In This Episode:
Welcome to Episode 76 of Dyslexia Devoted and today we’re talking about how to motivate kids to write.
This Episode's Topics:
- Why writing is so challenging
- How to pick topics that motivate
- Pick your battles and don't expect perfection
Resources Mentioned in this Episode:
Connect with Lisa Parnello:
Hello and welcome to dyslexia devoted the podcast dedicated to building awareness, understanding and strategies to help those with dyslexia. I'm your host, Lisa Parnello, dyslexia therapist and founder of Parnello education services. Join me as we dive into today's episode of dyslexia devoted. Hello friends and welcome to episode 76 of dyslexia devoted. I'm going to preface this episode by saying my asthma and I are definitely not friends this week. So please forgive any rasp Enos in my voice or extra size in my podcast episode, I figured it's either this or no episode this week. So I figured you wouldn't mind dealing with things not
being perfect, because that's not the real world. Anyway, this week's episode is all about writing. But before I get into that, I wanted to share something which is that it is now officially the season of giving. And one of the things that means a lot to me is giving to the food bank. It is the charity that I've decided that my business contributes to. And so the Second Harvest Food Bank actually fed me when I was a kid, and they are the reason we had enough to eat. And so now that I have a business, and some months, I have extra. So anytime I have a little extra, I give it to the food bank, my mom donates her time to the food bank, and goes in packs boxes of food for people. And it's something that just means a lot to us. So I've decided to create a fundraiser that between now and the end of November, I would like to raise $500 for the food bank. So if you get the dyslexia devoted newsletter, it was actually in the PS at the end of this week's newsletter. So I would love if you go and click that and donate to the food bank. If you are not on my newsletter, I would absolutely love if you joined it, it's just Parnello education.com forward slash email. And then in those emails, I always send a little more than what was actually in the podcast episode for the week. For next week, you'll actually get the resources for all of my Black Friday deals, which is also awesome. And for today's episode number 76. It is all about motivating kids to write. So that newsletter this week is going to have links to all the writing resources that I'm going to be mentioning in this week's episode. So be sure to hop on that dyslexia decoder newsletter and get all the details. If you don't feel like join the newsletter, you can always get the episode details. If you go to Parnello education.com, forward slash Episode 76, or whatever episode number it is, if you want links for other episodes, for this week, I had my friend Kelly over at handwriting solutions, she actually generated a list of five things that you can do at home to help with handwriting. So this week, in addition to the podcast with all the resources I'm giving you about writing, Kelly has created a blog post for you that will give you even more information. So I will be linking that in the show notes as well as the weekly newsletter. So you can learn from both Kelly and me this week. I've gotten a lot of questions from parents and some parents slash educators about how do you motivate kids to write. When we think about dyslexia, so much emphasis is put on the fact that kids are struggling readers. But the thing is writing always follows behind reading. So while they might be not so good readers, they might be terrible writers, because you can't learn to write something until you at least can recognize it in print before you can generate it yourself, it's always a little easier to read it. And then eventually the writing skills come next. And so when this happens, kids often start to shut down and they just really don't want to write anything. So let's talk a little bit more about that. Today. When we think about writing, sometimes we underestimate just how much work goes into writing, you have to use so many different mental processes simultaneously. You have to be generating original thoughts and ideas, you have to think about spelling patterns, you have to think about the motor movements of how do I hold my pencil? How do I write on the line? How do I make my letters go the right direction. And there's just so many things to think about when a child is writing that as an adult, you just write if you have something you want to write down, you just jot it down really quick. But as a kid, it's not that natural. In fact, it's completely unnatural because humans made up writing, it's not a natural process. Think of any other animal on the planet. None of them have books. And so when we do this, we have to think about it's a lot of work. And what are we expecting of them when they have to do all of this work. And there's a very fair reason why they don't want to write if we are going to read a word, we can see a spelling pattern, and we know what it says. Or we can probably figure it out if somebody has explicitly taught it to us. But when we go to spell something, sometimes there's nine different ways to spell the same sound. I'm not kidding, the sound e literally has nine common ways to spell it. And so when a child is going to write, they get overwhelmed and don't even know where to begin. And then one thing that I often see is that kids will write really short simple things because that's all they know how to write. So they might have these great active imaginations and if you ask them to tell you a story, they will go on and on and on for a million years. Then when we ask them to write it down they go Have you to sentences and say, Okay, I'm done. And that's it. Where do we find that middle ground between all the thoughts in their head, and what they can write and put on paper. Now that we've talked about why kids don't want to write, and in case it wasn't already obvious, let's talk about some ways to make it a little easier. One of my favorite things to do is to pick a motivating topic. After so many years of teaching kids with learning differences, I've since narrowed down the basic topics that tend to work well for different times of year. So we just finished October, I've learned all kids like a Halloween story, whether you are writing a nonfiction story, and you want to write about the history of Halloween and where it came from, or, you know, the history of Halloween candy and why we started doing candy and not just tricks and things like that. They can create a whole nonfiction passage about writing because there are some kids who don't like fake imaginary things. There's one little boy if he's listening to this podcast, you know who you are, and I love you for it. There are some kids who have fantastic wild imaginations, and you can go on 8000 tangents with Halloween. Kids just plain love Halloween, because there's pumpkins, and then you can make pumpkins talk, or you can have goblins or you can talk about trick or treating, there's a million different directions to go if you pick Halloween. So alone, those ones are always really great around Thanksgiving, having them write what they are thankful for, or writing a letter to a specific person about why they're thankful for that person and something kind of that person has done for them. I've learned that December, and all of the a million holidays that happened in December are a fantastic time to teach letter writing. Because whether you celebrate Christmas or Hanukkah, or Diwali, which is actually in November, I probably should have mentioned that in November, there's all these different traditions that different families have theirs are a great reason to write somebody a card or a letter. And so that's another motivating topic, because you can let them pick whoever they want to write to, they usually have somebody they would like to write a letter to. And besides, in modern times, most of us don't get pleasant mail in the actual mail anymore. And so everybody loves getting a letter in the mail, because all the rest of it is a bunch of bills. And we don't like those anyway, or junk mail, which is a total waste of paper. And February, that's another great time to teach them to write letters, I also have always helped them pick a person, a good thing that kids can write about is the history of a person. So in Black History Month, I would let the kids pick out some famous person that they would like to learn more about. And then they get to create a report and create it on Google Slides. Because then they can add in all these pictures. And the kids think it's fabulous. To get to pick pictures off the internet and turn into a little PowerPoint thing. They always think it's super fun. And if it is a science kind of project, I've let them do a writing project about a planet. And then they can research about a planet and the write about their planet. One of the things you will notice all the things that are motivating means I did not pick the exact topic, I gave the kids a genre they have to write about. And then they get to pick their topic. One of the worst things is when you tell a kid just write and then they're like, What do you mean, just write write about what they need to have some direction, but also not something so rigid, that they are like, well, I don't like that. I don't really want to write that. So I'm just not going to write anything. So you got to find that happy middle ground between giving them direction and a place to start directing their thoughts, versus being super rigid and telling them too much about what you want them to write. Now let's talk about the mechanics of writing. One of the reasons that kids don't want to write is because people nitpick on their every mistake. And that's why they just don't want to write about anything, or they will write it super simple because they're focusing only on words they know how to spell. So when we want kids to become better writers, we need to have some flexibility about how that works. Are they using speech to text and they're saying all of your thoughts out loud to the computer to type it for them? That's a great way to do it. Are we trying to get them to keep working on the physical component of actually writing with a pencil and paper? That's fine, but to selectively what you want them to fix? Don't go nitpicking every single word that they spelled wrong. You need to be okay with phonetic spelling, meaning they spell the way they think they hear the sounds not necessarily the correct way to spell the word. You need to decide do you want them to do punctuation right away? Or do you want them to get all their thoughts down on paper? Hint, hint, the second option usually works a lot better. I've seen so many parents get annoyed that their kid writes this paper that has no capitals or periods. But if you read it is really fantastic writing. When a child is writing, they sometimes can't think about both at the same time. It's very natural to us as an adult, but to a child with a learning difference. It is massively different to think about where do I put a capital? Where do I put a comma? Where do I do my spacing, compared to here's my story of what I want to tell my story. And so sometimes the kids have to separate those two things. Sometimes it is a get all your thoughts out and then later we'll go back and add punctuation and then maybe on a Different day you go change the spelling. That is another really important part is making sure we're not nitpicking on every error, or they will never write for you again, you have to pick your battles, or you will lose. And we want kids to be motivated writers, because there's actually a lot of writers who have dyslexia. They have amazing ideas and thoughts. But you got to get there one step at a time and expecting them to write something perfect is not going to happen right away, you got to give them the time, and the explicit instruction on how to be a good reader and how to be a good speller. And then the perfect spelling can happen later on. Okay, well, maybe not perfect, even my spelling is not perfect, you should see some of the emails I write when I'm quickly responding between kids. Another way to motivate kids to write is to let them draw in between pages. So if you break it up, where you are not having them write a whole bunch at one time, having them just write a few sentences. And then after those sentences are done, they can draw an illustration above them, or next to them or wherever. And let them illustrate that goes with the story a lot of times that can be really motivating to, and it switches up the processes in their brain of what they're thinking about. And they can let some more of those creative juices flow when they're drawing and coloring and adding details Tiller illustration, which can then motivate them to write a little bit more on the next page. So breaking it up where they can mix it between writing and drawing can also be very motivating to kids. And then they're really proud of their drawings. One thing that I've done is sometimes I'll let the kids handwrite their story with their own thoughts and their own ideas and just get it all out. And then they type their story onto a computer, and then the computer can actually fix their spelling for them. Sometimes the kids get a little less mad at a computer than they do at a person who's correcting their spelling, because it's less personable. And they're not so much angry at you for correcting their spelling. They're just like, oh, look spellcheck fixed it for me. And they're thrilled. That's another thing is thinking about who is doing the correcting, is it you or a inanimate object? Sometimes the inanimate object is a lot less likely to get arguments than you are. And the ultimate motivation for a kiddo is to get validation. Wow, you worked really hard on this. Wow, I love you got all these letters, right? Let's add this one other one on top of it. Notice I did not tell them they spelled something wrong. Sometimes I will say, look, keep all those letters you have here just also add this other one, like a silent E or whatever it is that they're missing. And that way you are validating how much of it they got correct. You can tell them Wow, I love how creative your story is today. Oh my goodness, look how much that illustration matches the details you were giving in your writing. And make sure that you point out that it took a lot of work. And it took them a lot of focus. And compliment them if they didn't get upset at you when you gave them a correction of something that may have been misspelled. And say, Wow, I really love how well you took that feedback when we had to fix that spelling. I'm so proud of you for learning that sometimes mistakes are just part of the process. And that's one of the things that kids need to hear more is think about if you are a kid with learning differences, most of your day, somebody's telling you, you did something wrong. So make sure you make an extra good point about pointing out all the things they did right? Point out. Wow, you look at that really hard word you spelled all by yourself. Wow, I really liked that you said that word one syllable at a time to make sure you got all the sounds in that word. And then you might say, hey, let's fix the spelling of this. But this isn't something I've ever taught you yet. So that's why you spelled it wrong, because actually, I haven't shown you how to spell that pattern yet. Or you know that one's a real Baker word. It makes no sense why it's spelled that way. But this is just the way we spell it. And I know a lot of times there is some magical etymology reason why something is spelled a certain way. But kids don't want to hear that. They want to hear that like, oh, yeah, this word is weird. And then you can blame the word. Okay, so let's recap this week's episode. First, we talked about please donate to the food bank. And my goal is $500 by the end of November. Then we talked about why writing is so hard. It uses so many different parts of the brain that we take for granted as adults that we just pick up a pen or a pencil or a computer and just start writing. It's not that easy for a kid. We also talked about picking motivating topics when you pick something that gives them a little direction, but not too much direction. That's usually the sweet spot. If you're being too rigid or too wide open, neither one of those usually work out very well. Then we talked about validating why writing is so challenging and all the awesome strategies and all the things the kids did right? Because endless corrections and being told you wrong all the time sucks for anyone. So we want to make sure that we point out all the things that they did correct even if they have a word that's misspelled. But most of the letters are all there. They just need to add one more thing to it. validate that hay leave all the letters you have you did a great job with there's just one extra one we need to add in also, it's that whole like yes and thing where it feels a lot better than nope, that's wrong.
Yes and feel so much better. I really hope to see you again next week. It is Black Friday next week. So I will be telling you about all the awesome deals I have going including a brand new course that's coming out. And I'm so glad that you have joined me all the way to the end of this episode. Don't forget in the show notes, I've got the link to Kelly's tips for handwriting skills that you can practice at home. So her blog post is over on my website and then you can find it directly in the show notes where you are listening to this episode, or at Parnello education.com forward slash email, you can get on the newsletter to have me just send you all the links there. Okay, that's it for today. Thank you so much, and I'll see you next time.
Thanks for tuning in to today's episode. If you want to learn even more about dyslexia, check out Parnello education.com forward slash courses. See you next time.