Here is a page in a workbook he did last week :
As you can see, some of it is readable, much of it is scrappy. The sizing and spacing is way off, some letters are reversed, all told it is not the writing I would hope to see from a nine year old.
The next day, after a long discussion, we started a cursive writing practise book. The exercises began with forming letters properly - something we have been through a huge number of times - but because J could see that he would pretty soon need to be joining those letters together, and because we talked through the fact that to do so he would need the "flicks" in the right place, and his pen in the right position, he was happy to start again.
As he worked through the letter forming all was going OK. He was looking at what he needed to copy and working well.
When he came to the page where he had to do "the first join" we had a problem. He couldn't do it. As so often happens the feeling of failing caused him to meltdown, and there were tears and frustrated shouts very quickly.
I was taken aback, the previous pages had been done smoothly and calmly. I had been sorting washing (in the same room) rather than standing over J, so I moved straight over to comfort and calm him. I encouraged him to try again, and as I did so I stood behind him.
That gave me a perspective I hadn't had before, and I realised that he just couldn't see the tip of his pencil as he wrote. He couldn't even see the letter he was writing - somehow he was holding the pencil in such an awkward manner that he was blocking his own view.
It was clear that he was in no state to carry on writing. So we put the books away and had a long cuddle instead. Some days there is nothing to be gained from pushing on when the child is stressed, and this was clearly one of those days.
So, I spent some time hunting out resources and ideas, I asked on some Facebook pages, and I thought a lot.
The next time we sat down to work I began by talking - I told him what I thought might be a part of the problem - the way he held his arm - and I told him I had some ideas that might help. I have learnt that with J I have to make sure he knows that things might, or might not, work - otherwise he feels let down and angry. We used a big lever-arch folder to lean on - creating a slope - we used a special pen and we paid attention to where he put his arm. This is the result :
For ease of comparison, here is one of the previous days pics too :
We still have work to do - but the difference is amazing. J is so happy with the improvement, and so much more relaxed about writing - literally in just one day!
Keeping his arm in a "new" position is tiring for J, so for the moment he is practising writing and then I am recording his answers for Math, English and Science work, but in the days since I took these pics he has been doing a bit more each time.
So far, so good. For now . . .