Thursday, October 6, 2011

Learning Challenges and Research Papers

Bean is an amazing kid and has great qualities, but research projects show off all the learning obstacles that it seems she will be faced with long term.  In very few other ways do I so wholly see everyone of the issues that Bean faces with learning than when she has to do research to write something up. Usually I tend to go LOCO IMPATIENT CRAZY trying to get her through these projects too, which never helps the situation.  Lets start at the beginning of these oh so beautiful projects and walk our way through her challenges and my mental breakdown.

When an assignment comes home Bean is usually really excited and interested in the project. Knowing that focus is an issue I try to get some idea of what Bean wants to do and then we start talking about the work needed to do it, at this stage Bean gets sad. Work, work that isn't the fun stuff, but actual work.

I admit this is also where I lose guidance on where she is at developmentally, what can a normal third grader do on their own?  What should I expect and encourage her to do with little involvement from us? The one disadvantage we have in this whole kid thing is the one with challenges that are outside of my comfort zone came first. We won't know what is semi normal until Chicken is in third grade, and seeing as they are such different kids, what their norms are is drastically different too.  He is really motivated and independent and that works to our advantage with school assignments, that isn't Bean and that's OK. I need to figure out what to expect and then push her towards it, she has always needed a push to gain independence.

Sorry about that rant, back to your regularly scheduled report processing rant..

Before I start this paragraph, I have a lot of the same issues Bean has and I realize now what a total handful I must have been to deal with.

Information gathering is the most challenging aspect of any project that Bean works on.  Her reading is behind so it tends to take her a little longer to read through a web page. The processing issues we notice are making it tough for her to parse out the information that is important to her research. Her atrocious spelling and writing make it tough to take notes that are readable can be used later on, and she is slow in her writing, making it tough to remember what she started writing about in the first place.  The attention issues make it so she will happily diddle around in the office forever as long as no one interrupts her and she won't get the work done. What does this all mean? Well it means that I am trying to walk a really fine line of helping and not doing.  Whenever Bean starts a project I set her up on the PC get her through her first Google search and let her have at it, if she hasn't come out and asked a question in about 30 minutes it is time for some guided assistance.  Usually in those 30 minutes Bean has read the web page, but now has no idea what to do. We sit down and talk about the questions she wants answered, I ask her if the web page answered any of the questions. At this stage I either get the most incredibly vague answer to the question possible or a shoulder shrug. I scan the web page and pick a paragraph that has a piece or two of the information we need and have her read it. I ask her if there was anything that answered her questions in there? She usually can find one thing that answers a question, by the time she writes it down and I ask again she has forgotten the paragraph. I, at this point, re-read the paragraph to her and ask her again if there was anything important. Another item or so will come from this, but usually some type of conversation occurs that talks about the real meaning of the questions she wants answers for and what the information in the paragraph has to do with that. This information-gathering stage usually goes on for a few nights, with me feeding her smaller bites of web pages or books in a more manageable form for her, which is a mix of her reading it and me reading it to her.

Writing the report and doing the accompanying project are another phase of theses projects altogether. Honestly by the time the writing comes I am usually spent and my sanity is officially in doubt, but thankfully this is more where Bean can take it on her own. With notes from her research she writes a rough draft of her report after we put the pieces in an order that makes sense. She has gotten a lot better at organizing paragraphs and the like over the summer. First draft tends to be a spelling nightmare, but allow us to give some good grammar feedback, like all your sentences need periods. Second draft is pretty close and then the final is usually done on the paper that the teacher provides. The last part of most projects is the art or displaying of her research.  This takes quite a bit of talking to get a concise idea that keeps to a theme and meets the requirements. Once the talking is done she is pretty much left to her own devices. Her projects have always been fun at the end and a pain at the beginning, but isn't that how it is for most of us.

Any ideas greatly appreciated...

1 comment:

  1. I'm assuming you're talking about the typical 3rd grade animal report or something similar? I'd recommend-

    1) Sit with her during the research, finding appropriate pages together (guidance during the part that is most difficult- she shouldn't be spending multiple days for 30+ min. on research as a 3rd grader)

    2) Print the pages. Read them together off-line, highlighting the pertinent information with colorful markers.

    3) Is she able to type well? If yes, send her back to the computer to type out the facts she remembers. (If no, type for her as she dictates.)

    4) Review highlighted pages and have her add more facts.

    5) Go over drafts as before.

    Third graders are capable, but doing a research project independently is beyond most of them. She'll need lots of guidance and support, not to mention the fact that it will make it easier for her the next time to have the help now.