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Complicated issue re dd and spelling homework (long, sorry)

(26 Posts)
moosemama Fri 09-Oct-15 18:45:46

Dd is 6, in year 2. She has always loved school, worked really hard, enjoyed her schoolwork and been keen to do her homework.

This year they are doing their spellings slightly differently. They have fewer words to learn, but part of the homework - and the test, is to come up with two sentences that include at least one of the spellings for that week.

Fwiw, I think this is a good idea, as I know from one of my older dses that he can spell really well and easily passed all his spelling tests in primary school, but still spells things wrong in his classwork. So, I think it's a great idea for them to think about how and where to use the words appropriately, as well as spelling them correctly.

The issue we've been having is that, despite getting all her spelling words right and spelling them and all the other words correctly in her two sentences, she hasn't been given full marks (required for their merit mark system) for various reasons. Eg, one week she lost one mark as she'd over-written a word and the teacher couldn't read it (fair enough, she needs to learn to correct things clearly and make sure her work is readable - we discussed this, she understood and was ok with it). Another week it was because her, clearly capital letter (as in the shape is very different than the lower case letter) wasn't big enough. Then this week she's dropped a mark and missed out on her merit mark again, because her 'f' wasn't long enough and didn't go under the line she was writing on.

She's trying so hard not to make a fuss, but is actually really upset. She's losing interest in learning her spellings, because even if she gets them all right, she still isn't getting full marks on the test. Last year she got a merit mark for all except one spelling test, where she had to learn 12 words and get them correct in a random order on test day. She's gone from coming home and voluntarily getting her spelling workbook out straight after her snack, to having to be told and then being really reticent and downcast about it. (I can understand her point of view. If it's a spelling test, then to not get full marks for 100% correct spellings is actually quite hard for young children to accept.)

We've had a talk and I have explained to her that it's important for her to make sure her work is neat and readable and that she's formed her letters correctly and then she'll start getting the full marks and she understands, but at the same time she's already demotivated, which is so sad, especially this early in the school year.

According to dd, the test and marking is done by the TA, not her teacher, although her teacher does have a bit of a rep for being strict, so could well be checking and upholding the marking. We have parents' evening next week and I don't know whether to mention it or not. I think it's important that the teacher knows that dd is rapidly losing her enthusiasm for homework as a result of this, but don't want her to think I am being precious, because I'm really not, I just want to find a way to motivate dd and keep her keen. It's horrible seeing her so downcast about her schoolwork after three years of loving it and doing very well.

... and here comes the complication.

What makes things even more difficult is that my reputation proceeds me at the school, after a lengthy fight to get my oldest dc assessed, diagnosed and properly supported there.

This particular teacher taught my middle dc a few years back and when I had to make an appointment with her to discuss a health issue that he'd been diagnosed with, I was confronted by both her and a more senior teacher, who in a very obviously set-up, knocked the door just after the meeting started to ask if dd's teacher 'needed help'. She then came in, took over and started the meeting by holding her hand up and telling me that 'before I said anything', she wanted to point out that dc2 was not dc1 and didn't have Autism, so 'I needn't start with that'. angry Dd's teacher was relatively new to the school at the time and I can understand that I was probably a hot-topic in the staffroom at around that time, so she might have felt the need for back-up, but I felt ambushed and to be honest went home and cried blush because of how confrontational the meeting was, when it should have been a quick, innocuous meeting after school to just let them know ds had been identified as having a chronic pain condition and would be having a few tests, as well as keeping pain meds in school.

Ds1, the one that has ASD, hasn't been at the school for two years (just going into the third year since he left now). So, I try to keep my head down and so far, have rarely had a need to speak to dd or dc2's teachers about anything significant since he left. (Dc2 moved up to secondary this September, so dd is the only one of my dcs left at the school.)

I find it really hard to deal with some teachers there though, as they are always on the defensive, which is unfair, as my fight was not with any one of them, it was with the Local Authority and SENCO and as time has now proven I was actually justified in my fight, as my dc turned out to have significant enough needs for the LA to place him, uncontested, in an out of county independent placement. Everything was done officially, by the book and I have never raised my voice or been confrontational with a member of staff - excluding one time when I was in a meeting with the HT and SENCO and desperately trying to get them to deal with a gang of boys that were seriously beating up and publicly humiliating dc every playtime. I have the greatest respect for teachers, I think they do a bloody hard job, that I don't think I could do, but I seem to be public enemy no1 at the school for, justifiably, making sure my Autistic child was diagnosed and properly supported.

The thing is, I think I am now constantly hesitating to deal with things that other parents might just have a quick chat with their dcs' teacher about, because of my history with the school and that's not fair on dd. Essentially I suppose I have lost my confidence around communicating with the school, which is bonkers, as I have had dcs there for over 10 years now and until my eldest's assessment and statementing etc, always got on very well with the staff.

So, how do I mention this issue to the teacher without it coming over as a criticism of her methods, because I do think we need to do something to deal with dd's demoralisation and loss of enthusiasm? It's so unlike her to be this down about school. BUT I'm not even sure what they can do and am reluctant to rock the boat if it's just going to further damage my relationship with the teacher and serve no useful purpose. In which case dd will just have to suck it up and I have to accept that her loss of enthusiasm for homework is just collateral damage. sad

Fundamentally, I suppose I'm asking - would you raise something like this with the teacher and if so, bearing in mind my history with the school, how?

Roseformeplease Fri 09-Oct-15 18:54:26

Firstly, I am Secondary, not Primary, so apologies if my input is subsequently followed by those who are more experienced.

Firstly, the method of assessing is, in itself, essentially demoralising. It doesn't really allow extension or for those who are weak. Surely, if DD was getting 100% each time last year, they should have moved on to more words, harder words etc. Equally, we target mark (or should) so, if the goal is spelling, that's what we correct. I have a yellow, you might want to think about....highlighter, which I use for things which are not in the task, but worth a look.

So.....I think your DD should be being praised for getting the task 100% correct, then given harder work, but also given one or two things to watch (e.g. Handwriting)

As for your relationship with the school, they don't sound very professional. I would communicate factually. Leave all emotion out of it.

AnotherCider Fri 09-Oct-15 18:55:42

That is HARD. If they were to mark DS2 (also in Yr 2) on his handwriting he'd be failing every single one of his tests!!! I'd say you have a very inexperienced TA on your hands which sounds quite rubbish.

Going in to see the teacher in person may seem like the less confrontational and adversarial option, but in your case isn't. In your position I would email into the school instead.

Ask whether they would consider altering the marking system so that your DD a mark for her spelling, and an independent mark for her handwriting, because while you are aware her handwriting may need more work having her 100% spelling not being recognised as such is proving very disheartening for your DD and her prior enthusiasm has waned quite drastically as a result.

DolphinsPlayground Fri 09-Oct-15 19:04:38

Oh god, I totally inkstand where you are coming from re reluctance to raise issues for subsequent dc when you have had to fight tooth and nail for your first dc to be assessed and then supported! We are in. Exactly the same position! The relationship between us and school completely broke down re dc1 and we ended up withdrawing him from the school and home schooling him.

Now both dc2 AND 3 have issues I feel need addressing but I cannot raise them!

So, no advice on the spelling, but massive sympathies on the school relationship or not front!

irvine101 Fri 09-Oct-15 19:30:34

This is only my opinion, so ignore me if you don't agree.

My ds used to get wrong on spelling test or maths questions, only because his a looked like u, and 0 looked like*6*.

He was gutted, obviously, in his mind he answered right.

I thought it was good lesson for him in the long run, and he has to write more carefully so the teacher can read his writing as he intended.

Ferguson Fri 09-Oct-15 19:47:11

Is this an ordinary State school, as it seems harsh for Yr2? It sounds more like an over-fussy Independent.

moosemama Fri 09-Oct-15 19:58:17

Thank you all so much for responding to my rambly post.

It's a huge relief to hear that you don't think I'm being unnecessarily concerned.

Rose, I agree. Personally, I think they should get a mark for spellings, with the chance to earn extra marks for getting everything right in their sentences. They have been set the task as 'spellings', but are being marked against other things, which is pretty confusing when you're only 6.

I can't help thinking that, had the marking method been the same a few years ago, my eldest would have failed every single spelling test he's ever had and would have totally given up, as it was the one thing he could take pride in - that he always got 100% on spelling tests. I feel so bad for the children in dd's class that struggle with writing and grammar like he did/does. Her handwriting isn't even that bad generally, as I mentioned it was just one single letter not extending below the line that she lost the mark for this week.

The 'official' school communication is done professionally and the staff are 'surface' polite to me, but there's a very obvious undertone and staff do stop talking when I walk past or into a room etc. On top of that, dc1 overheard certain teachers badmouthing me on two separate occasions while he was there. This was years before he was developmentally capable of lying and the language used wasn't the way he would have worded things himself either, so there was little doubt his verbatim retelling of the incidents was accurate.

I have been able to detach emotionally since he left, mainly as ds2 and dd are very easy children, who have always been happy at school. Other than the occasional request for pain relief by ds2 and a couple of PE exercises he's not allowed to do, neither have needed any real special considerations/differentiation. I think I am just realising that I have actually been hiding though, rather than dealing with my emotions about what we went through with dc1.

AnotherCider sadly, I suspect there will be quite a few children in dd's class that will never be able to get their merit marks for spelling, regardless of how hard they work to learn them and get them all right. I can't understand why school would set up a system that makes pupils give up trying.

Unfortunately it's not a school that 'does' email. Email has to go through the receptionists/secretaries and when I've tried emailing in the past they messages were never passed on and I've been told to call or speak directly instead. When we were dealing with dc1 I had to write endless letters or there would have been no paper trail on record.

Dolphins my sympathies to you to for being in the same horrible situation. I can't believe how much my confidence has been eroded by this - I used to be a strong, competent individual that was good at my job, which involved handling all sorts of sensitive situations, but it would appear that year after year of trying to deal with the SEN system has actually worn me down and broken me. I feel so silly for not just going in there and asking to see the teacher for a couple of minutes. What a wuss? blush

sd9876 Fri 09-Oct-15 20:01:02

Hi, I'm a teacher & English leader. I would politely raise it with the class teacher and explain your concerns (which are justified). If you say things as you worded them in the initial post, I can't see the teacher taking this the wrong way. It may be that it is a TA marking and she isn't even aware of it, or she may be able to explain her reasons. Then you could take it up with the school, possibly via email? I would personally only mark the spellings wrong if the handwriting/letter formation made it look misspelt or illegible. Regarding the lack of confidence due to history - try not to worry. I've had similar situations where parents have personally yelled at me, but you then still have to continue to have a relationship/do parents evenings etc. It might feel uncomfortable but, at the end of the day, both you and the teacher have your child's best interests at heart. Hope that helps x

moosemama Fri 09-Oct-15 20:03:28

irvine I understand your point of view and would be perfectly happy for dd to be pulled up on her handwriting in the right way, but, if they are calling the exercise 'spellings' and they get 100% of their spellings right, including in the additional sentences, plus spell all the additional words in those sentences correctly, then I really don't think it's motivational for them to lose a whole mark because their 'f' was too short in one word, which wasn't even one of the spellings.

The first few weeks I have tried to talk through what went wrong with her and we've discussed the importance of writing clearly, not over-writing words if she makes a mistake and making sure the teacher can read everything, as well as remembering appropriate grammar. We even recapped all that this morning before school and she went in hoping to finally get all the marks - then came home, checked her book and was upset, not hysterical, just demoralised, because she hadn't got 100% due to one letter being too short.

Ferguson it's a normal state primary school.

moosemama Fri 09-Oct-15 20:17:23

sd9876 thank you. Everything was definitely completely legible and neat this week, just that one letter that wasn't long enough, which I suppose could have been mistaken for a misplaced capital at worst, although it really didn't look like one.

I understand the relationship with staff, at least the ones that have been there a long time and taught ds1 (although it seems more school-wide than that) will probably always be uncomfortable. I just wish it wasn't this particular teacher, following the meeting mentioned upthread, when dc2 was in her class, as that ranks up there with one of the most unpleasant interactions I've ever had with staff at the school and I was extremely polite and calm, despite the vibes coming the other way.

Even new teachers have been really guarded with me. To some extent it's actually been quite funny, as dc2 and dd have both had new teachers that looked horrified if I had to approach them to speak to them about something (general stuff eg dd is going home with her best friend for tea, etc) but in both cases I could see them gradually relaxing as the terms went on and then looking puzzled as to how I got such a bad rep in the first place. So, at least there are some teachers that have realised my reputation may not be entirely justified.

Including this year, dd has another five years at the school, so I need to find a way of getting past this and moving on - which would of course be easier if certain staff members would do the same. Ds1 is settled and happy, having finally got everything he needs to be properly supported and achieve his potential. The fight was worth it and I can live with his old teachers not liking me if that was the price, I just don't want dd to be the collateral damage from that.

sd9876 Fri 09-Oct-15 21:08:12

So it really shouldn't have been marked wrong. I get my kids to write sentences with their spelling words, but this is to judge comprehension and it doesn't get scored/marked. Handwriting is also taught separately and I wouldn't pull them up on it in spelling tests unless it made it difficult to read the words. Your dd has dealt with it really well so far.

Shame about the staff issue. Unfortunately this happens but they should remain professional and each give you a chance, regardless of what others have said.

I'd try and bring it up with the teacher. If it becomes hostile, end the meeting & speak to the Head or Governors. As long as you don't bring up anything from the past, they would be wrong to do so or to act unprofessionally.

moosemama Fri 09-Oct-15 21:32:45

Good advice sd9876.

Thank you.

sd9876 Fri 09-Oct-15 21:46:17

No problem smile let us know how it goes

irvine101 Fri 09-Oct-15 22:10:14

Yes you're right. Losing a whole mark for short f is a bit mean.
Sorry I missed the point.
Hope it goes well. smile

irvine101 Sat 10-Oct-15 06:39:33

Taking whole mark off!! not "losing"! sorry for my crappy English!

Land0r Sat 10-Oct-15 19:30:33

My DD1 is naturally good at spelling and has always been able to spell without ever learning the word lists. In yr1, age 5, she once got 8/10, although she had spelt all the words correctly. She asked the teacher if she could show her what was wrong as she had 10 ticks for the words. Apparently she had written the wrong date at the top of the page. She politely pointed to the whiteboard that she'd copied the date from - and the teacher had written the wrong date! She didn't get the 2 marks reinstated and the teacher didn't apologise. This was years ago, but she can still remember that day!

shebird Sat 10-Oct-15 21:33:29

This does sound harsh for y2 and you have nothing to loose my having a word with the teacher.

moosemama Sun 11-Oct-15 19:38:55

Land0r that's dreadful. No wonder your dd never forgot, it's so harsh when they start learning the world isn't always a just/fair place isn't it?

Dh and I are due to go to parents' evening later this week, before the next spelling test, so will raise it then. That way I don't have to worry about being on my own and it's a legitimate query, as they always ask if we have any concerns or questions.

I will report back and let you know how we get on.

Thank you all for your advice and support. flowers

irvine101 Sun 11-Oct-15 21:09:02

I just had a another thought.
May be teacher could be plain mean, or maybe she may be challenging your DD to make her work perfect?

If she is normally getting 100% for spelling, next step could be making her written work 100%, not just spelling.

A lot of PP says it is little harsh for YR2 to mark this way, but what happened to my DS was when he was in reception. When other children are learning to read, he was getting spelling test like "month", or "days of week" etc. I thought it was positive thing to aim higher.

Anyways, good luck with your meeting.

Namechangenell Sun 11-Oct-15 21:19:00

Good Lord, this all sounds rather draconian! Is there any way you can change schools? Not over this issue specifically, I just don't know if I could stand going into somewhere each and every day, knowing that there'd been previous bad feeling and that a grudge was being held against me (and potentially my children). I really feel for you, OP.

moosemama Sun 11-Oct-15 22:14:43

irvine I don't think dd is advanced enough within her class to be on the receiving end of that sort of focus. She's always done well, but isn't the top of the class or anything. The thing is, she's always been keen to aim higher and try harder herself and she has been doing this with this particular test every week anyway. She has pretty good handwriting, but like any 6 year old can sometimes rush or be a little sloppy. We chatted about the test before school and this week she was so desperate to get 100% that she tried extra hard and her handwriting/presentation was lovely. Literally the only fault they could find was that blooming 'f' not being long enough.

They do the test in the back of their homework books, but aren't allowed to check their result until they get home. She was so keen to grab her book and check, then she saw the result, her shoulders drooped and her whole demeanour was one of defeat. Then she said she didn't want to do her spellings for that evening, because it wouldn't matter if she got them all right anyway. She did do them, but only at my insistence, which is such a huge change when compared to how she used to run home and rush to have her snack so she could get started on her homework with gusto. sad

Namechange no, sadly there's no option to change school and actually dd wouldn't thank me for it, as she loves her friends and until now, most of the teachers. This is the first time my history with the school has come up in relation to my dealings relating to her, although I suspect that might change when she starts the juniors. This teacher was in the juniors previously, but has moved into the infants since teaching my boys.

Even if I wanted to move her, there are only two other schools locally and both totally over-subscribed with long waiting lists.

Fingers crossed I am worrying about nothing and it will all be sorted out at parents' evening.

irvine101 Sun 11-Oct-15 22:25:57

That sounds horrible, the teacher seems like she's trying to be nasty deliberately.
The school doesn't sound very encouraging for children. sad

Hope she gets better teacher next year.

In the mean time, good luck with your meeting.

deepdarkwood Sun 11-Oct-15 22:46:56

Ouch - tricky situation. It sounds like a horrifically tough marking system - ds (dyslexic with horrifically poor handwriting in y7) would have been totally demoralised! I think a word at parents eve is the right approach. I think focusing on the impact on dd and her attitude to homework is the right start point. I'd also talk to a couple of other parents & see if their dc are experiencing similar things - if a few of you raise it at parents eve it might have more weight?

GhoulWithADragonTattoo Mon 12-Oct-15 09:36:12

Separate out what has gone before. Speak to teacher briefly outline DD's reluctance to do homework when was keen on it before. Suggest marks shouldn't be deducted for poor, but legible, writing. But that it ok to suggest improvements. Keep it brief and factual. No one can complain about that.

moosemama Thu 15-Oct-15 20:39:14

We've had parents' evening, so I thought I would come and feed back what happened.

First off, the teacher was very professional, which was a huge load off my mind and meant I was able to talk about dd without worrying how it was being taken.

We discussed the spellings thing and it seems I was correct in my thinking that they can only get full marks for a spelling test if they manage to get 2 marks each, for each of the sentences, as well as getting all their spellings right.

I explained how demoralised dd is about it now, how different that is to her usual attitude to school and homework and that I felt if the test was called a 'spelling test' then surely it should be marked against spellings, not handwriting etc. The teacher agreed that the effect it has had on dd is really not good at all, especially as dd usually does everything with maximum effort and enthusiasm and that she too is concerned if that's the case as she'd really hate to dampen her spirit.

I took dd's spelling book with us and we had a look at the infamous 'f'. Her teacher said she felt it had been interpreted by the TA as a capital and therefore, a grammatical error. Dh pointed out that another 'f' in the same sentence hadn't been corrected and she said that was probably because once the first one had been pointed out there was no need. hmm I explained that dd said she'd always done her 'f's' like that and never had them corrected and she clearly doubted that but said ok.

She is going to talk to dd tomorrow, reassure her about the spelling grades and explain the correct way to form lower case and capital 'f' and explain why it would be a grammatical error, rather than handwriting if she had used a capital.

Then dh and I went to look at dd's books and sure enough, on the very first page of her writing book she had consistently sat all her 'f's' on the line, with nothing extending beneath it - with no correction. On speaking to dd when we got home, it turned out that that piece of work was actually from the end of last year (Y1). She had however, consistently done the same thing in this year's work and it hadn't been corrected.

Anyway, after all that, it turned out that the school has been unhappy with the way they've been doing spellings for a while. Her teacher has just been on a training course to enable them to implement a new programme, that will start after half term and won't include the traditional spelling tests. So it's all a bit of a moot point anyway now.

Since I last posted dd has been cheered up a bit by going up two reading scheme levels and being moved up in English/writing and hopefully, once the new spelling scheme is in place she will feel happier about doing her spellings homework again.

Thank you all for your advice and support on this thread, you helped me face the meeting and now it's out of the way I can, hopefully, look forward to a better relationship with dd's teacher.

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