Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Writing Tasks and ADHD: Part 3 - Idea Generation

Writing is a challenging task for anyone.  The mental multitasking required is surmountable for most of us, but if you have ADHD, and are new to writing  the task becomes an even more difficult proposition.  You can read more about Writing Tasks and the ADHD child in Parts One and Two of this series.

As I outline in The Four Components of a Good Writing Process, Idea Generation is the part of the process when a writer is considering ideas.  This is the brainstorming and sorting part of writing and, contrary to popular belief is actually required at the beginning of writing and sometimes at additional times throughout the process.  Sometimes a writer can just write and will have a flood of great ideas flow directly onto the page.  At other times, a more formal process to get ideas going can be required.

The Basics

Of course the usual "brainstorm a list and write it down" can work.  However, for kids new to writing  (or typing) the speed of their own writing can greatly hinder their ability to get ideas down fast enough to keep up.  There is nothing wrong with helping your child by playing scribe.  The point is that they successfully get the ideas out of their heads and recorded so they can be accessed again.

If your child is particularly visual and artistically inclined, encourage him or her to get the ideas down with quick sketches instead of words.  What is the harm?  The purpose of the exercise is to generate ideas right?  Why would we put limits on how those ideas get generated if those limits just get in the way of getting the ideas out and recorded?

Some kids really like to use Concept Maps, once introduced.  These are a way of connecting the flow of ideas without limiting that flow (again, other than by speed - if they  are young and new to writing, you may need to act as scribe).   The mix of the visual aspect with the text can often be helpful in encouraging further brainstorming and can often be revisited and illicit even more ideas at the second or third viewing.  Here is an example my daughter did (with me as scribe) for her "Holiday Essay."

Free Writing means the child is supposed to keep their fingers (on a keyboard) or pencil moving for a certain amount of time.  During this time, the child writes whatever comes into his or head - even if it is "I don't know what to write" multiple times, the pencil keeps moving.  After a little while, some ideas should start to come out. 

Technological Help

If your child is an accomplished typist, using a keyboard to brainstorm can be a great help as it does usually speed things up and makes sure the ideas are still legible later.  I highly recommend typing for the ADHD kid starting at around 3rd grade or so.  Typing properly is likely to create a situation where the child uses better posture and although there are people out there that believe touch typing does not speed things up, it is pretty well established it is still the best, fastest, and safest way to type on a qwerty board currently.  The reason for the lower age limit, is that I have found with Alice (and in looking into typing options more deeply) typing before their fingers are really long enough is only helpful to a point and then it becomes frustrating for them.  Reaching certain keys "correctly" is impossible before they reach a certain finger length. 
Have your student record their brainstorm as a video or audio recording and then listen to it later - pausing as needed to get the ideas he or she wants to keep into text.  You can use this same idea to do a "free speak" instead of a freewrite.  The physical act of writing usually produces more ideas, but if handwriting is still new a "free speak" can work better than sitting and staring at a page that is supposed to get filled.

Use this link to find some concept mapping software if your child likes this idea and is computer savvy (I do not guarantee the downloads - please review and look at reviews first - this is an outside link out of my control).

There are programs available now that allow your child to dictate write into a word processor and the word processor will translate the child's speech into type.  The one I am familiar with is Dragon Speak, though it wouldn't surprise me if there are more options available now.  These programs can be pricey and will require time for "training" the computer, but if you child is having a significant struggle with both handwriting and typing the time and money might be well worth the investment over the period your child is in school.  

Creative Writing Idea Generation

For ideas for creative writing practice things like Story Cubes, or Character and Verb Cards and a word jar can be a fun and helpful way to get a story started.

Galumphing is one of my favorite devices.  This example is really best for the kid that loves to tell stories once they are given a place to start.   In galumphing, the writer picks any random small object from their immediate environment and writes a story about that item.  The idea is to make the story bigger and bigger - something like the butterfly effect.  You never know what can come from one tiny pebble for example.   Have your child spin in place (eyes closed) a few times and then start a story based on the first thing he or she sees upon stopping and opening his or her eyes.

If the assignment at hand is simply that the child writes a creative fiction, kids can also use some of their own favorite stories as a model for their own tale with some tweaks.  Give a fairy tale some  totally different characters or write from the perspective of the villain for a "fractured fairytale."  They can also use the idea of a "tall tale" or "myth" to get going.  Read a story from Paul Bunyon and Babe the Blue Ox or the Myths and Legends of the Ancients and then have your child pick something about the world he or she would like to "explain" in a similar way. 

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