Many students struggle to effectively express their ideas in writing at a level equivalent to their understanding of the concepts or information they are writing about… Why?
There are many reasons a student may struggle with academic (expository) writing. Such writing requires a student to evaluate evidence, expand upon ideas, and demonstrate knowledge in a clear and concise way. In order to write effectively, a student must access and implement several higher order processes simultaneously, including but not limited to:
• Organization of ideas
• Retrieval of needed information
• Being able to remember an idea long enough to write it down…
• While at the same time, the student also needs to think about writing mechanics (e.g., handwriting, spelling, punctuation).
All of these sub-components need to be pulled together for a student to create a well-written product. As a result, students often avoid writing or write only the minimal amount necessary.
Students with both language-based learning disabilities (LBLD) and ADHD are at particular risk to struggle, as student with LBLD often have difficulty with word retrieval, syntax, and spelling to name a few, while students diagnosed with AD/HD inherently struggle with task initiation, planning, distractibility, and are vulnerable to reduced handwriting skills and careless errors.
In order to support all students, we need to help them develop more efficient skills. Research has shown that students can be taught to organize their language and ideas. Graphic organizers are an example of an organizational strategy. Some well-researched and effective programs include “Brain Frames,” a set of six graphical patterns that students draw to organize their language and ideas (www.architectsforlearning.com) and “Thinking Maps,” a set of eight visual patterns that correlate to specific cognitive processes (www.thinkingmaps.com).
Another benefit of the graphic organizers is that the skills learned can be applied to more than just writing, but as writing is a critical skill necessary for school success as well as in the workforce, it is important that we help our students develop these skills and recognize that they do have the ability to demonstrate their knowledge in written form.
About the Author
With NESCA since its inception in 2007, Dr. Talamo had previously practiced for many years as a child and adolescent clinical psychologist before completing postdoctoral re-training in pediatric neuropsychology at the Children’s Evaluation Center. After receiving her undergraduate degree from Columbia University, Dr. Talamo earned her doctorate in clinical health psychology from Ferkauf Graduate School of Psychology and the Albert Einstein College of Medicine at Yeshiva University. She has given a number of presentations, most recently on “How to Recognize a Struggling Reader,” “Supporting Students with Working Memory Limitations,” (with Bonnie Singer, Ph.D., CCC-SLP of Architects for Learning), and “Executive Function in Elementary and Middle School Students.” Dr. Talamo specializes in working with children and adolescents with language-based learning disabilities including dyslexia, attentional disorders, and emotional issues. She is also interested in working with highly gifted children. Her professional memberships include MAGE (Massachusetts Association for Gifted Education), IDA (International Dyslexia Association), MABIDA (the Massachusetts division of IDA) and MNS (the Massachusetts Neuropsychological Society). She is the mother of one teenage girl.