Those of you who have been following Shut-Down learner for a while know that I have a bit of an obsession with kids’ writing. It’s true. I am endlessly fascinated by the writing samples that they generate.
When I look at a writing sample, usually I know immediately whether something is going on with the child. Somewhat like the courts ruling on obscenity (“I know it when I see it.”), the same is true with writing. (“ I know a problem when I see it.”)
Unfortunately, most of the standardized writing tests on the market are pretty useless to me. I don’t find them to be particularly helpful or reliable, so I prefer to obtain what are called “informal,” or non-standardized writing samples. For my purposes informal samples are very helpful. They give me insight into the level of struggling.
Here’s one from young Aiden, a spunky 10 year old boy receiving no remediation who came in to see me recently. I asked Aiden to tell me a story about something funny that happened in school.
Once I was playing on the playgrown then I heard a group of people lafing. So I went over to the, ang sed why?
They seid because of a game. One purson ses what’s doing. The purson sess eating chocle. The other pusron ses whare you get . then the purson seas dogy droped it. Then they all lafed.
Aiden’s parents were frustrated to hear something they had heard every grade, “Spelling doesn’t really matter. He can use spell check.”
Years ago, a neurologist I held in very high regard, Dr. Martha Denkla, said to about 500 of us sitting in the audience in her down-to-earth way, “It’s like these kids with these problems (i.e., reading, spelling and writing) are not tuned in to the language – somewhat like not having an ‘ear’ for music.”
Yep, Aiden’s playing some pretty screechy music here and he doesn’t even know it.
To him, the words as they are just fall out of his pen and somehow land on the page in whatever form they are in and whatever combination of words or letter order.
Going forward, to make any inroad , Aiden needs to be brought back to easier levels to learn the “notes and the chords.” Then he needs to put them together in little tiny phrases, leading to simple sentences, to lead to more complex sentences and the writing of a coherent paragraph.. The Aidens of the world need to be taught directly and explicitly.
It’s slow, hard work, but I don’t know any way around it.
Aiden’s 10. There’s still time.
But as Yogi said, “It’s getting late early.”