Topic | Written Narrations – great content! spelling horrors! grammar woes! where to go?

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  • Claire

    I need your help ladies.  I’m missing something here so don’t hold back … please advise freely!  Be tough if you need to!  I think I may deserve it!  I hope this makes some sense …. I think I’m trying to ask about two areas – spelling troubles, how to teach grammar when you feel like you’ve “passed” it somehow. 

    My 9 yo does fantastic oral narrations – remembers details, tells it in his own words, makes connections on his own with other things he knows/read/experienced.  He’s done this for a few years.  So, a year or so ago I thought: lets move in to written narrations.  We did and we’ve had mixed results. 

    At first the narrations were simplistic due to his fear of spelling things wrong.  We moved past those, but accepted some pretty dismal spelling but great content for his narrations.  I’d work with him to “polish” the occasional narration.  This didn’t seem to have any lasting affect on his spelling.  Now, my concern is that this seems to be where we are stuck!  Great content, horrible spelling, ok grammar. 

    Am I missing something?  (obviously, huh?)

    I’ve tried everything to teach him spelling in a CM way.  Reading and re-reading Sonya’s great advice.  My problem is that he seems too far ahead in some ways and when we go backwards to try to “start over” or address these spelling issues.  Stopping him from writing a narration due to every mispelled word would frustrate him to no end.  Sitting with him over every writing assignment seems like it would curbed his progression forward somehow, but maybe he won’t progress past this spelling issue naturally anyway.

    This is kind of how I feel with the grammar things I’ve tried too.  I feel like we’re past writing five proper nouns, two adjectives, etc. etc. even though there might be issues there.  Spelling issues.  Just writing that sounds ridiculous!  Obviously I need to make him do those ILL or FLL lessons to perfection.  Right?  Should I sit with him and insist on perfection?  Are there better programs that are more effective for the types of problems we’re having? 

    I even attempted schoolish spelling lists and tests for a while, but we’re a CM family and it felt so odd and abnormal.  I’ve tried tracing words with him thinking that the physicality of it might help. 

    Another aspect to this is that he can spell outloud!  I can almost always take his written narration and ask him the words that I see are mispelled and he will spell them with no hesitation.  But if I were to ask him to write those same words the results would be much worse.

    He hated writing for so long.  I have only in the last year (I think when I stopped controlling the written narration spelling and grammar) did he start of bloom with this writing content.  Now he’s much less reluctant.  I do not want to go backwards. 

    He’s a good reader.  I have started having him read out loud to me a little from a variety of his lessons (a paragraph here or there) just to make sure this spelling issue isn’t translating to or coming from a reading fluency.  Apparently it’s not. 

    What should I do?  I have lost my way on this.  What would you do now in my shoes?


    My husband and daughter have the same spelling problem. They can both spell out loud, but cannot spell anything when they’re writing. It’s very strange to me. I wish I could explain it. My younger son is headed down that road too.

    Have you ever seen Sequential Spelling? I really like it; it may help. I would also suggest that his written narrations have nothing to do with spelling for now. I would just make a note of what kinds of words he misspells and especially repeated ones and go over them later, not in the context of his specific narration.

    If you find a magic answer, I’d like to hear it!


    Did you see this article mentioned in another thread? 


    You could have him orally narrate while you record it with a small recorder. After, take the recording and print it out in his wording. Have him read it over and see if he would change anything then have him transcribe this as copywork making sure he really copies more word for word not letter for letter. This I read will help with dictation. Meanwhile continue with the dictation. This is the step I missed with my son and decided to try sequential spelling. I wish I had just stuck to the dication even though it was slow going and in the meantime he would have been transcribing his narrations and seeing more words spelled as he continued in the steps. Anyway I am learning the hard way and my DS is already 11. I will introduce the written once he has alot more words in his minds eye. That is another thing that was hard for him is to see words in his minds eye. I think he is getting there now though. It seems to be a maturity thing somewhat. So I am going to continue and have confidence in the method.



    Maybe you can try Dianne Crafts method

    Sonya Shafer

    First, relax. He’s nine. You have lots of time for things to “click.” It sounds like you’ve come a long way and done a lot of things right.

    You’re right, you don’t want to shut down his wonderful narrations by getting hung up on all the spelling errors. It’s interesting that he can spell out loud better than on paper. So here’s an idea you might try: give him one dictation sentence and have him study it to make sure he knows how to spell all the words correctly. When he’s ready, do dictation in slow motion. Say the first word, have him spell it out loud, then have him spell it out loud and write each letter at the same time, while you watch to make sure his voice is matching what his hand is doing. Continue with each word of the sentence in sequence until he has written the entire sentence, spelling it both orally and written. I’m curious if setting up a habit of using his strength (verbal spelling) to supplement his weakness (written spelling) will help. It might be worth a try. What do you think?


    Wink Why does hearing Sonya say “relax” melt my worries away so nicely?  Thank you.

    And I do like your suggestion of how to alter dictation too.  I was just looking over things for next week and thinking about how to help and what to change.  I’ll try that this next week and let you know how it goes.

    We did sit today and spend a little time together looking at this week’s written work.  I had him look at misspelled words and spell them outloud and then spell them outloud as he corrected them on the page.  He tends to work fast.  Maybe that is where this “disconnect” happens between the oral and the written?  The mind is thinking faster than the hand is capable of writing?  I don’t know for sure.  I think I need to be present more with him on written work too.  It was a good chance for us to talk about why it is important to do ones very best in writing as well as in oral presentations.  It was a good reality check on what’s necessary and on the strenghts and weaknesses we all have but overcome. 

    BTW … he’s 10!  I don’t know how I forgot that in my post. 

    @Kim – I’d love to do that and have been following the posts about hand recorders but I’m terrible with things like that and tend to erase when I mean to rewind and delete when I mean to save!  I can only imagine how crazy that would make us. 

    @art – I was trying to ignore all the errors and focus on mastery of written narration (content) but I stopped this term when I felt like I was not seeing improvement but digression instead.  I think for me/us I need to see their written work at a certain level before I can feel like they’re really writing a narration.  I also know that it is well within his power/skill/knowledge to use proper grammar and to spell better than he is in his work right now.  I don’t think he’s a natural speller by any means (the whole oral vs. written issue) but with more slow, diligent working habits he could be doing much, much better.  

    Thank you.  Thank you.  I feel much stronger and renewed to help him now!

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