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Can we talk writing....

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You'd think since I'm getting ready to graduate my 2nd child and I have multiple writing curriculums that I wouldn't need writing help. But I do.


My 3rd daughter (almost 13) is ADD and has some executive processing issues. Most of the academic issues are in math but writing is a challenge as well. She actually likes to write. She loves to write narrations and does them well. But when I try to move her to write her own ideas the problem becomes organization. She has lots of good ideas but doesn't naturally understand grouping of ideas, organizing information etc. WWS has helped this to a certain extent. She can do the outlining when the paragraph(s) are canned like they are in WWS, but taking that next step to organizing information in her head is just too much for her to handle. 


I want to use something that will focus on a process to help her organize. I know a lot of people use IEW for people who need process but that didn't work for us. It doesn't even need to be something that would be good long term, just something to help move her to being able to take information and put it in solid and organized paragraphs and beginning to put those separate paragraphs into an essay. My other girls didn't need specific instruction at this stage. This one needs to be guiding through. For the future I'm considering Put that in Writing or maybe Write Shop. I also have Writing Strands. But I'm not wedded to any of them so other suggestions are ok. But it seems like I need something in between to help the organizational issues. Something that has you use your own information. 



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Maybe try some Tunza cards (reusable index cards you can use with Sharpies--they don't smear or wipe off until you use alcohol), and then write each idea on a separate card. Then experiment with moving the cards around to get a good organization and type it up, massage the flow of the text, etc. I've actually seen this done in group settings where people are collaborating. You could put some sticky tack on the back and move them around on the table or white board to categorize. I would encourage actually coming up with more than one possible outline--for instance, come up with two different audiences for the information or maybe two different presentations of the same information (maybe one is a report, but another presentation is a fact sheet with bullet points designed for a handout). One layout could transition to the next format as well. 


Inspiration is a good program and may do this, but I think it can also be overwhelming in its own way. (I also have a kid that really just seems to like playing with it more than anything, sigh.)


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My DD recently had a composition that was all over the place.

I reformatted it so that each sentence was on its own line.

Then I cut up the paper so that each sentence was on its own little strips.


I had DD sort the sentences into groups. We also had a misc group for oddball sentences.

DD was able to see that there was a bunch of repetition, so she set aside repeated sentences.


Then we put each group of sentences on its own sheet of paper.

Each sheet of paper represented a paragraph.

I had her sort the sentences into a decent order.

Then I had her sort the papers (paragraphs) into order.


When we both agreed that the sorting made sense, she taped the sentences down.

Finally, she retyped the composition based on the mockup.


(DD also tends to write long, complex sentences, so I actually had to break down her

sentences into clusters of individual clauses, so that she could sort them separately.)

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Hey Heather, long time no gab!  :)   What worked with dd16 was to do Heathermomster's metronome exercises while adding in digit spans.  What you're actually saying possibly is her working memory is low.  


Calling Heathermomster or another metronome guru - The Learning ...


Any experience using a metronome?? - The Learning Challenges Board ...


You can do it with a free metronome app on an ipad, iphone, whatever.  Takes maybe 20 minutes a day, and I think if you do it a month to 6 weeks you'll see enough improvement to let you know if it's worth continuing.  I can't recall now how long we did it (how many weeks), but it was in that realm of a couple months thing.  Just getting some more age on her helped too.  14 is a pretty common spurt age for these kids.  But with the metronome you're doing motor planning and executive function, and then you can add in the digit spans using the Cusimano book (cheap on amazon) and you're pulling it together.  For my dd it seemed to unlock that ability to think the thoughts, organize the thoughts, HOLD THE THOUGHTS IN HER MIND, then do something like type or use dictation to get them onto screen.


Is she typing?  Must type.  If not proficient, pay her.  If SLD writing, then use dictation.


And yes, we used Inspiration along with WWS.  The problem actually with WWS is that it's dry as toast.  Worse.  It's like a sinful Syrian desert to the writing soul.  There could be no more torturous, bland writing tool to my mind.  HOWEVER, it's also the ONLY thing I've seen that I think is actually respectful to the analytical, non-linear, ADHD soul.  The tool approach just MAKES SENSE for these kids.  But you HAVE to use software with it (mindmapping and typing/dictation), and you HAVE to build her working memory to make it easier.  I'll bet she spurts if you do the metronome homework and throw in digit spans.  It's replicating all the challenges of writing (motor planning, organizing, remembering), but without making them hate writing.  That single thing was instrumental in making my dd go from hating writing to loving it.  Can't recommend it enough.


I'm doing metronome work with my ds, btw.  His impulsivity is crazy high, so it has been super hard for him.  Baby steps.  Like he struggles even just to clap.  We've been working on it for a year and a half now, on and off, and he can clap through the alphabet or counting up to 26 or counting backward (more like I count, he claps), and then he's maxed out.  Fortunately dd's starting point was much better.  I'm just saying that *can* happen, depending on their mix.  So you have to see what you get.  If that happens and she has impulsivity getting in the way, just axe the metronome part and focus on working memory.  They have to have lots of working memory to be able to hold all these thoughts, organize them, then motor plan and get them out.  It's just really hard.  Our kids have more to say than typical kids and make all kinds of connections other kids don't make, meaning it's worth the effort.  It's just really hard.


Is there another curriculum?  I don't know that it matters.  I wouldn't do anything linear.  Has she done any listmaking?  A 13 yo would enjoy listmaking.  Rewriting or debating points from articles?  Much more interesting.  And when we did WWS, because I KNEW going in that it was so torturous, I double paced it and make wicked, whimsical changes freely.  My favorite one was when I told her to write the article while channeling Trump.  (You're FIRED! and why the person was fired.)  Hehe.  Turns out I was a little prescient.  But seriously, audience brings joy, and that was totally missing in WWS.  And I'm saying that as someone who got through WWS1 and 2 with her.  Bought 3, never got around to it.  We're moving on to DE.  The psych at the school eval'ed her, and he was pretty much in the "what are you freaking out about" and "I wish all the kids at our school wrote this well" camp.  So fine, I'll take that.  I think working memory and ACKNOWLEDGING that your thoughts aren't linear like anyone else's and are going to HAVE to go through the organization process of Inspiration is pivotal.  Beyond that, I don't think it matters a plug nickel what you use.  Have her write articles for goldfish magazines.  Let her start a business and sell things.  It really won't matter.

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Hey, another thing.  You can pull up my old posts, but I *think* I've explained at length in the past that I was pretty radical with my use of WWS1/2.  I highlighted the important parts of the instructions.  It rambles and our kids lose attention.  There's just no need.  I didn't need to lose the GOOD of it just because aspects weren't a good fit.  So I went through with a highlighter and highlighted and wrote notes in the margin.  I skipped anything that was a skill she already had.  I think there was copia, and for her copia is just sort of needless.  She's this anomaly in life and just doesn't need it, so we skipped it.


I also condensed days, so she might be doing 2-3 days of assignments.  I used the colors of the highlighters to show that.  So her schedule would say WWS2 pink and she'd know to go do the next section through whatever was highlighted in pink.  Next day of the checklist said WWS2 green, and she'd do what was highlighted in green.  


Yes to Inspiration with it, and yes to modifying assignments to create audience or a POINT.  A point to your writing is nice.  Channel Tolkien.  Pretend you're an alien.  I don't care.  There just needs to be a reason.


Get a little more interesting then.  My ds7 has his complement of labels (ADHD-combined, ASD, SLDs in reading, writing, math, verbal apraxia, SPD), and for him, I do lots of dictation.  I have a book Teach Me Language that focuses on the developmental skills missing in kids with developmental disorders, and it goes all the way through high school level.  It's not instruction but skills holes.  So like if you're saying to yourself: BUT YOU DON'T GET IT, THIS CHILD REALLY CANNOT DO THIS... then maybe it's time to look for holes in the language processing and not so much think another piece of curriculum meant of NT kids will solve it, kwim?  


In other words, I'm not saying EVERY kid should go through WWS.  I have no clue what ds will do.  Right now, even just to use dictation and make a simple list is challenging.  He's himself.  Gifted, designs stuff, crazy bright.  But the basics are still the same: ability to hold your thoughts (working memory), ability to get it onto screen or paper (writing, dictation, typing, SOMETHING that works for them), and the ability to get your thoughts there.  But beyond that, the what they write, I don't care so much.  Some people do, and I don't anymore.  The farther I go, the less I care.  So we make acrostics for Groundhog Day (that was fun!) and lists and just grow together.  I would never push his soul through WWS.  I'm not sure that level of complexity would even be reality for him.  What a task.  I'll be happy if he can get his thoughts onto the screen.  


She might also (don't die) be young for WWS.  When did you start?  It might be that the same thing, done in another year and with more supports, would actually go pretty well.  Don't be shocked by that.  There's an EXTREME range of usefulness for WWS, and the burnout stories and bloodshed and unhappiness are USUALLY people using it on the younger end.  What if you put it aside for 6 months, did lots of metronome work, worked on typing if that's not going well, did FUN writing, only fun writing, and then came back to it?  Or even to IEW or something else at that point.  Might go very differently.

Edited by OhElizabeth
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OhElizabeth! I haven't talked to you in ages.  DD is a strange one to figure out. She actually can hold the information in her head. But then it doesn't become natural for her to put that information out in order unless it was put in her head in order. Her narrations, both written and verbal, are excellent and organized. We started WWS earlier this year and she did well with it for a while and then hit a block so we stopped and just did more narrations. We are also using SOTW 4 and she's doing the outlines from the activity book. She's been doing very well with those so I thought it was time to go back to something more. I bought Write with the Best and she's enjoying those exercises so that's something. Of course after I vented here I went ahead and tried WWS again where we left off and she did great. Go figure. She's like that. Just when I think I'm going to run away from home out of frustration, something clicks with her. 


I'm sure we'll hit another wall at some point. That's how it works with her. 2 steps forward, one step back. I appreciate all of this advice. It will come in handy. 


Thanks to those who recommended Inspiration and other formatting ideas. I'm going to try those as well. 

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