When kids are struggling to write or to get their thoughts organized and written down, assignments turn into challenging, frustrating, discouraging experiences. This creates poor performance in the academic arena but also in other areas of life.
Sometimes a child is so focused on forming letters, words, and sentences that they often have trouble holding information in their memory and being able to express their thoughts.
Sometimes it’s that they simply can’t think of anything to write about or can’t organize their thoughts to properly complete the assignment. This can create a roadblock both to completing schoolwork and learning the material.
Some students need more practice and other students need better support. In this blog, we’ll go over some helpful strategies students can use to build confidence in writing, whether they need help with handwriting or getting their thoughts down on paper.
Why is my child struggling to write or having such a tough time getting thoughts down on paper?
There are many possible reasons behind a student’s handwriting or organizational difficulties. And many educators, including our writing tutors here at Educational Connections, will tell you they’re noticing even more students are having difficulty with writing after spending a prolonged period in online classes.
If your child is having trouble forming letters or getting their thoughts down on paper, Physical Therapist Amy O’Malley, of Good Beginnings in Northern VA, recommends considering the following six questions:
- It is a physical/environmental issue?
- Is it a sensory-based issue?
- Is it a mechanical issue?
- Is it a visual motor/processing issue?
- Is it an executive function issue?
- Is it something further, including learning disabilities and psychological issues?
Watch our webinar: How to Help Bright but Disorganized Students Get their Thoughts Down on Paper
What are some strategies I can try now to encourage effective writing at home?
For young children:
- Incorporate multisensory techniques such as using paper with raised lines and bright colors. Your child can also practice writing using big arm motions, drawing in colored sand, or teaching your child tricks for remembering specific letters (“this letter looks like…”)
- Provide encouragement when your child succeeds at a writing task and when they are holding the pen or pencil properly. This will help them associate writing with positive feelings rather than frustration.
- Expose your child to typing on computers and tablets early on. There are many great apps and games available to teach children how to type. Although your child needs to work on developing handwriting skills, this will provide them with a valuable skill for when they start having to write essays and other longer assignments. The ability to type quickly saves time and reduces frustration on long writing assignments.
For elementary school students:
- Teach your child to break directions down into smaller chunks. Completing writing assignments step-by-step will help them stay focused and express their thoughts clearly.
- If the teacher allows it, provide your child with graph paper for math. This will allow them to keep everything organized so that they can focus on learning concepts and showing their work.
- Encourage your child to write creatively at home. Here are some ways:
- Ask them to tell a story.
- Set them up with a pen pal or let them write fan mail to their favorite athlete.
- Encourage them to keep a personal journal or start a special journal that you regularly communicate with them through writing.
- Have them help write down the grocery list or meal plan.
For students in middle school or high school:
- For students who feel overwhelmed with writing tasks, graphic organizers can help them organize their thoughts and plan out assignments. They can serve as a roadmap, of sorts, to help break up the assignment into more manageable sections.
- Some students find Siri or other voice dictation tools helpful with writing. These tools allow kids to verbalize their ideas in a note or document first. Then, they already have an outline ready when they sit down to start their writing assignment.
- Many students struggle to write because they simply can’t think of anything to write about. One way to prevent this is to regularly save ideas for things to write about later. Students can use free tools like Pinterest or Evernote to compile ideas for topics that interest them. Then when it’s time to start writing, they will already have a list of ideas to choose from.
- Encourage your child to get in the habit of planning ahead for writing assignments and other schoolwork. They can use their journal, calendar, or school portal to keep track of assignments and set aside time to complete them. If your child struggles with organization, an executive function coach can help them think ahead and work backward by breaking down big assignments, essays, and other projects.
Many K-12 students benefit from working with a great writing tutor to improve handwriting, the ability to transfer thoughts to paper, and to develop confidence in their writing skills.