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Son's literacy is a disaster (year 7)

(15 Posts)
minifingerz Wed 16-Mar-16 13:42:07

Can anyone advise. Just been going through ds's books and I'm aghast at how completely bloody awful his writing is. I've always known it was weak but I'm looking at it now and panicking about how bad it is, and how inadequate to the demands of the secondary curriculum.

He's a bright kid (got his level 6 maths with no practice at home, no tutoring and no parental input, and is playing piano at grade 5) and is a reasonable reader but his writing is eye-wateringly bad. Not just bad handwriting (big, hard to read, sloping down the page) but his punctuation is non existent poor, he can't construct anything other than simple sentences, rubbish spelling (issues with homophones), and a complete inability to structure a coherent paragraph.

He's getting support at school with his handwriting which appears to be having no impact at all, but isn't getting any extra support with literacy.

While we're waiting for the school to respond to our concerns, what would you suggest I do with him to help? Would it be completely knob-ish for me to ask the school if he could see the ed psyche?

Flanks Wed 16-Mar-16 14:11:16

Hard to comment on Ed Psych without more information. My immediate response however would be that the school will not see a reason for an Ed Psych referral if your concern is only about his hand writing.

Are his literacy skills actually adequate, aside from the handwriting? Can he read for comprehension, is his spelling ok? Is the quality of his written language good, even though the handwriting is poor? Can he recite his alphabet? (this is actually worth checking by the way)

Piano playing and success in maths rules out (anecdotally) motor skills as an explanation for his hand writing. It is more likely that it is a long term behaviour which has never been addressed.

I am forced to ask, have you not seen his hand writing before Year7?

Aside from specific handwriting intervention, there are some things which are easily done to offer support.

1) Ask him (get school to encourage it also) to begin writing every-other-line, instead of every line in his text book. This will give him more space to write and also take away a level of visual clutter when writing.

2) As he will then have more space to work in, encourage him to write letters at whatever size he feels comfortable (large is not a problem), but to focus on taking his time and being patient.

3) You may wish to explore a local tutor to focus on handwriting, or support him in his homework for a while to help him take time over presentation etc.

Flanks Wed 16-Mar-16 14:12:54


3) Meant to say 'support him yourself' in his homework

Reading it back, it could be read as tutor supporting homework.

minifingerz Wed 16-Mar-16 14:47:54

Thanks for your response. :-)

Handwriting has always been poor, but it appears to be getting worse as he has had to speed up his writing.

It's not just handwriting though. He can't construct decent sentences or paragraphs.

Out2pasture Wed 16-Mar-16 15:11:22

Is his sentence structure, punctuation, better online?

minifingerz Wed 16-Mar-16 17:03:56

No - his sentence construction, punctuation and spelling are just as bad when he's typing.

ArmchairTraveller Wed 16-Mar-16 17:32:36

So, how long has he struggled? Did he get a level 4 in SATS?
What strategies or support did the primary school try out to help him?
Did any of them seem to work? What did you try at home?
The problem often is in secondary that the usual expectation expectation is of a child without additional needs being up to speed with basic English skills.
So they don't get support in school for handwriting and spelling or simple punctuation.

minifingerz Wed 16-Mar-16 18:23:45

Yes, got a 4 (can't remember if it was a b or an a) at primary. He got no specific support with literacy.

hesterton Wed 16-Mar-16 18:47:08

When I do one to one with students struggling wig literacy and I particular, sentence structure and punctuation, I use words printed out and cut up so they can be manoeuvred physically while discussing the alternative ways of expressing the points accurately. Building up from a simple sentence (My uncle gave me a book) by adding a noun phrase (My uncle, who lived near Colchester, gave me a book), adverbs (...very kindly gave... , adjectives (my favourite maternal uncle...) and then a connective to add a reason (because it was my birthday). Practice some of these wih out him having to write initially. Maybe add a subordinate clause at the start 'While I was in Essex, my favourite...) and explore how that could go at the end or middle of the sentence. Don't type of any capitals (other than names, I ) but discuss the puctuation, changing the printed words when the sentence is complete to show where they should be. Have a selection of punctuation marks printed out too for him to add as you discuss them. Why does a comma go there? Say it our loud until he gets the rhythm of the sentence - if he's musical, this might work for him. Do lots of these without worrying about him writing them down - the handwriting is another issue which can be tackled as well but it will help him to secure some of the sentence structures first.

Another thing you can do is read with him and consider what the 'signal' word is in a sentence - non fiction is probably best for this. Signal words indicate the purpose of the sentence, e.g. due to ( cause and effect) or is bigger than (a comparison) and encourage him to think what the purpose of his sentence is before he writes it.

What's his understanding and usage of vocabulary like? And his reading?

hesterton Wed 16-Mar-16 18:48:09

I am groaning at my terrible typos whilst writing about accurate writing! Very ironic and rather embarrassing! Sorry.

minifingerz Wed 16-Mar-16 18:57:59

Hesterton, such wonderful ideas for things to try. Thanks!

I feel massively guilty about his writing. I was an English teacher (GCSE and A level) for a decade, though I haven't taught it for many years (teach something completely different to adults now) and I've massively neglected his learning. I've also lost sight of what to do about it and the will to make it happen - he hates doing learning tasks with me. I think I got complacent with my dd who writes quickly and neatly, and who learned to do it at school with literally no parental input. I have always focused on reading and music at home, both things all my children are good at and happy to do.

I'm going to bite the bullet now and try the activities you describe. :-)

IdealWeather Wed 16-Mar-16 19:02:05

Just wanted to say that dc1 is similar tha your ds. Punctuation and structure of sentences is OK but the rest got 'ignored' at primary school...

hesterton Wed 16-Mar-16 19:02:53

My middle son found literacy very hard. And would not work with me! I totally empathise. Sometimes it's easier for an outsider to do the work if you're in a position to do that.

By the way, my boy broke through his barriers in the end and went to to be the brilliant and successful adult he is now. Still can't spell very well but got a good degree and a great professional job! So don't despair.

minifingerz Wed 16-Mar-16 19:31:29

That's so good to hear!

I'm panicking about my dd's GCSE's already..

Flanks Wed 16-Mar-16 19:42:38

I would advise looking up David wray
and writing frames. They are a way of scaffolding paragraphs so that students can learn different writing style s for different purposes.

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