Why Can’t My 4th-Grader Write? Part 2

The process of learning to write involves much more than simply learning what a period is and trying to figure out where it goes. It is a multi-faceted job – learning how to actually form the letters on paper, perceiving sounds in words to attempt spelling, and actually outlining their ideas and knowing what they are trying to say. For many students, putting all the pieces together is a struggle.

But the question is: which piece of the process is the problem?

Last week we discussed handwriting. This week our focus is


While the physical action of handwriting may come easily for some, the mental effort required to spell words can be daunting. This can be a result of problems with phonological processing, specifically underdeveloped phonological processing. The process of attempting to spell words requires an ability to perceive the sounds that make up words in order to know which letters to use. This process is difficult for those with phonemic awareness issues. Thus, a student might spell “circle” as “cirlc” or “equipment” as “eqetment.” Writing becomes a chore because of the stress of trying to recall exactly the right letters to use. Structuring thoughts and sentences takes a back seat to the struggle of each individual word. Students may have excellent ideas but be unable to express them clearly because of the mental energy expended on spelling.

Spelling might be the primary problem if:

  • Ideas seem clear when verbally discussed, but the sentences on paper are fragmented.
  • Child labors over words, even after having spelled them several times.

Applied Learning Processes can evaluate your child’s writing and help you determine the presence or absence of a processing problem in the areas of handwriting, spelling, or thinking about what to write.

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