Many children make mistakes or experience problems as part of the process of becoming better writers. They may reverse words, spell poorly, or have difficulty producing their thoughts in writing. Writing deficits rarely occur in isolation, and improvements in writing go hand in hand with the development of other non-writing-specific skills. Thus, a problem with the development in one of these areas is likely to interfere with a child's progress as a writer. Students faced with such difficult odds have trouble staying motivated.
As in any academic area, teachers and parents must watch carefully and try to understand an individual child's strengths and weaknesses to ensure progress. One way to monitor progress is through collecting a portfolio of a child's work over time. This may help in identifying a problem early on and developing effective strategies.
Children with graphomotor weaknesses struggle to coordinate the small muscles of the fingers in order to maneuver a pen or pencil, especially as assignment length increases. A child with a graphomotor weakness might:
- find it hard to form letters
- lack fluidity in cursive writing
- write exceptionally slowly and with great effort
- use an awkward pencil grip
- write only very short passages
> Try it yourself. Experience a graphomotor difficulty.
Children who struggle with attention may have difficulties with writing, such as:
- difficulty getting started on writing assignments
- distractibility during writing tasks
- mental fatigue or tiredness while writing
- inconsistent legibility in writing
- uneven writing tempo
- many careless errors
- poorly planned papers and reports
Good writing relies on a child's language abilities improving steadily over time. A language weakness may manifest itself in a child's writing as:
- difficulty with word sounds, spelling, and meanings
- poor vocabulary
- awkward phrasing and unconventional grammar
- inappropriate use of colloquial language
- difficulty with sentence structure and word order
- trouble reading back what is written
Because so many writing processes need to be automatic, active working memory (i.e., the part of memory where information is suspended while you use is) is critical. Children may have difficulty recalling spelling, grammar, and punctuation rules, accessing prior knowledge while writing, or organizing ideas. A memory problem may manifest itself in a child's writing as:
- poor vocabulary
- many misspelled words
- frequent capitalization, punctuation, and grammar errors
Higher-Order Thinking Difficulties
Children who have difficulty with higher-order thinking are often unable to use writing to present a sound argument or to convey sophisticated or abstract ideas. A higher-order thinking weakness might manifest itself in a child's:
- trouble generating ideas or elaborating on them
- difficulty developing and organizing ideas
- lack of opinion or sense of audience
- difficulty with writing tasks that require creativity and/or critical thinking
> Try it yourself. Experience an essay assignment.
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