Why Can’t My 4th-Grader Write? Part 3

The process of learning to write is complicated.

  • you have to learn how to form those squiggles on the paper into letters
  • you have to perceive the sounds in words and associate them with letters to attempt spelling, and
  • you have to have some picture for what you 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?

Previously we discussed handwriting and spelling. This week our focus is


Writing a paper is a daunting task at first. Organizing thoughts into coherent sentences and paragraphs is an acquired skill that takes a great deal of practice to truly master. However, for some students there is an underlying issue that makes this process even more difficult – a weakness in language comprehension.

Language comprehension is dependent on the mental pictures the words create. A student who struggles with this will not fully grasp the meaning of a classroom lecture or reading assignment because her mind is not generating accurate or complete images of the information. The same issue can undercut writing capabilities. If a student does not have a fully-formed image of the information to be conveyed, she cannot translate the information into sentences. She may simply repackage phrases she recalls from lectures or give verbatim information from the textbook. These memorization skills may seem to be a good thing, but if a student is unable to generate his or her own way to present the information, it may be a sign that language processing is weak.

Content might be the main problem if:

  • A student is unable to clearly verbalize what the writing assignment is about and what she intends to say.
  • The paper lacks cohesion – sentences do not follow a train of thought to a conclusion but rather give information as a shotgun-blast.
  • Expression is sparse.

If you suspect your child is struggling with language comprehension, give us a call.  We can help you evaluate the situation and make a plan for what to do.

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