By Allison Gardenswartz, Consulting Educator
My fourth-grader's writing is horrible and has been since she started school. Her spelling is just as bad. She still spells by sounding out the words.
When will this improve? No matter what I do she gets really frustrated and just quits altogether. I don't know what to do and don't know why her teachers don't help her.
Some students struggle with handwriting throughout their school careers, as do some adults. Fortunately, in this modern world of computers, your daughter can type most of her written work to make it legible. I would encourage her to do so with any work that she is able to.
Nonetheless, she will still need to complete some classwork on the spot and legibility is key. Encourage your daughter to take her time, write slowly and really try to make her work neat. Check to be sure she is holding her pencil or pen correctly. Try using a grip on her pen or pencil. There are small, trendy grips now that kids think are "cool" and can help her gain control. You can also discuss with her classroom teacher any ideas she may have to help improve handwriting. Having your daughter practice cutting and coloring in small spaces will improve fine motor coordination.
As for her spelling deficiencies, again, some students and adults are poor spellers. Having her check her work (on a computer using a spell check program) and in her own writing, (using her proofing skills) is important. You can also proof her work and mark her spelling errors so she can correct them. Encourage her to ask you how to spell unfamiliar words, rather than guessing at them. I discourage parents from making a chore of spelling and requiring students to look up unknown words. Don't punish her - rather try to make it a game where you figure out the spelling together.
Finally, I encourage you to talk with her classroom teacher about both her spelling and writing. Teachers often have creative ideas and it is important for them to be aware of a parent's concerns. It is also worth noting that some teachers realize the challenge of handwriting for some students and try not to penalize them for it. We want your daughter to enjoy writing and we want her to try to be creative in her writing. So it is great for both you and the teacher to be encouraging in her writing, especially in her initial drafts and then you can correct and work on the details in her final copies.
Lastly, it is worth mentioning that there are occurrences when it is necessary to consult a professional. If the difficulty with writing continues, despite implementation of the above recommendations, then your daughter should be evaluated for a writing learning disability like dysgraphia.
Advice from our experts is not a substitute for professional diagnosis or treatment from a health-care provider or learning expert familiar with your unique situation. We recommend consulting a qualified professional if you have concerns about your child's condition.
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