Month: April 2013

Writing – Throwing the Child in the Deep End of the Pool

Let’s say you have a little child, perhaps five or six years of age.  He doesn’t know how to swim, so you decide it’s time to give him lessons.  What if the swim instructor said something like, “You know we have strict standards for six year olds and we have determined that they need to start swimming in the six foot water instead of the shallow end of the pool.”  You would probably be heading for the exit as fast as you possibly can.

Let’s switch to a different activity – writing.  Take young Franklin, age six, a firs grade student who is showing signs of early struggling.  Franklin knows a small number of sight words and he can write his name.  In a somewhat discernible scribble, Frankin can write letters from A – Z.   (Well, maybe he misses a couple of letters.)

On a recent report card, here’s what Franklin’s teacher stated about his writing:

Franklin requires adult assistance completing various writing tasks including writing narratives and informational texts.”

Narratives?  Informational text?

Franklin could no sooner write, “I got a new puppy” or “We went to the zoo,” then put together a narrative.

What am I missing here?  Why talk about narrative text when the child is in the equivalent of the three foot water of the pool?  Wouldn’t a better point on the report card say something like, “We are targeting Franklin’s awareness of simple sentences.”

To borrow another image, before playing pieces of music you need to learn how to play simple notes and simple chords.  The same is true of writing.  Before asking a child to write narratives or journals asking for connected information, he needs to master very simple sentences.

Increasingly,  I am seeing  children (especially the boys)  who haven’t the foggiest idea how to  express themselves in writing.   They have no sense of sentence awareness or paragraph structure.  The simple fact is that asking them to write a paragraph and to perform open-ended writing tasks such as “Write about your weekend,” may simply be too much.  Asking them to do so is misguided, placing them in situations of sheer frustration.

Takeaway Point:

Keep talking to the teacher.  Let her know that your child can’t do what he is being asked.  Help to get him out of the deep end as quickly as possible.

The Work-Sheeting of Childhood

I recently met parents of a child named Cameron who is showing all of the signs of early school struggling.

As parents will often do, they brought in sample of the child’s work.  The picture attached to this blog represents all of the worksheets that Cameron has had to complete to date.  I wanted to measure it by the pounds.

Back in time before current technology, teachers actually created their own worksheets (hard to believe).  Since they were teacher made, by their nature there would not be too many of them in a given week and there was not much writing on a given page.  The worksheets were probably more digestible to the average child.  (They also smelled pretty good, if you are old enough to remember mimeo sheets.)

Fast forward to the modern business of education and the companies invested in the production of the vast quantity of worksheets generated.  Has any of this led to improved performance or a child connecting better with school? 

It is doubtful.

When was the last time your child came home and excitedly announced, “Mom, I got this great worksheet in school today.  I can’t wait to finish it.  I hope the teacher gives me some more tomorrow.”

Probably never.

It is my impression that too many kids are suffering from WBD – Worksheet Burnout Disorder.

Every day they are handed one worksheet after another to finish.  By and large, the worksheets are dreadfully boring to the child with entirely too much to handle on a given page

Yes, there will be the dutiful types, the ones who find the worksheets boring, but they complete them anyway.  Then there are the other kids, the ones who are overloaded from the continual drudgery of one worksheet after another.

If you think your child is suffering from “WBD,” try and approach the teacher and tell her your concern.  Maybe you can ask her to limit them to one (two at the most) per day, including what is given for homework.

Maybe the teacher can even create a “worksheet free week” and have the kids read real stories instead – that might break up the action and relieve the WBD (for a little while at least).

Oh, yeah.  One more thing I forgot to mention. 

Cameron is five!!!!!!!

Takeaway Point:

Is your child overloaded by the never-ending stream of worksheets handed out daily?  If so, it might be time to raise your concern with the teacher and let them know that your child is starting to experience Worksheet Burnout Disorder!


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