Writing is a powerful tool for learning and is an essential lifelong skill. Children use writing within the school environment to help them understand new information, express themselves, and communicate their knowledge and understanding of desired topics.
It’s one thing to verbalise a fantastic creative story, but it’s another to produce your thoughts and ideas in written format. If your kiddo is having challenges with written tasks, you may find them:
- Make excuses to avoid writing tasks.
- Voice they are unsure of what to write or not knowing where to start.
- Sit for long periods without writing.
- Finishing task quickly without giving it much thought.
Mistakes often seen by Occupational Therapists
- The same word used over and over again.
- The sentence structure is poor and does not make a sentence.
- Written work that is finished but incomplete.
- Missing important facts and details.
- Disorganised structure of work.
- Basic grammar mistakes
- Misuse of words
How OTs Help Students Struggling with Written Expression
Planning, organisation, and structure are all important components of written expression tasks, and they’re the key areas, Occupational Therapists focus on when they are working with students.
Some helpful and easy ways Occupational Therapists support students to be able to produce written work efficiently is to teach them some of the following strategies:
- Mind maps – Writing out all ideas/points on the given topic, using a writing scaffold that provides organisation and structure for their thoughts. For students who learn visually, this is a great tool.
- PEEL – is a commonly used strategy to help structure a paragraph when writing an exposition. PEEL stands for:
P is for POINT – this is the opening sentence where you clearly state your case. It should be clear to the audience to make them understand the whole paragraph.
E is for EVIDENCE/EXAMPLE – this sentence should use a piece of evidence that helps to reaffirm your point and develop the argument.
E is for EXPLAIN – this sentence explains how your evidence/example supports your point, giving the reader more information to ensure they understand its relevance.
L is for LINK – to finish a paragraph, you link the point you’ve made back to your essay question or topic.
- Hamburger Structuring – This uses the visual of a hamburger and breaks a topic into five parts:
- a. Topic sentence
- b. Supporting sentences 1, 2 and 3 and
- b. Conclusion sentence
- Scaffolding – Breaking down and highlighting important parts of the question and answering one part at a time, e.g. What are they asking?
- Improving grammar and understanding what words to use – reading books/texts aloud and researching synonyms to expand vocabulary.
- Dictionary – If a child does not understand a word, we assist them in looking it up and writing out the definition to know when and where to use the word and its meaning.
- Building self-esteem and confidence
When completing the above exercises, we then teach the following important steps:
Each point can be revisited throughout the writing process and help your child develop the executive functioning skills required to show their best work.
At Occupational Therapy Helping Children, we find teaching students some basic strategies for structuring writing tasks helps them organise their thoughts and complete writing tasks more efficiently. This sense of mastery and increased confidence for students enables them to complete written tasks required for school efficiently.
If you’d like more ideas on supporting your child’s handwriting at home, we’ve got a Handwriting Pack full of printables and activities over here just waiting for you!