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.”
Great article – I definitely see my 12 year old son in it (plus horrible letter formation, spacing and punctuation) – but now what? I would love someone to tell me “find a _________ (professional) with ____________ certification, and have them do ___________ tests and maybe _____________ therapies.” I don’t feel like the help we’ve sought out has been terribly helpful thus far.
Frustrating, indeed. I would try if you could to find someone who is capable of teaching your child a writing program such as the Landmark Writing Method or Project Reading Writing. I would not be too concerned about certification, as much as they feel reasonably skilled in implementing methods such as these. They’re not easy to find, though.
Email me if you want to follow up.
Is Project Reading Writing at Columbia Teachers College?
I’m not sure if it is offered there.
Hello! I came across this website while I was trying to find an answer how to help my 11.5 years old daughter. Our situation is bit complicated. She was born in the US and when she was 4 yrs. old we moved back to Serbia. At that time, she was better in English than in Serbian. We lived in Serbia for 4 years and she even finished 1st grade over there. She learnt Cyrillic alphabet and she was reading and writing it. Then we moved to Germany. She immediately was placed in German public school. We’ve provided a tutor for her and she has one since then. Now she is in 5th grade and her Serbian and German are both excellent. She is completely bilingual with no accent. She is also fluent in English but there is a room for improvement. However, her writing is horrible. She makes many mistakes in all languages (and all three are very different when it comes to writing rules). No matter how much she learns she forgets everything. Now she resents school and we have constant struggle. A year ago we visited a professional who told us that she is perfectly normal kid with no dyslexia. I don’t know how to proceed or what to do. Next year they will get French as another language subject in school. I am in cold sweet when I start thinking about it.
Thanks for your comments. It certainly sounds like a complicated situation. If you would like me to review previous testing, please email me – firstname.lastname@example.org and i will see what I come up with.