I think this is the best forum to post this query in because it has to do with asynchronous development. DS is 7 and is in 2nd grade. Just attended his p/t conference and we hit a brick wall with his teacher who "doesn't want him to miss out on practice time" for his homework and wants him to write out the "sort" of all his vocab words every night. In passing she mentioned that his words were from a 5th grade list (we don't get that sort of info from public school teachers very often). His attention span for homework is probably typical for 2nd graders; high attrition of attention after about 25 min. The school district mandates 30 min OR LESS of homework for children up through 3rd grade, and I'm willing to support that (even if I don't love it). When 1 assignment takes 45 minutes, even with minimal distraction, it is ridiculously too long for the 2nd grader.
So the query is, if his math, reading and vocab are one or more grades ahead, and his physiological writing skills are at par for his grade, what options are there for helping him cope better with his assignments? We already have a couple of ideas. They do NOT include doing 45 min assignments every day. They DO include starting to let him learn how to type--I really think it may make a big difference. But the teacher was unwilling or unable to offer alternatives, and as our plans for his school year develop, I'd like to have a few other ideas for "reasonability" in my pocket.
Our school seems to have a lot of young (3 years or less) teachers; I think this is partly a lack of experience on her part. And partly a belief, however mistaken it may be, that MORE writing practice is going to get him better or faster at writing. He uses scissors well and has played with little Legos since he was 2.
I appreciate any thoughts and comments.
He sounds a little like my ds at that age. To answer your question about accommodations for writing, some things he/we did at home:
- I scribed while he dictated
- He gave oral answers to me and I signed off on the homework as completed (the teacher could check herself by questioning him)
- He did oral presentations for assignments, photo essays, and videos (the videos probably happened a year or two later) instead of some written assignments
- He used the computer
He continued to work on his writing and was never at the point where he needed to keyboard instead of handwrite in class, so he never needed to use a laptop at school but that is a good solution for many. He does prefer to work on a computer.
I wonder, though, about the teacher's insistence that he practice. I'm not sure I understand the vocabulary assignment, but what is supposed to be getting out of it? By "sort", is he listing words and definitions or is it a grammar exercise in the parts of speech (noun, verb, adverb, adjective)? If he's practicing something that he has mastered, I'd question whether the assignment itself needs some modification.
If it's practice writing, I'd discuss it with the teacher again. For one, there is the issue of age/developmental appropriate expectations. For another, some written expression issues are not just issues with gross and fine motor skill. There are also the neurocognitive pathways between the language centres of the brain and motor function. He may benefit from some intervention, but dreary, endless homework assignments that are likely to foster resentment and reluctance probably aren't the way to go. (I don't mean to worry you that he needs intervention - it sounds like it is asynchronous development and he may just need a little time to develop these skills.)
My DS 11 has always had major handwriting issues. It's in the family. Both my father and myself struggled tremendously and didn't become average in this area until adulthood. I do agree that continued practice is important but he's still 7 and he shouldn't be doubling or tripling his homework load for that practice.
Some ideas for you that have worked for my kids (one due to handwriting struggles, the other due to sometimes crippling perfectionism.) If he's advanced in math, there really isn't a reason for him to have math homework but I understand they will insist. They may agree to his doing every other problem as long as you sign the work. They may agree to the dictation idea for the other half of the problems like suggested above. Is he pre-testing in spelling? If so, is he doing ALL the words or just the ones he misses? He should only be doing the ones he misses. Why is he doing them every night? That is not standard. If she insists on nightly spelling work, is he being given various options? He may benefit more from rainbow writing his words on a night (basically tracing a word in several colors... still writing, slightly more interesting, not quite as taxing but also reinforcing correct form and space.) Is there a reason he can't type them once a week?
If he's spending a ridiculous amount of time on the work and the teacher won't relent, ask how much time she's expecting the kids to work each night. Then set the timer for that amount. When the bell goes off, homework is done.... even if it's not done. Yes, it means his grades might be lower but it's also 2nd grade. They are meaningless. It may encourage him to work faster and learn to prioritize. Like my favorite costume designer says..."done is good, done is GREAT" meaning, we all want perfect but sometimes, you just have to get it done.
Certainly, teach him how to type. My DS was able to start typing all his non-worksheet work starting in 2nd grade. This allowed him to actually write to his ability as opposed to drastically simplifying in order to lesson the written work.
Thanks for the responses. I think I will look for some fine tipped markers in lots of colors he could write his words with for one of the days. What would be a smoother write? Gel pens or markers? Also, he can learn to use the computer.
I'm not too worried about his math assignment. It's just 2 pages in a workbook each week and he gets it done in 10 min. He is supposed to sort his words into categories "certain and certainty" and "normal and normality" which are two pairs of words from categories. So he has 2 columns of root words and then the "ending category" that parallels the root word. We are working on writing an email to the teacher. She was very unwilling for him to not write out his sort (every single word every night) after he has "done the sort" with his little word slips. We are trying to address this.
Does he have a preference? I cannot write with a felt tip. Just cannot. One of those weird personal things. Many people swear by their Sharpies, and I think DS is fine with them, so I know it's just one of my quirks. Definitely get him some writing instruments - markers, gel pens, whatever - that he likes to use. It's a good idea. If his grip is an issue, the soft rubber grips are a good idea too.
I have very similar issues with my 8 yo. As her first grade teacher put it - the problem is compounded because she is both a slow writer and wants to write a lot. She has a lot to say. I definitely let her dictate to me after writing until her hand is too tired. This makes it go easier. At home we don't have a printer right now, so typing isn't an option. Plus I think it would alienate her even further from her classmates. This year in grade 3 she is learning cursive and it's really helping. Not all kids are learning but somehow she and 1 other girl are supposed to do all of their assignments in cursive.
My oldest son, who isn't gifted, has the same issues. He's in 3rd grade and has always been a slow writer (and has to work hard to be legible) but reads at a 6th grade level and should be in the highest level reading group. However, he was recently diagnosed with ADHD and it turns out a lot of the problems I was attributing to writing (taking a long time to do homework, not finishing work at school, etc) have disappeared since we've started treating his ADHD. His handwriting has even become neater. What took 45-60 minutes takes 10-15 now. It's pretty amazing. It doesn't seem like the homework expectations are unreasonable or should take 45 minutes-- how many words are there?