Writing - Encouragement for reluctant writers

Copywork, Cursive, Dictation, Grammar, Handwriting, Letter Writing, Memory Work, Narration, Read-Alouds, Spelling, Vocabulary, & Writing (many of these topics apply to other subjects such as Bible, History, and Science)
Julie in MN
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Writing - Encouragement for reluctant writers

Unread post by Julie in MN »

Sorting Handwriting Mechanics vs. Writing Skills
Guest wrote: Thu Sep 08, 2005 10:39 pmMy son is a 6th grader and does not like to write.

We did about ten lessons in writing strands last year and it was like pulling teeth just to get him to write a paragraph. I did, however, get him to write more with the Language Lessons lessons. He seemed to be more motivated when he had a "fun" topic to write about. He thinks of some great and really funny ideas, its just getting him to put them down on paper.

I try not to be too critical of his writing, and really try to focus on the content right now, because I just want him to write. I'm thinking that using the History topics to write about, instead of just following through a writing curriculum. He definitely learns more and is more interested when all subjects tie in with each other. Has anyone done this, and how did it work.

I welcome ANY ideas on how I can get him to write more!!
Thanks, Karen TX
You are not alone in having a boy who does not like the pencil!

In fact, first of all I would try to separate what is dislike of the pencil, and what is dislike of writing issues -- such as not liking certain types of writing assignments, only wanting to do factual writing vs. creative writing, or frustration with poor writing skills.

If it's a pencil problem, have you tried letting him type his work? Or even taking dictation from him as you type his work? Of course you type it the way he says it, and later he can edit it.

If it's not the pencil but instead an issue with composing his writing, I think your idea of using CtG topics is a great one. You can create a very meaningful, lasting history notebook that takes on whatever character he wants it to. You may need to give him suggestions, or things to think about, but he will probably be able to take it from there. You could ask, "What was it like when we celebrated the Sabbath?" or, "What did we learn from our experiment today?"

As for working on skills, Writing Strands recommends choosing only one or two issues to focus on in editing a particular paper, rather than trying to make it perfect. You might start with being sure all sentences start with a capital letter & end with punctuation. Next you could focus on filling in all the words in between. Then spelling of those words. And eventually, improving on technique such as word choice... You could use the goals in Writing Strands assignments and adapt them to his writing.

I personally would not worry about writing more than a paragraph until that comes easily and well.
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Re: Sorting Handwriting Mechanics vs. Writing Skills

Unread post by kellybell »

Also, consider getting a cheap cassette recorder and letting him (in private if necessary) record his thoughts orally. THen, he can play them back and write them down ... slowly.
Kelly, wife to Jim since 1988, mom to Jamie (a girl, 1994), Mary (1996), Brian (1998) and Stephanie (2001).

Re: Sorting Handwriting Mechanics vs. Writing Skills

Unread post by Guest »

I think it is a pencil issue....like a visual motor thing, he tends to even stumble in his reading. I don't know if it is a "boy" thing or if there is something I should really be concerned about, like dyslexia. He can sound out almost any word very well, he is just slow and choppy. He can think of great things to write, It just takes him forevever and a day to write them!

I like the idea of recording his stories. He can be very dramatic at times and I think he would benefit from hearing himself telling a story. He doesn't type very fast, but typing when he dictates would be good.

We are looking forward to starting CTG. I'm hoping some of the new topics will open up some new things to write about. Thanks again Karen

Does this work with reluctant writers?

Unread post by cbollin »

My oldest is a reluctant writer. We started with Writing Strands before 4th grade and that didn’t work. She wasn’t really ready. Now we’ve gone back to Writing Strands.

WS is starting to work for us --- I really like the way it helps the student to learn to organize thoughts and get them down on paper. Even reluctant writers will find some structure in the assignments because it tells you exactly what to do and what to write about.

Some of my biggest mistakes from my early attempts with WS were to just hand the book over to my child, and to somehow expect that her writing should be like that of a 7th grader. Also, my kid had not done a lot of dictation and copywork to that point and I think that played a big role in it as well. When I used the WS Level 3 book as an almost scripted guide through the lessons it went a lot better for both of us. I learned how to use the examples in WS as a model to help my kid and then it became easier to "coach" her in writing.

WS isn’t just about assignments in writing. The early levels you get to practice the structure and techniques you need for learning to write all kinds of assignments. And you still have other language arts materials that you are using.

Posted: Wed Dec 26, 2007 1:01 pm
WS (levels 3, 4 and 5 together as a program) really teach a lot of strong writing skills that can be applied to all kinds of writing (fiction, reports, etc.). I like how it helps you to think about how to develop an audience and write for that audience as well as how to develop a character in a story. It works for teaching how to write a paragraph, and to add detail to your writing. It just doesn’t make every writing assignment be about history (thankfully) or using your history text books as a model. You even end up writing several longer “reports” in WS. You just don’t tell that to your kid. But for anyone who has done WS, that’s what’s going on with a lesson such as Exercise 10 (in level 3) when you spend a lot of time writing about your room. You are helping the student learn the skills of writing a report but without it having to be a research project with unfamiliar subject material. Wow. I wish I had known all of that back when we first tried WS.

Lessons are short. They obviously can fit in the MFW schedule. The lessons encourage you to write about things you can easily observe (looking out your back window, your own bedroom, a fun event in your life). Lessons are short and very guided. Wide variety of skills in the big picture of writing. And like IEW, it assumes that you are working with your child a little bit at a time and helping them. But less like IEW, there

I like the “wax on” “wax off” feel to WS. Huh? Are you old enough to remember the original Karate Kid movie? Daniel had to do all of these seemingly dumb tasks, but it all clicked. Writing Strands is like that.

Julie in MN
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Re: Does this work with reluctant writers?

Unread post by Julie in MN »

Well, I think Crystal has probably covered everything by now. But I'm chiming in to say that I like Writing Strands and think it's a good choice for MFW. It just focuses on specific skills that need to be added to the writing that's already in MFW. Things like:

* First person vs. third person
* Past tense vs. present tense
* Omniscient view (narrator who knows everything) vs. limited view (what one character knows)
* Positive view vs. negative view (influence of the author)
* etc.

I don't think the assignments are perfect, but I do think they are specific and good exercises. For instance, when you learn limited viewpoint, you don't just get an assignment to "write 100 words from a limited viewpoint." Instead, you get small assignments as you go, such as...

* "Look out the window and write what you see, and then move to a different position and look out the window and write what you see," or,

* "Read this little story about a dad sneaking in a birthday present from the car and he doesn't realize his son can see him... Now write a similar scene... First write it from the point of view of the person who thinks no one sees him (the dad), and then write it from the viewpoint of the person who realizes he's seeing something he shouldn't (the son)..."

Does that make sense?! Oh, and most of these assignments are done in bite-sized pieces over many days.

As for reluctant writers, my 6th grader still fits that category. A couple thoughts:
* Typing works well for us
* Feel free to tweak and adapt and exchange. There are several archives on this. For instance, when doing the looking-out-the-window assignment, ds wrote from one viewpoint and I wrote from the other and we compared. Worked just as well as his writing them both :o)

Posted: Thu Feb 14, 2008 9:59 am
One thing that helped me step up my ds's writing was to determine that he would write every day. So if writing wasn't specifically assigned in MFW, or if we decided to skip a writing assignment here & there, then he would still be writing one thing that day. We might add an extra notebook page on an interesting figure in we had just learned about in history. It might be a description of a science experiment or of what he learned in his last co-op class. We worked on adding more to his letter writing besides just thank-yous (a paragraph telling about what he's been doing, and a paragraph asking about the other person's interests). Sometimes a good writing idea was sparked in Language Lessons.

Once ds knew he would be writing *something* every day, he complained less, so that was a bonus. His writing got longer. And he seemed to respond better to writing more pertinent things, rather than adding a workbook or something.

Just adding another idea :o)
Last edited by Julie in MN on Wed Dec 26, 2007 6:15 pm, edited 2 times in total.
Julie, married 29 yrs, finding our way without Shane
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writing struggles

Unread post by cbollin »

warriormom wrote:My ds (7.5, using ADV) gets very anxious any time I ask him to do writing. Today, for instance, when doing the dictation exercise in Language Lessons he started his routine of hyperventilating and whining "it's too hard!" Even copywork stresses him out, and it doesn't get much easier than that!

He can write just fine, however, and things like his spelling exercises are not a problem. I realize that a heart issue of fear of failure is at the root of it, but am at a loss as how to deal with it. Do I "make it easy" for him by doing most of the writing for him and letting him do mostly oral work, or persevere in just encouraging him to do his best? I have spent lots of time on my knees about this.
Thanks, Melanie
Posted: Thu Dec 13, 2007 2:54 pm
I'd like to offer some hints with the assumption it may be just a very normal part of learning how to do dictation and the common stuff that most 7 year olds encounter. There is a lot going on when we do dictation. There are lots of skills to coordinate and put together.

* Given that he is struggling in copywork, I also want to suggest that you make sure you get his vision checked by a doctor. You never know --- he just may be physically struggling with seeing the print from the copywork. You might have to type the copywork/dictation in a larger font. It is always good to eliminate the obvious. It's like the time I thought the monitor was broken, but it was just unplugged from the wall.

* Also make sure he is comfy and sitting properly at a desk at the right height. It's easy to overlook that stuff too. I'm quite petite and think about that stuff and how it affects me, especially after doing all of my Christmas Cards this week.

* Are you allowing him to study the material before starting to write? Let him look at the sentence and have him read them out loud. Require just one complete sentence while teaching the skills and continue to require more later on.

* Do you give him a Word Bank from which to copy words that you know that he cannot spell? You can write them on a dry erase board, or another piece of paper.

* Discuss punctuation rules before you start. Help your child to hear the end of the sentence when you are reading it out loud to him. Some children need to repeat the sentence out loud after you say it. It helps to get it in their memory. Alternatively, some children are not ready for a full sentence at a time. Break it down for them, check that they got that part, correct if they didn’t, then continue with the next smaller section.

It's ok to help him with writing.
Cyndi (AZ)
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Re: writing struggles

Unread post by Cyndi (AZ) »

Toni@homezcool4us wrote:I especially like the suggestion to type it out and increase the font size.
Posted: Sat Dec 15, 2007 1:39 pm

Ditto. BTW, I use "Century Gothic" font, which is the closest to Manuscript that I have found.
MJ in IL
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Thinking and Writing

Unread post by MJ in IL »

Eve wrote:It isn't the actual WRITING, hand formation..etc, but getting composition to paper.
Posted: Thu Jul 31, 2008 8:01 am
Sometimes combining the tasks of thinking and writing is tough!

I wanted to share a bit of my year from last year. Ds9 (then 8) broke both his wrists in September. He had 2 casts and I had to do all of his writing. In PLL, we skipped all of the copywork (he read it to me,) he verbally repeated back the dictations and I wrote his dictated compositions (usually on the computer.) Depending on time, the assignment, etc. we went through verbally and corrected grammar and spelling errors. When we had a final product, I used a fun font and printed it off for his notebook. We also change names, gender, and some of the dated situations in the compositions.

FF to end of last spring. He is now a child who enjoys (as much as an 9yob "enjoys") writing tasks, especially creative writing. IMHO, this does not really fit him. I really think that the low stress approach we had to do b/c of his wrists served him well. I have continued to only require "final drafts" on select compositions. Depending on the lesson, we may only discuss structural errors, correct by "overwriting" on his initial sheet, dictate/correct, or do a full-blown written final copy.
Blessed Beth
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Encouragement for reluctant writers

Unread post by Blessed Beth »

In the past, I posted my frustration with my ds who was a reluctant writer from K-5 through 2nd grade. In 3rd grade he complained a little less.

Today, I am happy to say that he is now in 4th grade and I can not get him to stop writing for his notebook page today! He keeps asking me to add more lines and he is half way down the page.

The advice I received from the message board in 2nd grade to do as much as I could orally and for me to write his stories for him while he dictated to me worked. Thank you, thank you.

my3boys wrote:That is very encouraging! May I ask how you got from him dictating to him asking to write more on his own? Did he just start wanting to do his own writing or did you ease him into it?
I would say a combination of both. I started off writing it all because he had difficulty with writing and thinking of a story at the same time. Next, I had him write just a little bit and then I would write the rest. Now that he is older, he is writing his history notebook pages by himself without complaint. He is more reluctant if he has to come up with a story on his own.

Also, he was a very slow writer at first due to being a perfectionist but now he is writing at a much faster pace and it is easier for him.

I did as much as possible of the PLL orally or shortened the writing.
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Writing Strands 3 & hand-holding

Unread post by cbollin »

microcarter wrote:This is my first year using MFW and I am using all their recommendations, including Language Lessons and Writing Strands. After a bumpy start LL is working out well with my 10 year old dd. I love how it seems to gently incorporate such a great mix of the language arts skills children need to learn without constant drilling.

Writing strands 3 is another matter. I really like the way the author teaches in this book. I like the ideas he has for writing and the way he writes to encourage the student. BUT my dd is a struggling writer. To get complete sentences down on paper, paragraphs with one central idea, and a cohesive story is challenging. Therefore, we are going very slowly through this book. She really needs a lot of hand holding when she does her Writing Strands and as a fairly new hs mom with two other younger children, I can't seem to find the time she needs for me to spend with her on this every week. I don't see how we will finish this book before the end of the year.

Will it be problem to just continue where we left off with the Writing Strands 3 next year? I live in a state where the children have to be tested every year. Does anyone think by doing this it will pose a problem with her testing?

I think you'll be fine to do that. I know my middle daughter will spend some time this summer to try to finish up some of WS book 3 especially the assignments that involve writing a longer story that show up at the end. I know my oldest did book 3 and 4 in 5th and 6th grades and she is still on track. So, I don't think you're behind.

I don't live in a mandatory testing state, but I've not heard of timed essay writings on tests until higher grade levels or for tests such as college entrance tests, so I don't think it will be an issue?????

It is perfectly ok to help the emerging writer and hold her hand. It is ok to give the new writer help and hints to be able to complete a sentence, or to give several ideas to let her choose. It is not "unfair". It is not "cheating" to do so. If she gets stuck for an idea, give 2 or 3 options and let her choose the one that she wants to try.

It's like when they were toddler and trying to select their own clothes in the morning. Remember how they would match flowers to flowers (even if the patterns and colors didn't go together?). Well, learning to write is like that. You have to let them try some things in the beginning and expect it to be awkward in the learning stage. You're in the learning stage.

I work with my middle daughter on assignments. I've gone to dropping other language arts on days we do Writing Strands, or we'll work a little bit on the weekend together. I'll teach at the dry erase board to help her. We'll say our sentences out loud before writing them. Maybe if your schedule allows it, you could do it on Fridays when the schedule is lighter and spend more time just on writing?

Julie in MN
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Re: Writing Strands 3 & hand-holding

Unread post by Julie in MN »

One more thought to encourage you.

WS4 repeats a lot of the skills from WS3 in slightly more depth. So if she isn't producing the kind of work you want during WS3, she will have at least been introduced to the ideas and can build from there.

Oh, and I feel free to finish WS at all different times of the year(s).
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Re: Writing Strands 3 & hand-holding

Unread post by microcarter »

cbollin wrote:Time for my usual links to 2 of my favorite articles on Coaching Writing:
  • The 4 Deadly Errors of teaching writing: common mistakes and options for teachers, from thehomeschoolmagazine.com
  • It's so Awkward!, from thehomeschoolmagazine.com
[links broken]
Thanks everyone. This is all encouraging. This has been a tough first year with my dd so I think we'll just continue to take it slow with the Writing Strands and work it in as we can. I'm not very good at being flexible but I'm trying. Great to know WS4 just builds on this.

Crystal, I read the 4 deadly errors article and I'm afraid I'm making all the deadly errors. Eeeek!!! I definitely need to pull back and be the friendly, helpful editor instead of the frustrated, overexpectant mom.

Sometimes I just need that little reminder that we can move at whatever pace we need to because we're homeschooled now! Thanks again.

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Re: Writing Strands 3 & hand-holding

Unread post by TriciaMR »


Thanks for posting the link to that second article. I'd read the first one, but the second one...

Was a great reminder to be a coach/mentor/editor in all subjects, not just writing. I've been slowly coming to this realization, and this article kind of put it all into words. I think it is hard because we feel we have a personal investment in our kids, or their results are a reflection of our ability to teach.

They can't know what they don't know, and we just have to work with them and give them opportunities until they do know.

This reminds me of a work situation BK (before kids): I was a software engineer, and we had a big demo coming up. The pre-demo went horribly, and our boss asked us to list all the problems we thought *could* happen, all the bugs that were still hidden, etc. Ha! Like we could predict the future and see the bugs that hadn't shown up yet?!

Same thing with our kids... They aren't going to know things until we show them, teach them, help them, guide them, and probably about 1000 times for each thing. (Okay, some are going to go faster than others, but, how many times do I have to tell my kid, "Please begin a sentence with a capital letter?" I'm sure I'm getting close to 900 times by now ;) .)

Anyway, I probably took this off topic, but I was inspired...

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Julie in MN
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Writing strands!! I need help or they do! :)

Unread post by Julie in MN »

overholt wrote:It's hard to not pick apart their efforts. Do I need help or do they? :~ I thought that I had read somewhere that it was ok to take longer than the recommended time but I can't find where I read it.
I think it's okay to use WS as a tool in whatever way is helpful. It's not the assignment details that are important such as a certain numbers of sentences.

Focus on the topic of the assignment, because that's all you need to work on. Many writing skills will improve just with general age and practice. For the few skills which kids are unlikely to pick up on their own, WS has very specific topics and teaches them in "strands" so that kids will build on them in future levels.

Use the details of the assignment as a guide. They help you know you "might" expect 6 sentences -- keeping in mind that level 3 can be used up to 7th grade. We don't want the author to leave us totally guessing, so it's nice to have that guide. But I've heard him speak & feel sure he didn't mean to pen us in with it. Chat about what you think, model for them how to use language, cheer them on.

I encourage you not to use "writing class" as a place to learn how to follow directions exactly or work independently or edit their work perfectly... It's too much, gets discouraging, & really can take forever! Just make sure the kids work on the specific topic or skill for a bit, & call it a success :)
Julie, married 29 yrs, finding our way without Shane
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LA in Baltimore
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Help-struggles in Language Arts

Unread post by LA in Baltimore »

Lee wrote:I wanted to know from those of you what you think about the amount of writing ECC plus the recommended MFW LA program will involve. My rising 5th ds is an avid reader but in general has always disliked copying things, even doing his own original work, in our past traditional curriculum choices. I think the real problem has been that he struggles with actually the mechanics of handwriting, which has improved this past year. He is very creative oral storyteller with very descriptive language. He does need work in areas such as punctuation.

I see MFW recommends WS and LL. Do you think my ds (10) will be overwhelmed with the ECC and these books? We have used BJU Eng/Gr in the past, which is okay but I have felt it lacking in some areas and implemented a composition time in our school day to work on mechanics (kind of a CM approach?) Anyway, help would be most appreciated!
You don't do either one every day...
LL is scheduled M/T/W
WS is scheduled Th/F

LL covers many English areas, while WS focuses on writing.
In LL you will memorize a poem, do a picture study, work on an area of English grammar, etc.

Hope that helps!
I'm sure a veteran user will be able to add more detailed information!
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Re: Help-struggles in Language Arts

Unread post by bunnytracks »

LA is right. There are writing assignments in LL but the focus is on many areas of Language arts and WS focuses only on writing. You only work on Writing Strands 2 days a week and some of those days you are not writing. Sometimes it is just brainstorming for what you will write the next week.

Always feel free to adjust the assignments to fit your childs needs.

I hope this helps.
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Re: Help-struggles in Language Arts

Unread post by dhudson »

Have you tried letting your son type some of his assignments? I let my son type his Writing Strands and handwrite all the narrations and summaries. If he complains about handwriting then he loses the privilege of typing. He LOVED typing and also learned how to use MS Office Word in the process.
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Re: Help-struggles in Language Arts

Unread post by donutmom »

You can do some of the work orally, also. If my son had to do more writing in WS or ILL for the day, then I let him do an oral narration for the science or history of the day. And sometimes his LL was oral, too. I also don't correct his science/history narrations for punctuation, spelling, etc. I figure that's not the point of those. We save the mechanics for his true writing assignments (LL & WS). Once I did that, he didn't balk at the narrations anymore.

Writing Strands take things in "baby steps", so there's not an immense amount of writing all in one given day.

My son just had his evaluation this afternoon (a requirement of our state), and our evaluator was pleased with the variety of writing--that it wasn't just the same type of writing. So I'd encourage you to give it a try. My son did complain more at the beginning of the year, but by the end I rarely heard the writing assignment complaints (now I didn't say there weren't complaints about anything else ;) ).

So you know our year this year looks very much like your next year will--a 5th grade son (also an avid reader), ECC, did only MFW LA recommendations (WS & LL). I and he survived! And truth be told, he went from wanting to be an inventor to being a writer (with inventing as a side job). Pretty cool for hating all those writing assignments!!

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Re: Help-struggles in Language Arts

Unread post by Lee »

Thanks to you all. It really has helped me to relax because I really see this as a big change for us. It all has been very helpful. I appreciated the link too! [viewtopic.php?f=19&t=1602&p=6420#p6420 ]

Being new to MFW, every piece of info is great. You have encouraged me, I really wanted to jump with both feet into the MFW, but have been trying to make sure of my concerns. I really love the board and all of you who have helped me to clear the mud out of my head. (Smile--haven't figured out how to do that yet). Well, looks like I am already to place my order of ECC with LA stuff and K.
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Writing - Alternatives such as typing

Unread post by mgardenh »

TriciaMR wrote:Okay, maybe I'm just panicking or underestimating my dd... But, reading through the CTG TM, and that's a LOT of writing for my reluctant writer of age 9. She can write, but it is so hard for her. I really try to do a non-writing subject between writing subjects. But, it seems as though most everything would have some writing in CTG.

We've been working on typing this summer, but she hasn't even mastered the home row yet. We need to start the first week of August. I also am throwing in my twin boys this fall with K, so I need my dd to be independent for about an hour.

One of the biggest things I see with dd and writing is she gets really frustrated with mistakes - going back and erasing and fixing things. We all make mistakes and have to fix them, but it seems to bother her more than me. Last year, when we would do dictation or writing, I would often stop her right when she made the mistake and do the erasing for her, because if she left out a whole word, and had to erase and rewrite a half a sentence, well, there would have been major tears.

She is not lazy. She tries very hard. She mostly wants to please Mom and Dad. Writing is just a hard thing for her (and sometimes she is kind of distractable).
Even if she is hunting and pecking for typing that's ok as long as the issue is the physical part like it is for my dd. She does way better typing with hunting and pecking. Probably sometime this year I will find something to teach her how to type. But I can imagine she will have a hard time holding her hand in the right spot. Also consider hand size. She may not type like you because of her hands being smaller not being able to reach.

I still make dd write some things just for the practice because she still will have to fill out forms as an adult.
TriciaMR wrote: Mon Jul 13, 2009 9:38 am Mike, she does sometimes open Microsoft Paint and hunt and peck and type up a note to someone, but man, that is even slower than writing. But, I think as we continue on in typing, and she gets more of a feel for where things are on the keyboard it will get better.
You can use microsoft word too. Just turn off auto spelling and grammar help. That's what I do. I let dd pick the font size and type. I don't letter use a font that I can't read.
TriciaMR wrote:Thanks. We'll continue on the typing. I'll keep it short - 15 minutes a day, and not worry about it. Just trying to figure out how I can teach my K guys if I'm having to write (so she can copy) all her assignments. I already try to reserve the topics she really needs quiet for (math and spelling) when the boys are having their "quiet time" (which means after lunch).

I'm sure it's just my typical before school starts panic, but I really need to bounce ideas off others out-loud (or out-keyboard ;) ).

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Amy in NC
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There is hope

Unread post by Amy in NC »

TammyB wrote:The LA road ahead is looking mighty long.
There is hope somewhere at the end of this tunnel. My dd11 is just now doing Writing Strands 3. We've tried every year, but never gotten past the 1st lesson, until now. She has had the worst attitude towards writing and was so mad that I wouldn't get her a different writing program. I told her that WS was not the problem, her attitude about writing was.

Well, she told me last week that WS wasn't all that bad after all. This was huge! LA has been a struggle for both my oldest 2. I really had to give it over to God. I pray for peace for your heart.

Married to ♥
Rob♥ for 18 yrs
dd(11.5), dd(10), dd(6), and ds(3.5)
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Julie in MN
Posts: 2909
Joined: Mon Jun 28, 2004 3:44 pm
Location: Minnesota

Writing Help

Unread post by Julie in MN »

Myhandsfull wrote:Does anyone have any ideas about other writing programs? Something that isn't hugely time consuming, but could teach writing well. My boys aren't crazy about writing, but they will do it. And something I can explain quickly and then hand over would be great. In addition to my boys, I also work from home and babysit, so life is crazy!!
I'd love to help but really I find it impossible to believe there is ANYthing out there that can miraculously teach writing independently out of a book. I've tried a lot of things & just not found that it can happen because it's just too big and too varied.

Maybe it's just me :~

But the good thing is that you have some time and you can probably put off heavy-duty teaching until junior hi, if you need to. At that point, you may want to minimize some of the other things in order to really focus on some of the language arts. That's the age when kids actually start *using* the language in ways that *need* help, so kids often remember what they're taught a little more?

Hoping someone has more hope for you !!
Last edited by Julie in MN on Mon Mar 01, 2010 1:42 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Julie, married 29 yrs, finding our way without Shane
Reid (21) college student; used MFW 3rd-12th grades (2004-2014)
Alexandra (29) mother; hs from 10th grade (2002+)
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Wendy B.
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Re: Writing Help

Unread post by Wendy B. »

We tried and stopped WS multiple times. I am unsure if we finished any of the levels but we completed as least parts of 3-6.

Before grade 4 we did lots of copywork, dictation, verbal and written narration, etc.

We also did a couple of years of another program. I had them keep journals and I remember spending time at the table with all of us ( yes including me) writing down something.....anything....for 15 minutes a day. During the middle school years and hs years, each week I'd pick a format and let them pick the topic. IMHO, the key is to get them to write, write , write.

So that was our writing program for the older kids. A little of WS, a few years of another program, journals, lots of informal writing and formal writing. We also did a formal grammar/vocab study and of course the writing that was necessary in their other subjects.

Somehow with this haphazard approach they managed to become quite competent writers. My oldest dd is currently taking Eng Comp 2 in college and just received her lowest grade on her research paper today....a 98. My oldest son is currently in Navy boot camp but has similar results and aces the written /verbal portion of any test. FWIW..

I am not saying don't worry about writing. I worried about it a great deal with my olders and will continue to do so with my youngers.

One of the biggest things that helped my kids to get over their phobia of writing was learning to type. Once they could type the assignment they were much more willing to complete it. It also helped when I quit "grading" and starting being more of a mentor. After the age of 10 or so, we had a formal writing portion of our day that was non-negotiable but I also encouraged lots of informal writing that did not have to result in a polished piece. For my kids, this informal writing was very important to their development as writers. I always tried to make sure that each year the amount of time they spent writing increased. If my 1st grader spends 15 minutes writing per day then I expect them to spend 20min in 2nd, 25min in 3rd, etc.

Julie is absolutely right that no one program is going to "miraculously teach writing out of a book." What I do like about WS is that it is inexpensive and the information is there if you can get it to work for your family. WS is where I plan to start with my youngers when they get a bit older. I just do not know of any writing program for an emerging writing that you can totally just hand over to them to do with minimal instruction.

So write, write, write or type, type, type but there comes a time when you just got to buck up and do it!

Wendy B.
Graduated ds '08 & dd '09
Homeschooling ds 11 & dd 8 using RtR
completed: MFW 1, ADV, ECC & CtG.
Julie in MN
Posts: 2909
Joined: Mon Jun 28, 2004 3:44 pm
Location: Minnesota

WS - Is this enough?

Unread post by Julie in MN »

my3boys wrote:Also have finished with WS3 this year and though my ds is not minding doing the assignments I have not seen any improvement. He still doesn't know how to write a good sentence or paragraph and I'm afraid I am not very good at teaching this. Any thoughts?
Writing Strands is a piece of the puzzle but not the whole puzzle. It has some exercises on writing more interesting sentences & organizing paragraphs, but it has many other pieces such as first person vs. third person or writing in different tenses. I love the exercises that help teach my son the influence an author has when he chooses perspective and tone.

But MFW works much more diligently on sentences and paragraphs than just using Writing Strands --
- copywork
- dictation
- PLL/ILL exercises
- narration
- notebook summaries
- lots of rich literature with good modeling
- probably more I'm not thinking of

I would definitely keep focusing on good sentences until that is mastered. I wouldn't even worry about how fancy or complicated the sentences are, until you're seeing solid simple sentences. Maybe you can re-do some of the Language Lessons exercises about sentences every so often, especially in his weakest areas. I think kids need teachers working closely on expressing an idea or two in a clear way. I'd count it a success if together you come up with at least one great sentence in any bit of writing. By about 5th grade, I made sure my son wrote a little something every day, so we had something to work with.

Worrying about good paragraphs can wait until sentences are mastered. My 8th grader is really just living up to my expectations this year in that regard. He has long been "able" but only recently actually "needed" to organize his more complex ideas. We have of course been working on this for quite some time, but because he's my youngest, I haven't fretted that it's taken some time.

I'll bet you're doing more than you realize with this,
Julie, married 29 yrs, finding our way without Shane
Reid (21) college student; used MFW 3rd-12th grades (2004-2014)
Alexandra (29) mother; hs from 10th grade (2002+)
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Re: WS - Is this enough?

Unread post by TriciaMR »


Don't know if you need something like this. But, with my dd, last year I started with this (I got this from Dianne Craft)...

I drew a picture on the white board. She had to write 1 good sentence about the picture. So, for example, I drew a picture of a bird in a bird cage with little notes coming off the bird (maybe in a cartoon speaking bubble). Then she would write. It might be something like: The bird is singing in the cage. Great start. So, 3 days a week, that's what I would do. Sometimes I would draw, sometimes I would find a picture in a magazine (advertisements worked best). My drawing wasn't always great - lots of stick figures and such.

It was funny, because after a while, she started writing 2 sentences about a picture. For example, one time I drew a soccer field with 3 kids playing, with the sun in the sky. She wrote something like: "It was a sunny afternoon. Three boys were playing soccer." Now, could she have wrote, "One sunny afternoon, three boys were playing soccer."? Sure. But I was just so happy that she chose to write 2 sentences. (In the meantime, we were still doing Language Lessons, copy work, dictation, and notebooking.)

Now, part of the trick was I paid her for her writing. So, she got 1 cent for remembering to capitalize and 1 cent for using a period. She got 1 cent for each word. She got 5 cents for it being a good sentence. Then, if she noticed something "extra" - like the notes on the bird and said it was singing, or the sun in the sky and said it was sunny or an afternoon, that was worth a couple of extra pennies. Then I paid her every time she got to 25 cents. (We did her writing in a notebook, and I would just do a running tally in the margin.) I think about March or so she started writing 3 sentences (yep, more money :) :) ) each time.

So, 3 good sentences about a picture is a paragraph. I think we pretty much did that for her writing the whole year. Language Lessons got harder toward the end, so it was just enough to help her write toward the end. Plus, she was writing sentences for spelling, so that was helpful, too.

This year we are doing WS 3. I help and guide and mentor a lot. We do a lot of double dictation. I help a lot with wording. So, it's a team thing, and I'm seeing big strides. In fact, just the other day I was surprised at how much she had dictated to me (she was to copy neatly onto her notebooking page), and asked her if she was sure she could copy all of that. She said, "Mom, I'm 9. I can write 9 sentences in one day. It'll be okay."

Trish - Wife to Phil, Mom to Toni(18), Charlie(14), and Trent(14)
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