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Please please help me to help her

(36 Posts)
momb Sat 27-Dec-14 16:00:12

YD (10) Y5.
She has what I would have thought was a lovely assignment: she's had for half a term and it's due in after the holidays.
Imagine a world (real or imaginary, future, past or present). Draw a map of it. Write 2 pages on the geography, inhabitants, how it runs etc. Write a 1 page autobiography of someone from this world. Write a 1 page story about something that happens. Convert your story to a comic strip. Write and design the front page of a newspaper. Design a poster advertising the place. Write a school report for a child. Make a cover. The whole thing needs to be first and second drafted. Each piece should take approx. one hour.
She has done a map of an imaginary future planet. That's it.
Not for lack of trying. Every day or two for the last couple of months she has sat down to do something. She has reams of notes I helped with (she talked about her imaginary word and I wrote. All she needs to do is put pen to paper. She just can't do it. We have had tears/tantrums/screaming every day for weeks now. The holidays are ruined, pretty much. She is completely uninspired/blocked. She gets out the folder and basically cries/screams, sobs, sighs for an hour. I am not forcing her to do it. She knows that it needs to be done. The deadline is in sight and this is hell. I've tried support, talking through, helping her google, offering typing support if she decides to word process. leaving her to it. I cannot do it for her.
I am at a loss. What else can I do to help? I've sent her to her room to calm down (hysterical because it has to be done and she cannot do it) and am sitting here in tears.
This is a child who off her own back enters 500 words every year, loves writing little stories, has an active imagination which she is always ready to share. Please help me to help her.

Hakluyt Sat 27-Dec-14 16:05:33

Back off completely. Give it a couple of days. She's done most of the work- she can knock off the rest in a couple of hours.

momb Sat 27-Dec-14 16:12:18

That's the this though Hakluyt. I haven't pushed at all. When she's asked for help I've given it but have been very (deliberately) cool about the whole thing. She is getting it out, crying (wide eyed hysterical) for anything between 20 and 60 mins, and I'm then making her put it away. Almost every day, apart from the last three when I told her to take tie off for Christmas. She knows that she'll get into trouble at school which is making her get the books out but she just doesn't know what to put.

tryingtocatchthewind Sat 27-Dec-14 16:19:24

Why don't you pick one piece of it and really help her with it. Get enthusiastic and throw some ideas at her. She can always revisit that section at the end to make it her work. At ten I wouldn't think it needs to be entirely original ideas so talk to her about what she likes about her favourite stories.

Merrylegs Sat 27-Dec-14 16:23:42

Blimey. I'm exhausted just reading that list. What a chore. It's probably worse because she has a reputation for being good at/ interested in/ creative writing. Tell her it doesn't have to be great, just good enough.

Give her a template for each piece. One a day if you like. So one day give her a piece of paper headed 'autobiography'.

Tomorrow give her 'comic strip' - I would even draw the boxes on the page tbh so all she has to do is fill them in.

Then give her 'school report' - you can mock up a template on the pc with subject headings, grade headings, box for teacher's cooments, so she can fill it in.

It sounds like she has too much information to sort through and it's all gettimg muddled and overwhelming. A simple structured approach might help.

SilasGreenback Sat 27-Dec-14 16:23:45

Do you think she feels it must be perfect? How about encouraging her to just do something good enough. Sounds like she could easily do the work but the pressure she is putting herself under means she is just panicking.

Picturesinthefirelight Sat 27-Dec-14 16:33:30

My goodness that sounds a lot.

Being given the whole thing all at once is probably way way too overwhelming. It would have been much better ofvthe teacher had handed outline task per week with a week deadline. Done children find it hard to organise & break down tasks. This sounds like lazy teaching (or rather no teaching).

Projects like this need considerable guidance & it's not your job to give it.

kesstrel Sat 27-Dec-14 18:12:42

I would suggest physically using scissors to cut up the notes into individual snippets of information/ideas. (scan the reverse side if written double sided). Then help her to arrange these snippets into into piles, using sheets with headings written in big letters for each topic. Then look at each pile and put what is there in order, see what else is needed to flesh it out, to create an outline to work from.

The others are right, by the way, this is an outrageous thing to expect a child this age to organise for herself.

nonicknameseemsavailable Sat 27-Dec-14 19:22:59

I agree just focus on one task at a time. I would probably ignore the notes already made and just literally start with one of the tasks and start from scratch with it. when that one is done then pick another and do that.

Classic too much information, too many ideas and no structure so it is overwhelming - to her it is the equivalent of a dissertation and she just has no idea where to start.

If you need to help her do it then do - just put a little note with it saying exactly what you have said here, the ideas are there, the ability is there but it caused all round panic for her and a lot of stress so you helped harness the ideas and helped get pen to paper. Could she dictate and you type? as long as you say what input you had then I don't think the teacher will mind at all. They would prefer that then not have the work at all I expect and it would be good for them to have the feedback about what she struggled with.

and give her (and yourself) a cuddle - I always found stuff like this overwhelming, I know how she feels and as a parent it is so hard when you know they can do it but something is causing a block and stopping them.

Ferguson Sat 27-Dec-14 19:39:02

As others have said, this is a rather excessive amount. But are you both QUITE SURE it ALL has to be done? Could this possibly be a list of tasks to choose some from, but not have to do them all?

I was a primary TA / helper for over twenty years, but mostly with R, Yr1, Yr2, so don't really know what Yr5 and 6 expectations were, but not as ambitious as this I wouldn't have thought.

When working with 'reluctant' writers I would often get them to dictate their ideas to me, and I would type them on the computer. For many children, the ideas are there, but it is the physical task of writing that is the problem.

So if you have a tape recorder, or a phone that records, see if she can DICTATE the texts, then write or type later.

I have just jotted down the tasks, and I make it that there are TEN tasks, which if each is an hour is TEN HOURS in total. Do bullet points, and a page of paper for each one, then jot ideas (not full texts yet) for each:

1 Imagine place;

2 Draw map;

3 Two pages on geography, people etc;

4 One page Autobiography of someone;

5 One page story;

6 Convert story to comic strip (? or film storyboard?)

7 Newspaper front page;

8 Poster advertise place;

9 School report of child;

10 Make cover.

Quangle Sat 27-Dec-14 19:50:44

Oh yes it sounds overwhelming. If I had to get through that at work I would have the Sunday night fear. Agree with Merrylegs approach.

We also had a bad project to do this holiday and DDs teacher is crap. The project was both really vague and rambling and really specific. It started off

'This term we have studied the Stone Age/Iron Age/Bronze Age....

really? because they are actually different and I'm not sure you have actually studied all three with your class of 7 yos the homework is to present a project on all three eras or any one of them looking at one of the following: ways of life, food and drink, weapons and war or all of the above or anything else you want to present'

So either write something weirdly specific or something really general or really anything you like because I can't be bothered to think about it any more. Oh but it must be on A3 paper. Lazy arse. Oh and it was "Not compulsary" (sic). So we ain't doing it.

Enb76 Sat 27-Dec-14 19:52:28

I'd ask her to work out the one page story or the autobiography first. Then you can work out from there the geography, the map etc...

She's had since half-term is that correct? It sounds like she's been overwhelmed by the list rather than seeing that once one item has been finished the rest will slot into place

eddiemairswife Sat 27-Dec-14 19:52:57

What will happen if she doesn't do it? This may be asking too much organisationally of a 10 yr old and it seems to be ruining her Christmas holiday. I'm very much against these extended projects for KS2.

momb Sat 27-Dec-14 22:02:01

Thanks for all the advice. She came down at about 4.30 and sat at the table again. I told her that she had writer's block. She asked me what it was and I explained. We talked through the notes we'd made and went through the assignment again. I told her that if she didn't/couldn't do it I'd write a note explaining that she had tried but that it was just too much and that she could take in her notes and the map to show that she'd tried. She said that she'd get a detention. I said so what? We both know that you've tried and that's enough.
She sat at the laptop and wrote 6 pages on the geography, inhabitants, lifestyle, fashions etc of her imagined world. 2/10 ain't bad...and that was the biggest bit which sets the scene for all the others. It took her nearly three hours and I suggested she stop but she wanted to finish today. Tomorrow she wants to do the story (fun bit) and I'll review today's essay and help her with punctuation/spellings.
Yes, it is ten tasks, but although it says one hour each I think she'll rattle off the cover, poster, school report and autobiography really quickly. The real sticking point was the 'setting the scene' piece which described her imagined world. The rest will, as said, slot into place now (hopefully).
Just telling her that it didn't matter seems to have really helped. Thanks again for all the advice and ideas.

AliceInHinterland Sat 27-Dec-14 22:07:10

Poor little sausage - if you have helped her to nip the perfectionism in the bud now and see that in most cases 'done is better than perfect' you will have done her a huge favour. You sound like a very patient & kind mum.

AmberTheCat Sat 27-Dec-14 22:29:52

Goodness, that sounds incredibly daunting. I agree that the teacher setting this all at once, and with such an extended deadline, is unhelpful. I'd be very cross at something like this spoiling what should be a relaxing, family time (though I appreciate that if she'd been able to do more of it earlier then it wouldn't feel like such a huge task now).

Sounds like you had a bit of a breakthrough today (and it also sounds like you're dealing with it really well, BTW). If she's not able to rattle through the rest of the work as quickly as you'd hope, I'd keep reiterating that it's not the end of the world if she doesn't get all of it done.

Lonecatwithkitten Sun 28-Dec-14 08:44:49

Year 5/6 girl drama, I get a lot of this tear etc that last longer than the actual piece of work would take.
I say it's fine it is your choice if you do the homework, but if you choose not to do it you explain to the teacher, 99.9% of the time it then gets done without fuss and well. It seems to be if my DD feels she has no choice, but to do it. Once I add choices, do homework or not do homework and explain to teacher she feels better.
I would prepare for more drama in more aspects of your life, my DD is year 6 and nearly 11, we have a lot of drama/hormones flying around.

MilkRunningOutAgain Sun 28-Dec-14 10:32:30

What a nightmare, I used to get discouraged by my DS's yr 5 and 6 long project home works as I knew he would find it hard, and they frequently involved art and crafts, both of which he hated, but 10 hours work! DS's were nowhere near that long.

simpson Sun 28-Dec-14 11:44:48

My DS is in yr5 & he would be completely overwhelmed with this work (sorry, not helpful I know).

I am just v grateful that he hasn't got any homework this holiday.

Hakluyt Sun 28-Dec-14 14:38:59

They do a lot of project type homework in secondary school- and it's only really now in year 9 that Ds can do it without a lot of help with the planning and timing.

HollyBdenum Sun 28-Dec-14 14:51:47

Quangle - I think that they did study all three. My DD did, and it's part of the national curriculum now. In DDs case, I am fairly sure that she was taught well, as her class teacher used to be an archaeologist.

Quangle Sun 28-Dec-14 16:08:04

I think that underlines ny doubts about this teacher Holly - that it's been done properly where you are. Just asked DD for some information about any of these eras and she came up with "they lived in caves". I think the teacher just reads them stuff out of a book, photocopies homework ideas out of a teaching support book and shouts.

Hope things go better for you now OP and it's a really good point about nipping perfectionism in the bud now. It can be so damaging.

TheRealMaryMillington Sun 28-Dec-14 16:16:30

Wow poor kid.

I think:

that you have handled this really well

that this is a ridiculous and overwhelming task for a 9 year old. If it was necessary to do this massive project the teacher should have put strategies in place to make it manageable - i.e. do it bit by bit with a week or fortnight deadline

that this confirms my view on homework for primary aged children (i.e. it should be optional, only reinforce in class learning, and completely age appropriate and manageable for the child)

that any primary school that uses detention as a punishment for things that happen (or not) outside school is out of order

On the basis of all that I would be Having A Word with teacher and/or head.

butterfliesinmytummy Sun 28-Dec-14 16:27:05

That sounds a huge amount of work for year 5 and I would be surprised if any of her year managed to complete it all. I have a dd in year 5 and her school follows ib. We get projects to do in half a term and they have to choose 6 assignments to do over 7-8 weeks. These range from stories, reports, videos, presentations, graphs, artwork etc and are linked to their topic. We normally choose which ones to do and assign a weekend to each. It's not too onerous though and each assignment can be done normally in less than an hour.

I do think it's useful to have this self study time (most assignments involve independent thinking, creativity and research which are difficult skills to acquire in the classroom) but I think your teacher has got the balance wrong.

Ferguson Sun 28-Dec-14 21:20:08

I agree parents can support/encourage in situations like this, but from school's point of view it does need to be HER work. So I feel correcting spellings, punctuation etc doesn't really let the teacher see where her weaker areas may be.

Things like this are also not just about the work, but to see how a pupil schedules their time and work-flow - things that may be important at Uni or in the workplace.

And seeing as she has had a couple of months to do it, I hope she has learnt that, although it may not be pleasant it IS better to get stuck in before a deadline looms.

My Dad always said to me: "Procrastination is the Thief of Time." (It's a pity I didn't take his advice fifty years ago!)

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