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Old 10-11-2010, 12:21 AM - Thread Starter
 
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DS is almost 5, and is just getting started learning to read and write. He's been writing his name legibly since he was two, but had no interest in writing anything besides that. It just wasn't his "thing" until this year. Now that he's interested, he's picking up sight words and sounding out words like gangbusters. He's just learned to write the alphabet, and writes words and lists phonetically at home for fun. For example, he makes grocery lists and writes labels on the controls of a cardboard spaceship he made.

His K class has been slowly adding to a list of sight words, and learning to write the alphabet letter by letter. The kids have journals, and they are now supposed to pretend to write, using random real letters. The focus is on the "look" of real sentences, made up of word-like structures separated by spaces.

DS now writes completely random letters in his school journal (following the teacher's instructions), but he writes close approximations of real words at home. I tried to explain to the teacher that DS is confused about the journal directions, and that he might not realize that he should write real words if he can.

Teacher's response was that he didn't expect kids to write real word approximations until after winter break, except to sometimes copy from the sight words list on the board. I tried to explain that DS does already write real words, just for fun, but I felt like I was not heard. (Another pushy mom who doesn't understand that learning to write is a process, and wants her kid to skip the fundamentals ...).

Anyway, maybe this isn't a big deal. DS likes kindergarten, and maybe that's enough for now. Just feels like a silly waste of time, going backwards from what he's already picked up. Anyway, I feel like my first rather modest attempt at advocating for my kid's education was a big flop, so any advice on a better approach from btdt parents is appreciated! TIA!

(Hope that made sense ... running on very little sleep these days, with infant twins.)

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Old 10-11-2010, 12:45 AM
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Sometimes teachers are kinda stuck in their expectations for what parents will say, and you say one thing and get a scripted response to something else that the teacher was expecting.

Completely off-topic: Also, what your son's school is doing with writing sounds completely weird. I'm glad they're not rushing or pressuring kids who aren't ready to write, but I can't think of a good reason to have students learn how to produce drawings that approximate the appearance of sentences. I'm sure someone has an instructional justification for that, and I'd love to hear it. Sometimes attempts to apply new educational theories lead to bizarre and pointless instructional practices.

Back to the point: In your case, I'd try again. Let her know that your ds is using real words in his writing at home. He's ready to learn how to write sentences. K teachers need to do a lot of differentiation. This should be well within the teacher's range. There's no reason your ds should wait until January to learn to write simple sentences.
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Old 10-11-2010, 01:41 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I volunteered in his class a few times, and did not see any differentiation. There is SO much focus on following instructions as a group. I am hoping this will change as the school year moves on, but I am not optimistic. DH and I are brainstorming alternatives to public schools, but I think it might have to wait until 1st grade because of our family's situation. This is supposedly a great district, school, and teacher, but I'm not feeling it!

DS is also under the impression that he's only allowed to know the sight words listed on the board, when reading school books. He said to me, "I know that says 'have,' but that isn't one of my sight words yet," so he stopped reading right there! I wish his teacher would just chime in with me, by saying it's okay to read or write any words that he knows. Even with just that single sentence, it would help DS feel okay about being ahead.

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Originally Posted by stik View Post
Completely off-topic: Also, what your son's school is doing with writing sounds completely weird. I'm glad they're not rushing or pressuring kids who aren't ready to write, but I can't think of a good reason to have students learn how to produce drawings that approximate the appearance of sentences. I'm sure someone has an instructional justification for that, and I'd love to hear it. Sometimes attempts to apply new educational theories lead to bizarre and pointless instructional practices.
Yes, it is pretty weird, but part of a commonly used curriculum in my state (and mandated in our district, arrrgh!). It is based on the idea that most kids learn to write by first drawing squiggles and shapes, later including a few letters, then letters in word-like clusters, then some word approximations, gradually leading to all real words. However, my kid didn't learn that way, and forcing those steps is reminds me of making kids learn to crawl when they can already walk.

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Old 10-11-2010, 02:10 AM
 
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Makes one think to when the concept of whole language tried to oust phonics. Took awhile for educators to notice that neither method was a "one-size-fits-all". Kids learn in different ways.

You are doing the right thing by volunteering in the class. It will help at this age if you get to witness some of these explanations by the teacher so you can better understand how your son is filtering the information. Then you can work to have another discussion with the teacher complete with your observations about how your DS seems to be taking the instructions literally and is ending up self-limiting his learning as a result. Ask for help in solving the problem. Also ask about differentiation to see when and how it occurs in the classroom.

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Old 10-11-2010, 03:15 AM
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Originally Posted by noralou View Post
I volunteered in his class a few times, and did not see any differentiation. There is SO much focus on following instructions as a group. I am hoping this will change as the school year moves on, but I am not optimistic. DH and I are brainstorming alternatives to public schools, but I think it might have to wait until 1st grade because of our family's situation. This is supposedly a great district, school, and teacher, but I'm not feeling it!

DS is also under the impression that he's only allowed to know the sight words listed on the board, when reading school books. He said to me, "I know that says 'have,' but that isn't one of my sight words yet," so he stopped reading right there! I wish his teacher would just chime in with me, by saying it's okay to read or write any words that he knows. Even with just that single sentence, it would help DS feel okay about being ahead.


Yes, it is pretty weird, but part of a commonly used curriculum in my state (and mandated in our district, arrrgh!). It is based on the idea that most kids learn to write by first drawing squiggles and shapes, later including a few letters, then letters in word-like clusters, then some word approximations, gradually leading to all real words. However, my kid didn't learn that way, and forcing those steps is reminds me of making kids learn to crawl when they can already walk.
Writing words (with phonetic or proper spelling) and simple sentences is within the range of normal for 5yos. The district plan for supporting K students as they learn to write real words should be irrelevant for a student who *already can* write real words. You're already doing a lot of great things by volunteering in the classroom and talking with the teacher. Has he seen some examples of your ds's writing from home?
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Old 10-11-2010, 08:35 AM
 
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Why don't you just tell your DS "You can write random letters in your journal if you want. But if you would prefer to write real words, you can do that too."
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Old 10-11-2010, 12:54 PM
 
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Wow--that is pretty weird! DD's K experience was not especially academic compared to many, but they were expected to write or attempt to write real words.

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Old 10-11-2010, 01:55 PM
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That sounds odd to me, too. I'm used to the idea that kids journal, either by drawing or writing, and it's up to them to decide when to do which-- that way, they CAN do pretend writing, if that's where they are, or just draw for real, instead of being forced to making drawings of writing.

I'm sorry that the school curriculum seems to be making him limit himself. Hopefully it'll still pick up for him, as his teacher discovers is abilities more and they move on from basics.
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Old 10-11-2010, 03:03 PM - Thread Starter
 
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At this point, I'm not specifically worried about his academic skills. I know he'll learn to read and write just fine, despite what is happening at school (since he enjoys reading and writing on his own at home).

I guess I was not clear that his teacher does not have a problem if the kids do write real words in their journals; it's just that in his instructions, he emphasized the pretend writing so much (demonstrated writing random letters in word-like clusters) that DS felt he needed to write random letters too. At this point, DS is just a few months ahead of the class in this area, so I suppose practicing his fine motor skills by writing anything probably has some benefit. Last night, he asked DH to draw a picture of a gulper eel, and DS labeled it, "glpr el." I know this isn't off the charts amazing for his age. It's just that he hadn't written anything other than his name until this fall, and now he is picking it up way faster than his class.

My biggest concern is the overarching message he's absorbing, which is to slow himself down to fit the mold at school. The next biggest concern is that his teacher does not recognize his individual learning style (or those of other kids in the class either), at least not yet. Am I making this into too big of a deal? DS does seem to be enjoying himself at school.

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Old 10-11-2010, 05:20 PM
 
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Sounds like your little one likes to please people, and if the teacher is instructing him to write randomly (or if he thinks the teacher told him to only write randomly), then he does it. My dd would have done something like that in K. Kids can be so stubborn like that sometimes. Here are some ideas.

1. Let it go completely? I don't think it will do any harm if you are otherwise satisfied with the other aspects of your child's schooling, and it's only for a short while. Maybe your child is doing this in an attempt to fit in with the other children? Maybe your child just likes doing it randomly at school? (It does sound kind of fun.)

2. Send in a sample of your child's work, with a note that your child did this on his own, and ask the teacher how the two of you can work together to avoid sending mixed messages about writing. (Not that I think it will confuse your child to write correctly at home and incorrectly at school.)

3. Sometimes, my dd will misunderstand the instructions, and nothing I tell her will convince her otherwise. If my dd were in your child's situation. I'll bet that what she would hear is that the teacher told her that she must write the words incorrectly, even if she knows how to do them correctly. Any attempt by me to try to convince her that the teacher would be fine if the words were written correctly would only be met by stubborn insistence from my daughter. So in my dd's case, it usually has to come from the teacher's mouth. Were I in your shoes, I would send a note asking your child's teacher to have a little talk with your child and tell your child's teacher exactly what you want her teacher to say to your child. In this case, I would suggest something like, "For some reason, dd seems to think that she is supposed to intentionally spell the words incorrectly in her journal. Could you take dd aside for a moment and let her know that it's okay to spell the words/write the sentences correctly in her journal if she wants?"
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Old 10-11-2010, 08:17 PM
 
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Moving to Learning at School.

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Old 10-12-2010, 06:11 AM
 
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It sounds to me like he has learned a great deal since K has started, and enjoys it, so maybe there is a method to the madness? You could ask the teacher once again to explain the philosophy behind jibberish writing when a kid already knows how to phonetically sound out & write words. He could actually be using a well researched system, such as Handwriting Without Tears or some equivalent; having a name for whatever curriculum they use will allow you to do an internet seach in order to learn more, and maybe it's irrelevant w/ this particular lesson that real words are written (since they're focusing on sentence structure, ie. spacing words and using periods). Beyond that, maybe give it time. It's just K, it seems to be working, and instruction will change dramatically throughout the year.
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Old 10-12-2010, 11:23 AM
 
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In my son's K class about 50% were writing, either well or phonetically, in their journals, so I agree that this is well w/in the range of normal of K aged kids. The rest weren't, and needed the instruction. Unless you are homeschooling, there is going to be some learning done completely as a group-often more so in the early years when they are trying to get everyone up to speed. Frankly, the kids who needed lots of instruction in K are some of the best readers/writers several years into school now.
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Old 10-12-2010, 12:32 PM
 
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The first weeks of school are often more focused on following directions than on academic work because the classroom runs smoother and academic work comes faster and easier once following directions is mastered. It gets really chaotic when kids don't follow directions and the teacher has to herd the kids a few at a time towards doing what they need to be doing. My dd has had teachers who worked both ways, and the ones who take time at the beginning of the year to set up expectations have taught her a lot more than the one who didn't take that time and who didn't even see the chaos as a problem, she assumed that she had a class with several kids who had serious learning problems and pushed four other families that I know of personally (some I heard of from those famlies) and me to get our kids diagnosed.

I would give it time and relax because I think kindergarten is a time to enjoy school while getting used to the routines and expectations that will happen in full force once full day school begins, but also tell him that home and school are a little different and at home he needs to read even if the sight word hasn't been reached yet. I tell my dd that at school they do things a little differently because the state and the school district tell them to and that it doesn't make sense always but that is how it is.
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Old 10-15-2010, 04:04 AM
 
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Hi, I'll chime in simply because I have kindergartener and am new to the public school system too.

It seems to me that you are making a mountain out of a mole hill. YOu are doing the right thing, like everyone says. Volunteering and all, and also by keeping your radar up and contemplating better ways to communicate.

Some things too remember (and I am reminding myself too).

1. YOu said "It's just that he hadn't written anything other than his name until this fall, and now he is picking it up way faster than his class." Doesn't this say that school must be helping him learn... and that HE does have some discernment ability and will actually be fine in school.

2. A great deal of school (from what little I have seen) is about how to behave in a group. There are so many levels of learning that go on no matter the activity. For example the random use of letters in the journal is obviously to get the kids used to writing in a book, and practice their letters, and how to grip the pencil, and how to sit quietly amongst classmates and write and on and on.

3. Although your child may be picking things up quickly don't forget that the class probably has children who are only just begining to write. And your child is comingled with other children that might not be as quick to learn, or as fortunate to have a parent(s) that works with him at home and reads to him.

4. If your child is gifted and excells far beyond the reaches of his current classroom, you will have the opportunity to act on that.

5. Relax, relax, relax. YOu are your childs primary example.

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Old 10-16-2010, 05:26 PM
 
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I agree with many of the other posters. There's lots of whole group stuff in the beginning of kindergarten, and often throughout the year. That doesn't seem to the problem, though. It sounds like either the teacher is directly telling the children to write random strings of letters instead of writing how they think it should be (or the way they want to write) or your child is just confused about what he's supposed to do. I'd give the school reading specialist a call if you aren't getting the clarification that you need. I doubt the district's curriculum doesn't ask the children to write random letters instead of writing actual ones if the child is able to do that. That's not how transitional (or invented) spelling develops into conventional spelling.

What curriculum are they using? My son's kindergarten uses Handwriting Without Tears for letter formation but doesn't use a formal curriculum for learning to write.
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Old 10-16-2010, 06:19 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks for the replies. I decided to let it go for now. DS has learned so many new skills over the past month and a half, so if he is writing gibberish in his journal for now, I don't think it will hurt him. He is excited about writing, and continues to try to write real words just for fun at home.

The heart of the matter for me is that I wish his teacher knew DS and his skills better. It's not a huge class (21 kids), so I hope that will happen as the school year goes on. I'm trying to learn how to communicate with this teacher in a way that is constructive - not overbearing but still exchanging enough information so DS has a positive school experience.

The first year out of our sweet little preschool, where the teachers really knew and loved DS is a big transition! I know the K teacher is not available to have daily conversations with me like our preschool teachers did. Still, I do miss that!

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Old 10-16-2010, 08:22 PM
 
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In 8 school weeks he's going to be encouraged to write words so I'd let this one go.

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Also, what your son's school is doing with writing sounds completely weird. I'm glad they're not rushing or pressuring kids who aren't ready to write, but I can't think of a good reason to have students learn how to produce drawings that approximate the appearance of sentences
My kids school does this. The basis behind it is if you know the word then write it. If you know part of the word you write those letters & put a squiggly line for the letters you don't know. If you don't know the word put a squiggly line. It was done in their journals only, other things(copied off the board) were done properly. It is practicing how words in a sentence go (ie notallonebiglongwordthatnobodycanread). It is also practicing words you know & giving confidence(to those kids who need it) in words they sort of know. It encourages kids who don't want to write because they may get something wrong if they don't know the word.
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Old 10-16-2010, 09:47 PM
 
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Originally Posted by noralou View Post
Thanks for the replies. I decided to let it go for now. DS has learned so many new skills over the past month and a half, so if he is writing gibberish in his journal for now, I don't think it will hurt him. He is excited about writing, and continues to try to write real words just for fun at home.

The heart of the matter for me is that I wish his teacher knew DS and his skills better. It's not a huge class (21 kids), so I hope that will happen as the school year goes on. I'm trying to learn how to communicate with this teacher in a way that is constructive - not overbearing but still exchanging enough information so DS has a positive school experience.

The first year out of our sweet little preschool, where the teachers really knew and loved DS is a big transition! I know the K teacher is not available to have daily conversations with me like our preschool teachers did. Still, I do miss that!
That was hard for me as well. I think that school was a bigger transition for me than it was for my dd. Preschool is definitely a nice little family oriented package with a lot of communication. In school you get 1 to 2 conferences unless things are going badly, then you get a lot more but you wish you didn't. It is really hard to get used to being that out of touch with what is going on. I still wish I could afford private school or was in a position to homeschool so that kind of communication could be possible. With that many families and the things teachers have to do it just isn't possible for most teachers because it takes either time from family or time from the job of teaching.

Also, 21 kids may seem like a small ratio, but it is only 3 away from the maximum number of kids the district allows in a classroom for that age where I live and it is more than twice the ratio for preschool. It is a lot of kids to keep track of and get to know individually, especially if you have a child who can do a lot but chooses not to show what they are fully capable of at school for various reasons.
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Old 10-17-2010, 12:41 PM
 
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The writing process *should* be separate from the mechanics of spelling and grammar, at this stage. That does not mean that a kid should hide knowledge, but lack of it should not slow him down. That means that he may make more creative sentences than he would normally, if he is free to pick random spellings for words he doesn't know. He *will* be able to fill in the random spelling with correct spelling later.

It would be much harder to teach him to be creative and write more amazing stories if he thought he could only do it when it was perfect spelling. Think brainstorming for adults and you get the picture. Peggy Kaye's Games for Writing is a fabulous book that covers this philosophy clearly and with lots of game.

You want him listening to the flow of speech and experimenting for writing. Spelling is a different skill and one that can always be fixed in a final copy.
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