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Dear Teacher

Your Questions of Teachers — Answered

October 01, 2011
Parents should send questions and comments to dearteacher@dearteacher.com or ask them on the columnists' Web site at www.dearteacher.com.

Evaluating a Young Child's Writing Skills

Question: My fourth-grader's writing is very sloppy, and she misspells a lot of words. On top of this, her sentences are only three or four words long. If I ask her to write a sentence, she finds it very difficult to put words together. Is she displaying age-level behavior with her writing skills? —Anxious

Answer: Your daughter's writing skills should be judged on the basis of what is expected of students at the end of third grade. Her handwriting at that time would be considered legible if she has correct spacing between letters in a word and words in a sentence.

As far as spelling goes, by the end of third grade, most schools would expect students to at least spell one-syllable words correctly. She also should be able to correctly spell the words that were on last year's spelling tests.

Your daughter also should be able to capitalize the first word in a sentence and use appropriate end punctuation of simple sentences. She should be able to vary the length of her sentences.

Parents often evaluate the skill level of their children by using adult standards. Talk to your child's teacher to find out if your child's writing meets the school's expectations for her grade level. You also will find it helpful to look at the writing of other students in the class. If your daughter's work is not up to grade level, this is the time to discuss how it can be improved.

Parents who are concerned about their young children's writing skills in preschool through grade 3 can get a good idea of how they are doing by going online to www.readingrockets.org/looking_at_writing and seeing samples of real children's writing at these levels. There are also comments about what each child needs to learn to do next.

Handling Behavior Problems of a Second Grader

Question: Our second-grader has been in school for almost a month now, and he has behavior problems. He is unable to stay in his seat. If he happens to be in his seat, he is always talking. The teacher says he never stops. I am running out of ideas on how to discipline him when he gets home at night. —Tired

Answer: You can discipline him when he gets home, but it is too late to do much good. Do go to his school and observe his behavior, and see if you have any suggestions for the teacher.

This teacher needs to become pro-active. The school's behavior specialist or a mentor should come and observe your son in class. Then a behavior intervention plan can be developed to improve his behavior. If this doesn't work after a few weeks, he may need to be tested to see if there is some underlying reason for his behavior.

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Peggy Gisler and Marge Eberts have master's degrees in education and specialist degrees (Ed.S.) in reading. Peggy recently completed her doctorate in special education and educational leadership. Together, they have co-authored more than 70 books and in 2003, Peggy formed the not-for-profit foundation, Literacy Plus, to make literacy accessible to the homeless.

Tags: Education, In This Issue, Kids, Parenting

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