Evaluating a Young Child’s Writing Skills
Q: 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?
A: Judge your daughter’s writing skills 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 expect students to spell one-syllable words correctly. She also should be able to spell words that were on last year’s spelling tests.
Check to see if your daughter capitalizes the first word in a sentence and uses appropriate end punctuation. She should also be able to vary her sentence length.
Parents often evaluate their child’s skill level by using adult standards. Talk to your child’s teacher to find out if your daughter’s writing meets the school’s expectations for her grade level. You may also find it helpful to look at samples of what other students in the class have written. If your daughter’s work is not up to grade level, this is the time to discuss how to improve it.
Parents who are concerned about their young children’s writing skills in preschool through grade three can get a good idea of how they are doing by visiting www.readingrockets.org/looking_at_writing and viewing online samples of real children’s writing at these levels. There are also comments about what each child needs to learn to do next.
Response to Intervention provides tiered evaluation, assistance
Q: I’ve heard about “Response to Intervention” but I really don’t under-stand exactly what it is and how it will affect my child. Please explain.
A: Response to Intervention is the new kid on the block designed specifically to provide quick, early help to students who are having difficulty learning. It provides help before students are failing. One of RTI’s aims is to prevent unnecessary assignment of students to special education.
RTI integrates assessment and intervention with a three-tiered prevention program to ensure that all students achieve. The program also reduces behavior problems. How RTI affects your child depends on how rapidly his or her school is moving to implement it fully.
In a school using RTI, every student undergoes a screening program. Then, based on the results, RTI provides support for all students at the intensity level each one needs to achieve academic success. Students are placed in one of three tiers. As the year progresses, tiers of intervention can change.
Tier 1: Most students will be grouped in this tier, which is the grade-level classroom. Assistance takes the form of research-based interventions to the class or individuals based on frequent assessment of the group’s or individual’s progress toward meeting grade-level norms.
Tier 2: Students in this tier receive classroom instruction plus supplementary instruction three to four times a week from 30 to 60 minutes for nine to 12 weeks in small groups (usually two to four students). Trained personnel provide supplementary instruction. Personnel frequently monitor these students to determine if they no longer need Tier 2 services or require Tier 3 services.
Tier 3: These students need more intense and more frequent interventions. They typically have significant learning difficulties, which have not been improved by Tier 2 interventions. Special-education teachers provide instruction to these students individually or in small groups. Students may be pulled out of the classroom or placed in a special class.
Students who need more support than the tier system provides are further tested to identify their specific learning disability needs. For more information on RTI, visit www.rti4success.org.
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