How Writing Grew in Fourth Grade

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Quite a few successful strategies were put into place to help Liam grow in writing skills and confidence during this school year.

Liam realized that he loved information writing because he was able to choose topics to research that most interested him. He saw that he had “power” over the decision of what to write about. He learned about his topic and, as a mini-expert, felt that he could successfully write about his topic with some depth and detail.

With creative writing, he was given the opportunity to complete a small Heart Map (see previous post about Heart Maps and Writing Territories). Whenever he was stuck, he was guided back to his Heart Map to choose a topic.

He grew to understand that creative writing could take the form of personal narrative, where he shared about something that had happened to him, but didn’t have to stick just to the facts. He was relieved to learn that he didn’t have to make up a story from scratch. Personal narrative writing allowed him to blend information writing (what he knew he could do), with creative writing – he was sharing facts about his life.

His teacher conferred with him to celebrate his successes and guide him in only one or two areas of growth. No longer did he get back tons of comments to “fix” on his writing – something that quickly overwhelmed him.

He was officially introduced to opinion writing. He learned that he could base his opinions on facts that he learned, not just from life experiences that he did or did not have, that may or may not inform his position on the topic. This blended his ability to use information to shape his opinion.

Before writing, he was allowed to participate in an oral rehearsal of his ideas with a peer or his teacher. This practice helped him hear how his writing might go, before he had to commit words to paper.

He benefited from each of these writing opportunities.

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Starting 4th Grade

Liam was assigned to a dynamic teacher in 4th grade. At first, everything that made her a great teacher seemed to be what hadn’t worked in the past for Liam, however.

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She was fun. She was sarcastic in a funny way. She was relaxed. She had a reputation for having her students grow as writers – they wrote a lot that year. They reflected and were creative. Sounds great? I was anxious how Liam would respond to this “free” environment.

We talked on the first day of school. She had never worked with a student with ASD before. Her questions, instead of calming my fears, raised them. She didn’t seem to know much about students like Liam. From experience, her thoughts about solutions to potential issues were the opposite of what Liam would respond to.

Before it began, I was doubtful of how the year was going to turn out.

What I didn’t factor in was her love for learning and for her students.

I didn’t take into account that Liam was ready to be stretched (again), beyond previous experiences.

I neglected to consider that her questions were asked because she wanted to learn and was willing to devote time and attention to discovering Liam’s gifts and needs.

I will write more over the next few weeks about how successful this pairing was in Liam’s 4th grade year.

His teacher is still one of his favorites – someone that he always has a smile and a hug for. It’s actually saying a lot that he remembers that far back!

This year was one of many first.

I had underestimated the both of them.

They gladly and thankfully proved me wrong.

Phone Call from “Home”

Even today, talking on the phone with Liam requires the person on the other end to do a lot of the talking. It also requires him or her to ask questions and generally keep the conversation going.

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My husband is the same way. FaceTime has certainly helped, but generally, talking on the phone is a non-preferred task, even to order pizza.

There’s a lack of “connection” without the face. All of the body language that can also help move the conversation along has been removed. It’s just listening without being able to take the other person’s point of view (Theory of Mind); it’s a strenous exercise in conversational turn taking.

That’s why, when Liam got his first phone call from back home, we were nervous.

A friend was calling to see how he was doing in his new home, at his new school.

We kept Liam on speaker (a strategy we still use), and prompted him when he would “lose interest” in what the other person said. We would remind him of the topic and he would get right back on track.

When there was silence, we would prompt him with a question to ask his friend.

He was happy that a friend called.

We were happy that the conversation went on successfully for five minutes.

It was a new challenge we had not faced. Moving and a kind friend from home made it possible.

My Guy

Kieran has always had a mind of his own.

I recently remembered a story from his 1st grade year, before we moved, with his best friend.

They decided to wear their jackets in their school pictures that year.

While Wade intelligently took his jacket off just before the photo was taken, calling to mind his mother and her desire for a good school picture, Kieran’s jacket stayed on.

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Kieran even got to make me a craft so that I could to remember his choice.

He’s my guy, but he has always had a mind of his own.

First Sleepover

 

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Given Kieran’s “friend” situation in his new school, when he was invited to his first sleepover by a friend (twins actually) at his new school, we were very excited.

So was he.

We prepped him for what might happen at a sleepover.

We shared that he could call us if he needed to come home.

When 10 p.m. rolled around, we thought we were in the clear: great first sleepover experience in the books.

At 10:15, the boys’ mom called. Kieran wanted to come home.

When we were tucking him into his own bed for the night, I asked, “What happened?”

“They didn’t want to sleep. I kept moving my sleeping bag to different places in the house, to get away from the noise. They kept moving to where I was. Mom, if it’s a sleepover, when doesn’t anyone want to sleep there? Can I just sleep now, Mom?”

“You got it, buddy. Good night.”

He’s never attended another sleepover again.

Cub Scouts Helped Too!

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Scouts was also a great way to focus Kieran’s attention. It provided him with tangible steps to accomplish that were positively acknowledged (with the earning of badges).

It also provided he and his dad the opportunity to work together on activities.

They don’t always see eye-to-eye on things.

But through scouts, they completed tasks, built a pine run derby car, and spent time together camping, or at meetings.

In fact, many of the hands on activities that Kieran enjoyed during scouts will be those he seeks to do next year during Technology Student Association competition: dragster, flight, and structural engineering.

He found out what he liked to do and that he had talents through scouts.

He worked on self-control and responsibility.

He spent time learning how talented his dad is in many of the same areas.

There were many benefits to the time Kieran spent as a cub scout.

Things This Boy Loves

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I once heard Michael Phelps’ mom say that swimming did good things for her son – to focus his energy and attention. It was something that he could throw himself into obsessively, with tremendous positive outcome.

For Kieran, it’s anything with animals. The first summer in our new home, we signed him up for horseback riding lessons.

He loved them. Here is a video of his first lesson: https://www.facebook.com/aileen.hower/videos/10151742754930026/?l=5639188832360662684

Moreover, he never complained about brushing the horse, cleaning up the equipment, sweeping out the stalls – anything that needed to be done to care for the horse. This valuable part of the experience taught him responsibility.

There have been other times when he was asked to help out, clean, or do any form of manual labor: in the garden, at church, in our home. If asked for his help, he will scrub, set up, tear down, or rake with reckless abandon.

The key? He feels needed. He knows that his help will matter.

The reward? His energy gets things done. His focus is honed. His help is acknowledged with gratitude.

But where animals are involved, the better!