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I thought DS was lazy, now think he might have genuine problem...

(8 Posts)
mumalot Mon 27-Jun-11 13:31:19

Ok so I'm looking for practical help from any parents or teachers out there who've faced this.

Year 8 Ds has just done exams. I know he revised because I sat over him while he did it. I knew that he's always been weaker on written English than other subjects because we've had the same story from all his English teachers since Yr 4 - lots of ideas in class but doesn't get them down in a coherent and thorough form in writing. I always just put this down to downright laziness a lack of enthusiasm at having to express himself on paper. But now a clear pattern has emerged in these Yr 8 exams.

He's got Levels 7a and b in all three sciences and maths and ICT and has fallen off the scale for humanities - he's gone backwards to level 5's in English, geography and RE. And I know that's not due to laziness because he really tried to tackle these questions in the exams with gusto.

I think he has real trouble constructing lucid opinions and I realise that nowadays these humanities subjects are slightly 'obsessed' with students not regurgitating facts but giving arguments at GCSE - in my day you just had to write reams of facts dressed up and 'compare and contrast'. I read one of his exam papers and TBH it was a bit mad - and not in a creative genius way - just rambling stuff like a little kid explaining why he likes cheese!!!!

I have spoken to his teachers at parents' evenings and they all say he's great in class with lots of ideas. I've looked for an English tutor and haven't been able to find one anywhere by personal recommendation and I don't just want to plump for someone off a website in case they're no real help.

I'm worried that he just can't 'do' essays. And TBH I can't see him sitting down and 'practising' essay writing at the weekend! I have tried this over the years but he's just not interested and anyway we're just hitting the 'kevin' stage so I really don't want to heap more on him.

I know some people are just more sciencey. But at some point he's got to start being able to express himself coherently on paper. Ironically he's not even that bothered about science - he likes his English lessons best of all subjects!

He has a reading and spelling age way ahead of his chronological age and he does read - though mostly trash!

It's as if he's conceptually dyslexic ie the thoughts are all in there but he can't write them down in a brief, logical way.

Any thoughts??

webwiz Mon 27-Jun-11 14:09:44

I think its quite common to have to learn the techniques necessary for essay writing and how to put ideas down in a coherent way. It sounds like your DS is having a problem structuring what he wants to say - did he plan his "cheese" essay or did he just dive in?

When he has an essay type homework you could get him to make a list of all the relevant points (if its just a list then it doesn't matter if his ideas are all over the place), once he has a list then certain points can be grouped together as either saying a similar thing or part of agreeing with the essay title, when he has the points he wants to express in a logical order then he can add the "evidence". That way he builds the argument slowly rather than shooting off at tangents.

DD2 is very science and Mathsy but she did well at essay subjects becuase she approached the structuring of an argument in a logical way.

meditrina Mon 27-Jun-11 14:18:48

Have you had him assessed for dyslexia?

I have a DS who is very bright and dyslexic. The way he can give an answer out loud is miles ahead if anything he produces on paper, and he is always reluctant to produce more than the minimum. His exam results are always short of his ability, as his work is slow and riddled with errors - but the underlying understanding is there and he is quick to comprehend.

Since his dx, I have found the school much more understanding and he has an additional weekly session one to one where they are (re)teaching spellings, sentence patterns and essay planning.

It sounds as if your son might benefit from similar.

anarchamum Mon 27-Jun-11 14:48:28

Dyslexia is a continum and some dyslexics are stronger in some areas than others - mostly it affects things that require good short term memory, so lists and sequencing can often be weak. I'm dyslexic and was only officially diagnosed at 37 as this is when I returned to a university that paid to screen me - I'd known I was dyslexic for years but could not afford the fees to test. [ps my reading age was always way above my chron. age and many teachers dismissed dyslexia as a cause, this is an error as many dyslexics read well (especially stories) but may have difficulty writing]

My son is also dyslexic and I decided to pay for his tests when he became very demotivated in year 5 - knowing he is dyslexic has made him more motivated and confident in general although he still struggles to put down 10% or what he knows by verbal questioning. Some schools will help more if you have a 'diagnosis' but others will misunderstand, label and drop expectations of a child. You have to think hard about the pros and cons of testing - a 'diagnosis' doesn't change how a child works at school and often will not be practically well supported.

does your child have a hard time remembering a list like "go upstairs and get me a,b,c,d, and e"? can they tell you many facts and arguments to direct questions but not put them into paragraphs or a decent argument? do they hate copying work from a board or book? if so that tallys with my experience of myself and my boy.

If you are clever in some areas you can learn to mask dyslexia or use 'coping strategies'. Stella Cotrell writes really good study skills books reccomended for dyslexics. these are aimed at college education but may give you ideas.

find out if drawing, singing, spider diagrams, using colour and typing not handwriting help.

good luck

ps don't give up... I have 2 first class degrees but it took me a while to get them smile

PrettyCandles Mon 27-Jun-11 14:57:07

Does his school teach Mind Mapping? If not, you may want to investigate it and try teaching him yourself. It's a very useful technique for ordering your thoughts and working out sequences.

startail Mon 27-Jun-11 15:19:05

Pretty candle has beaten me to it. I was going to say mind maps too, local library or amazon will provide a book on how to do it.
I'm dyslexic and have been known to resort to them when RL gets complicated. ( my short term memory is dire and when I get todo lists that are themselves lists I get totally muddled. Colour coded mind maps splitting off work, holiday packing, PTA, DC's nags etc prevent me forgetting something vital).
I'm sure you could do the same thing with different aspects of an essay and they're much linear lists because you addthings as they come to you.

freerangeeggs Tue 28-Jun-11 20:46:04

I teach essay writing in a very mechanical way at first. Once they've got the tools they can play around with them and adapt them, but they need to get the basics first. Some people might disagree with the way I do it and it does have its limitations, but I've found it to work quite well with kids like your son.

I draw a diagram of an essay. It looks something like this:

Main Body

| | |
Point, Evidence PEE PEE ...

I usually start them off with one PEE statement per paragraph.

I insist on all pupils planning beforehand. They must also use topic sentences for each paragraph and varied connectives.

I sometimes explain it in terms of maths too - they have to show their working in a maths question, and an essay is just another way of showing your working and reaching a logical conclusion.

I'd keep it quite formulaic for the moment until he gets a bit more confidence. Don't jump straight to conclusions about dyslxia - he might just not have a good grasp of essay writing. My partner is a maths teacher and didn't know that an essay had to have a running line of argument until he was 18.

BehindLockNumberNine Tue 28-Jun-11 22:00:35

I am sooo relieved to find this thread. We had parent's evening for ds (Y7) a few nights ago. His Science, History and Geography teachers all say the same; he does not write enough, he does not write in a logical and coherent way. He apparently has good ideas and can verbalise answers well but lacks the ability to structure a written report/essay/answer. Oddly enough he is quite capable of writing a story, can work his way logically through opening, build up, core or middle bit, resolution and conclusion. But he cannot do this when writing non-fiction.

How do I go about 'teaching' him to write reports and essays? I could really do with some workbook or some ideas for the holidays. He is a bright boy, excelling in maths but his written work is letting him down. Sadly in ds's school maths and science are linked, so he cannot go in top set for maths because science is being dragged down by his lack of ability in writing up experiments.


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