View Full Version : Composition help needed

Lindsey Carter
05-29-2012, 02:54 AM
I have a question about composition. I'm at a bit of a loss about what to do with my 9 year old ds. He is dyslexic and a little dysgraphic. He can tell me a great story, but if he has to write it or type it himself it usually ends up being a few very basic sentences. I put examples of one that he wrote himself and one that he dictated to me below. My question is should I push him toward writing on his own or should I allow him to dictate to me and keep typing them myself. If I type it how will I teach punctuation? If I make him type or write it himself it takes him so long that he loses the creative elements in his story and it ends up being boring and basic. He is still not reading (only very basic, mainly cvc words). Also, he loves dictating stories to me and will even occasionally ask me to type a story for him. He hates to write something himself. I feel like he is a bit of a natural story teller (what do you ladies think?) and I'd hate to lose that in making him write things himself. On the other hand I'd like him to become more independent. What should I focus on in teaching him composition? Any thoughts or ideas would be welcome!

Writing samples:

Here is a composition he wrote himself after doing a graphic organizer for pre writing...

I live in Tsuchiura. My house is yellow and small, two story house. My house has a very small yard. I have my own room. I live close to a park. I like where I live.

Here is one he dictated to me (this is it pretty much verbatim). I just told him the title and he came up with the rest. I know it is long (I don't expect anyone to read it all), but for comparisons sake I put up the whole thing).

The Coldest Day

The coldest day was February first. I was excited when I heard on the news that there was going to be a snowstorm. I was so excited that I didn’t fall asleep until 12! My brother Charlie woke me up at 7 o-clock. I noticed that my floor was frozen. I couldn’t get up. I was so cold. Finally I got up about 15 minutes later and tried to go down stairs. I tried to take a shower, but when I turned the knob icicles started falling from the shower! I tried to brush my teeth, but I just couldn’t brush my teeth because the water was so darn cold that I almost froze my teeth. I had to do it fast!

When I went downstairs I saw my Grandma walking around with over 100 different covers, my Grandpa with over 70 water bottles, my mom shivering so much she almost dropped the pancakes and my little brother standing so close to the heater that he almost caught on fire!

When I ate my pancakes, we were all shivering while we ate. My dad came downstairs and he looked like an icicle himself. He was so blue that he looked like a piece of water! He came downstairs to drink his coffee but it was so cold he spit it out. Then he opened the door and outside there was about 3 stories of snow! So he ended up getting a whole bunch of snow in the house. He had to grab a shovel from the basement. But the window was left open in the basement all night so he had to dig with his bare hands to get the shovel. Then he got the shovel and it took him at least two hours to dig a path where me and my brother could play and he could go to work.

When we went outside our feet got so stuck that mom had to boil hot water to unthaw it. Later on when my and my brother had a snowball fight we had to stop because the snow was so darn cold we couldn’t throw right. We tried to make a snowman, but we ended up with just one big bump and everything backwards because it was so cold that are eyelids were almost frozen.

We went back inside. We had a house partly made out of wood and partly made out of bricks because my dad only got paid about $30 a week and this was the only house we could afford on the block. It was the fifth best house on the block, better than the tenth house.

When me and my brother went to school at 10 o-clock, the kids were so cold that they had to wear ski masks, a coat and a sweeter and 4 hot water bottles! At lunch time we ended up eating really hard food.

We came home and Dad called us and said that his car was frozen. He had to call the fire department to warm up his car with hot water. He was three hours late from coming home because of the car.

When my brother and I went to bed we couldn’t get to sleep. We stayed up all night and slept all day the next day. The end.

Gwen in Texas
05-29-2012, 10:06 AM
Dictate! Absolutely! If creative writing is the goal, then dictate. You can always have him go back as "editor" to work on punctuation. Maybe you could have him dictate into a recorder, then transcribe his own work line by line.

05-29-2012, 10:23 AM
I teach punctuation and everything else by "tell and show." We can use worksheets and talk about the answers, but I write them in the blanks. We can point out errors and correct them... None of this requires handwriting. Broadly speaking, the handwriting component in schools in a necessity because the teacher cannot scribe for 20 students! He/She needs to be able to see that they understand the work so they have to have an end product demonstrating that understanding.

If my child understands what a "predicate" is he can tell me, I don't need him to underline a whole page of them. KWIM?

I do try to require some writing from my DS, but he's not been diagnosed with dysgraphia specifically. He has other LDs that make handwriting difficult. A worksheet of any type sends him into a tailspin, but he is very capable of learning the materials. (Which I guess would be a more FIAR way of learning anyway. ;))

I have a large computer monitor and also have our TV attached as a second monitor to my "school" PC. Often I will put a worksheet or other material up on the big screen so we can view it together and discuss the content. Powerpoint presentations are great too. I have downloaded several free ones from Teacherspayteachers, but there's also Khan Academy, YouTube, TeacherTube, iTunesU, etc.

You might try keeping the ability to handwrite (to the best of his ability) as a completely seperate subject from the other things you are studying. I didn't realize what a stumbling block it was for DS until I removed it. Now, he is able to write a sentence or two-but then his hand cramps up.:)

05-29-2012, 10:27 AM
I have two boys with LD's in written language. What you have posted here would be very typical of both of them, especially at that age. Add to that something another hs mom heard at a lecture: In many boys, the ability to "multi-task" and perform the skills of composing, physically writing, and mentally monitoring punctuation does not develop until around age 11 (in "average" kids, kids with LD's can easily be even later). With my older son, there was a very obvious jump between his 5th and 6th grade years, and this held very true. For my younger ds, who is 12.5, it's been more gradual, but this last year he has come a long way.

With ds1 I pushed too hard, too soon on all the language arts skills every step of the way. He was following a sister who is gifted in such things and my expectations were WAY out of line for the poor kid. Now, he does enjoy writing on topics of his choosing, and he does pretty well. He took the writing test our state requires for public school graduation and scored the same as his sister (which to me highlights the shortcomings of the test!) I know he will never be a great writer, but he can function.

With ds2 I have gone much slower. For years he has had daily practice in taking dictation on sentences, putting in the punctuation, and he STILL has to be reminded to check for it. We are using Learning Language Arts Through Literature, a grade level "behind", and he groans dramatically when an assignment requires actual writing.

SO much of writing skills requires not just taught skills but physical and cognitive maturity. Those that have trouble with any particular skill set learn them at a much slower pace than their more-adept peers. Concentrate on building those skills at a pace that does not frustrate him, one tiny step at a time, with lots and lots of repetition.

I have found, as have you, that the ability to compose does not at all translate into the ability to write. With ds2, all composing practice has been oral, and usually I don't "teach" it at all. I ask him about his weekend at his friend's cabin, or what he did while I was gone. These types of conversation are also "composing". The writing skills are practiced purely as writing skills.

I just went back and read what you wrote. He is still not reading (only very basic, mainly cvc words). Then ABSOLUTELY back off on the writing!! I recommend daily copy work of simple sentences, stressing the basic punctuation. If he can't read, even the basic spelling of simple words will be hard for him and he will not learn the punctuation if he is stressing over trying to spell, therefore copy work, not dictation. Take books he can read, you copy out the sentences on paper or a white board without the beginning capital or final punctuation. Have him copy them, putting in those details himself. When he has those two details down pat, then move on to another simple detail, like contractions, or commas in a list, and so forth. When you move on to a new one, keep practicing the learned ones. You can use his own dictation for this, but be aware that his sentence structure when he talks will be much more advanced than the punctuation he is learning, and don't expect him to know and understand ALL the possible punctuation. Keep the lesson focused on specific details and let him copy the remaining ones without discussing them unless he asks.

It is a long, slow road! It will drive you nuts. But it's important not to overly frustrate your son to the point that he absolutely detests the subject. A little frustration can be motivating, but be watchful of his limits.

05-29-2012, 10:27 AM
My oldest has struggled with the exact same thing. He dictated and drew pictures to go with his stories and I typed them. We used a recorder, too, for him to record his own stories and for me to type them out at my leisure.

My ds is now 13 and is writing essays. He types them, uses WordQ word prediction software, I proofread and he corrects. Once he became a good typist, we bought wordQ and his ability to write independently has improved 10 fold.

One thing my ds did that I considered creative writing was to write and illustrate comic strips. He would draw elaborate scenes and I would add the narrative for him.

BTW, your ds's story is great, rich vocabulary and details!

05-29-2012, 11:49 AM
Lindsey, we do creative writing orally, with me writing it down for him. We do punctuation through copywork. My ds14 has very poor handwriting, and it is a chore just to copy, so I keep the lessons short.

I have a large computer monitor and also have our TV attached as a second monitor to my "school" PC. Often I will put a worksheet or other material up on the big screen so we can view it together and discuss the content.
Tonya, I like this idea. I'm assuming you scan the material or use it straight from an e-book? I'm going to keep this in mind for the new school year. Now I wish I had a larger computer screen :lol:

Laura F
05-29-2012, 03:03 PM
I love what he dictated to you. Encourage his creativity! If you're typing, can you omit the capitals and punctuation marks? Could you print out a paragraph at a time and have him put in the corrections? Or is that too much for him? I'm just wondering aloud.

05-29-2012, 05:18 PM
My son is a bit older (13) but does the exact same thing. I have decide that I am getting him Dragon Speak program so he can tell his narration and it will be typed up. Then we can work on improving some of them different ways - sentence combining, better wording, etc.

I am doing dictation to work on correct punctuation, spelling, capitalization things. He also does Daily Grams with he does well with and it has daily capitalization sentence, daily puncutation sentence, a bit of grammar, and sentence combining.

05-29-2012, 06:35 PM
I have not purchased the software that would allow us to type on pdf forms yet. So I just pull up the document and highlight items with the mouse. We use this option for lots of our classes.

I have downloaded "smart notebook" software that allows more interaction but haven't tried it out yet.

Lindsey Carter
05-30-2012, 06:54 AM
Thanks ladies for your responses. I was pretty much thinking that the whole writing things himself was not the best plan. He has a grammar and composition curriculum for dyslexics that includes writing using tools like Kidsperation and pre writing, but the student is still supposed to do the writing. The grammar aspects are more hands on with lots of pictures and pretty good. I still think you ladies are right and that I should cont typing for him for now.

He does do some dictation as part of his phonics for dyslexics program and it includes words that he has learned to spell and punctuation that he has covered in grammar. I'd forgotten that he gets some punctuation practice that way until you ladies mentioned dictation. ;)

By the way, he was so excited about dictating a story to me, that he begged me to let him tell me another one. This time a chapter book. We've already done two chapters. :) I think at some point I'd like to work on teaching him to type and I may also look in to word prediction soft wear &/or speech to text.

Sometimes you just need to get another opinion and brainstorm with someone else to gain the confidence that you are doing the right thing. Thanks so much for helping me! :)