Mothering Forum banner

1 - 6 of 6 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
43,705 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I have a 14 year old son who's officially in 8th grade this year. For a variety of reasons, I plan to enroll him in public school next year for 9th grade, so he needs to be "on grade level" by the end of the school year.

His writing is seriously behind. I know how to write, but I'm not exactly sure how to TEACH writing. When he was in public school, he was put in a special help ELA class that did NOTHING to help any of his specific problems, although he did get an OT evaluation and permission to type up whatever he needs in school, and I've worked on his handwriting to my own satisfaction already.

He does OK with grade level ELA assignments when they're short: multiple choice questions about sentence structure or finding context clues in a paragraph he's read. He has trouble maintaining focus on writing materials longer than a page or so, but fully comprehends grade-level appropriate audiobooks. He has no problem looking up information online and applying it.

My primary focus right now is on teaching him how to write essays and whatever kinds of writing will be expected in school next year. I'd had the idea to start with 3rd grade assignments, then move up to 4th grade when those are mastered, and get him up to 8th grade writing by the end of the year.

But the 3rd and 4th grade writing worksheets I found for free online were too cutesy, and the 8th grade writing prompts didn't give enough direction about writing structure. I looked over some of them with him, and his response to an 8th grade prompt was "I could write a paragraph about that, but not a whole essay."

I'm sure I could assign an 8th grade writing prompt and expect a 4th grade level paragraph in response, but I'm still not sure how to go about putting all this together. The problem is definitely with helping him organize his thoughts so he can put them together in a logical way.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
7,681 Posts
8th grade writing prompts didn't give enough direction about writing structure. I looked over some of them with him, and his response to an 8th grade prompt was "I could write a paragraph about that, but not a whole essay."
Why not start with that? The paragraph?

Then take his paragraph and underline/identify the points he has made, and flesh them out more fully with edits, additions, revisions, separate them into paragraphs, and add an introductory and concluding paragraph?

Miranda
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
738 Posts
Yes and -

Would it help to make a list of points he could make about a topic and then flesh out each one? (or whatever ones he can expand on) Some people are visual (like me) so creating (computer) slides, compiling graphics, making tables, or even a flowchart might help me. Trying to write an entire essay can be pretty daunting. I also sometimes look at articles about a similar topic to see what other people have done, what points they raise etc. You could even try index cards and write down each idea for the subject, you might start to see how one idea could link to another.

Oh Sorry I've kind of repeated the above post.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
337 Posts
Is it a basic five paragraph essay (requiring a thesis, main idea sentences, etc?)?

Couple of ideas, but there are so many ways to tackle this:
You could start by having him write a paragraph about one topic he can think of related to the prompt. After that have him write another paragraph about another idea, and then a third paragraph about a final idea. Then he would have 3 paragraphs and only need to create an introduction, thesis, conclusion to connect them.

Another option would be for him really, really, really spend a lot more time coming up with ideas. If he can only write a paragraph, is it because he doesn't have enough to say about the topic? This is probably true of everyone when confronted with a new topic to write about, new to essays, etc. In that case there are lots of ways to get him to practice generating ideas. Some people can free write (write everything they can think of, questions, facts, etc.) about the topic for a period of time, and then set it aside and come back to it later and write more. Then pull out the ideas that he would like to explore to create his three main paragraphs out of.

He may want to read about the topic also.

Another way, if you are a logical / more systematic person is to write an outline or some sort of chart/graph to fill your ideas into.

Another idea is to verbally go over the information first. Discuss it, ask him questions, have him ask you questions and then try to bring it to the paper. Sometimes if you scaffold how an adult would do it, it is easier for someone who doesn't understand the process. So, you could say 'first when I read this a few times, I start thinking of,... blah, blah,... that makes me wonder, that reminds me of,..." (hard to do without an example here). And show how you start to organize all your thoughts into what could be an essay.

If he can only write a paragraph it probably has less to do with some "skill" and more to do with practice. Rather than trying to achieve what each school level does, which is only organized by age, why don't you start having him write daily. Most people are just really unfamiliar with coming up with ideas through writing. He could have a writing journal where he writes a reaction to a topic, question, prompt. It is not a space for learning grammar or essay structure. It is a space to practice fluency in English writing. Once he is familiar with that - a few weeks. Let him pick one prompt and topic that he found particularly interesting to write an essay about. The topic writing often really influences the amount of ideas and cleverness / development of these ideas. Have him work on generating three main topics to explore and then creating an intro/conclusion.

Wait a week and then have him rewrite it to make it more precise, grammatically correct, etc. I'm afraid you will have to help him to identify where his weakness are in his paper.

Another thing that helps is finding age appropriate essays to read and deconstruct it together. "See how they connected the idea of water shortage with water pollution?".

Anyone who has difficulty writing, also needs to read more. Try to get him to read everyday. It can be something online, if he prefers, but make sure it is a real article not just someone's comments. Graphic novels, chapter books, chapters in certain nonfiction topics he is interested in, etc. If he resists, then you should start off by reading to him so he can find the pleasure in language, hearing it, thinking about the ideas, getting engaged, etc. In fact, reading to him may be one of the most helpful ways to get him more literate. Good luck!
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,384 Posts
I have a different situation, (an 8th grader who wants to pass the CHSPE and do high school in Community College)but similar issues. I recently bought a book for test prep and the advice on learning to write an essay was really helpful to ds. It is about a timed test, so it focuses on "Writing a 30-minute Essay" I think it spoke to him, though, because he is easily exhausted by writing and getting a rough draft out in 30 minutes sounds ideal.

I don't like telling my son that the bare minimum is all he needs to produce, but in the case of essay writing at the high school level, it's just the truth. He will have to spend years in college unlearning the skills he needed to have to survive high school. :eyesroll I personally wrote so many ridiculous essays in high school that I can write one about anything now. Even stuff I have never heard of. It sounds like a bunch of empty garbage, but it hits all the right scoring points.

I am not trying to make it sound easy–we haven't made much progress even with this prep book- but I think a guide specifically focusing on producing an essay in a time slot could be helpful. The book we got even has a list of argument topics to practice with. It probably isn't the exact guide you want, but it's called Barron's CHSPE.

My son is dysgraphic. He's been homeschooled his whole life. I, too, want him to be ready for his next step... It's just going to take daily effort to build that stamina.
 
1 - 6 of 6 Posts
Top