May 28, 2024
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May 28, 2024
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Sharpen Your Writing Skills … It’s Due Tomorrow!

Children are back in school and that means it’s time for homework. For most students, homework is their main focus after they leave the school building. They have the responsibility to remember to check the assignment, understand the task at hand, and follow through independently. Some procrastinate before getting started and get frustrated.

One of the more challenging homework tasks I see students grappling with is writing, whether it be a book report, essay or even a short paragraph. Fulfilling a writing assignment may take hours or at least seem that way. They might give up, take extra breaks, try haphazardly again, and sometimes just submit a few sentences to simply try to fulfill the requirement.

Parents and teachers may be confused about why a child is struggling with writing and not demonstrating the skills taught in school. The child may be a great conversationalist, effusively sharing terrific ideas, but this same student may still have difficulty putting thoughts down on paper. It is time to look beyond the act of writing itself; it requires a concert of student skills working in tandem. Homework that involves writing takes time and patience, particularly for those with challenges with attention and focusing.

Being successful in writing depends upon many executive functions, a few of which are metacognition, phonological awareness and orthography. Executive functions refer to a diverse group of cognitive processes that act in a coordinated way to direct our perceptions, emotions, thoughts and actions. Located in the frontal lobe, and often referred to as the CEO of the brain, they cue the other cognitive capacities to produce outcome.

Weaknesses in executive functioning may explain why many bright children with strong cognitive capacities sometimes fail to consistently demonstrate their knowledge in a subject matter or have difficulty getting organized. You may have a very intelligent and verbally expressive child, but there may be a discrepancy between verbal and written language that is noticeable, particularly during homework writing assignments.

According to research, many children with executive functioning weaknesses don’t enjoy writing, and there are good reasons why. Let’s break down the processes required when a student is asked to write. Students must think and then plan to narrow down a topic. They must organize their ideas, use a lexicon of words, incorporate correct punctuation and spelling, and then proofread, edit and make corrections. Writing often involves making more than one pass at a paper; after pre-writing comes a first draft, sometimes more changes, and then the final product. It takes patience and often an external partner who encourages the process.

Remember, writing is a complex process and completing a writing assignment may require that we understand a child’s strengths and weaknesses in areas related to spelling, phonology, fine motor skills, orthography and vocabulary, as well as executive functioning skills. Your child at times may need more guidance than what you as a parent can accomplish.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help. There are evidence-based strategies available for students from kindergarten through high school and college. I work with students who may need short-term help with homework as well as those who need more intense support and strategies in writing and pre-writing skills. Whether it be learning to write words or sentences or writing in-depth essays or papers, I help demystify the learning process. As a learning specialist and tutor, I create individualized programs for each student, including those with executive functioning challenges or those who just need help getting over the hump to write successfully.

As students move through the grades, you will notice that the writing demands increase. Learning specialists provide parents and teachers with a better understanding of why a child may need support and how as a team we can work together to build self-confident learners.

You might ask, what can I do at home in addition to getting extra support? The good news is that you also can support your children with these tips to help them develop a plan to get started, persevere and then complete their writing assignment successfully:

Help your child find a quiet place to begin writing and stay focused.

Ask your child to visualize what the report should look like when it is done.

Listen to your child’s ideas and talk about a few together.

Break down the writing process into steps to check off.

Discuss a title, an introduction, three important points and a conclusion.

Encourage the use of outlines.

Provide a list of transition words.

Provide access to a thesaurus to avoid repetitive language.

Provide praise and encouragement and allow for breaks.

For more information on getting started with additional support for remediation and enrichment in all subjects, visit:

Patricia London M.Ed. CAGS, is an experienced certified LDTC, school psychologist, resource teacher and counselor. Her tutoring practice is located in Englewood and also online and provides diagnostic prescriptive tutoring for students in grades K-12 plus college. She is a recognized expert in the field of executive functioning, ADHD, anxiety and language-based learning problems.

Patti works with students with a wide range of needs and has achieved recognition in public and private schools and at the university level. She helps provide students and families with techniques to understand subject matter while learning efficient study skills. The London Learning Center provides tutoring for students and offers individualized programs for both remediation and enrichment. Support in all subject areas helps students gain confidence and become successful learners. Visit the website and call for a free initial consultation at 201-805-4964.

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