Let’s say a child knows a few notes on the piano, but does not yet know any songs. Would it make sense to ask him to play a challenging song that was clearly beyond his/her ability level?

I don’t think so.  It would only create undue frustration.

Well, young Ethan, age 11, isn’t taking piano lessons, but his writing class approaches the teaching of writing very similarly to the above scenario.

Asked to write how he feels through open-ended writing prompts, even though Ethan does not  know how to write a sentence, he is frustrated daily.

To illustrate Ethan’s level of writing, here’s a recent  sample Ethan completed to a picture prompt:

On a Satday morning a dog broke from a leash it was Jays leash then the dog ran ascrost the street tom turned in his car he hit the frie hydren water went evry were Tom got up and complained to Jay about keep your dog on the leash then the teacher go t up from the car the police offerrer gave them a ticket.

Then there is the sample from 9 year old Kate when asked to write a paragraph about her favorite thing in school (by the way, “spas” is “space”):

My favrit thing to do is lern about spas. spas is one thing I love I like spas bechas I can larn about the Sun and all of the Plantes and when the end the world is end. And I am not ciding about the end of the end of the world bechas siantists have Prof of it. Bechas of the suns Pul gravity the erth will be Puld into the sun ubilleen yers. They are sum reshens I lick to larn about Spase.

To address their writing difficulty,  both of these kids  have been  given Occupational Therapy (OT).

With no disrespect to OT, doing fine-motor exercises is not where the action is for these kids.

What they do need are good, structured  focused, structured methodologies that teaches how to write a basic sentence. Once the skill of writing a sentence is internalized and mastered, they can begin to  work at the paragraph level, all of which  take a lot of time, patience and practice.

You can’t play songs until you know some basic notes and chords.

(This link offers good resources for writing programs for struggling children:  http://dyslexiahelp.umich.edu/professionals/dyslexia-school/writing/writing-resources)


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