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