Front-Loading and Carousel Brainstorming: Helpful Tips for Writing

Helpful Homework Tips for Writing

 

I have many students who are unable to read their own work because it's too sloppy, words are misspelled, or sentences don't make sense.

Handwriting skills affect how easy it is to jot down ideas. Spelling and syntax difficulties make sentences confusing.

Add to that the kids who are just unable to get started and get... the... words... out, and the writing process becomes formidable, if not impossible.

Students can often get stuck going in the wrong direction. What can we do at home to support them?

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The first step to writing is for your child to figure out what they are supposed to do. It's not as easy as it sounds. What is the teacher asking? What kind of answers are they looking for?  In other words, analyze the writing prompt or question.

With homework, helping your child get started on the right track can make all the difference. I call this "front-loading" the help.  Rather than completing your child's assignment for them (ahem, not good, I'm looking at you three-ring binder with perfect penmanship), you are helping them learn a process. 

For many children, especially those with weaker executive functioning skills, this can mean the difference of spending 30 minutes doing the right assignment or 30 minutes working hard to create an incorrect finished assignment.

Many children who struggle with homework need to talk it out or draw it out first. Then, with a little help from parents, they can circle the ideas that apply to the problem, scratch out those that don't, and create a framework to connect their thoughts.

As you create a brainstorm map, be your child's recorder (or "computer", as I like to call it). Write for them, and later your child can use this map to refer to when creating an essay. At school, many teachers use "carousel brainstorming", where the students are moving around the room talking to other students. This is great for our kids who can use movement to activate learning! To replicate at home, have your child stand up and move one step around the kitchen table or counter for every idea generated.

A word of advice to those parents worried about too much "helicopter" parenting or helping with homework: Pose open-ended questions to your child.

"Why do you think this idea works well with your topic?" while still guiding them in the right direction. Let the learning process occur, but front-load the experience so they head down the right path.

Once you see they are working in the right direction, step back and let them own the process. Walk away from the table, and check back after 5 or 10 minutes. If they are continuing to answer the question, step back. If not, guide them back to the assignment and the question posed by the teacher.

Remember, the goal is the learning process that occurs in creating a finished product, not necessarily the product itself. When the homework is finished, briefly talk about the steps that had to occur to get to the end result, then give a hug and a break.