Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Writing Tasks for Your ADHD student - Part 2: "Chunking"

This article is part two of a series of articles about writing skills for the ADHD student (although many struggling student writers may find these skills and ideas helpful too.  To read part one, click here,  it is all about the many mental tasks involved in writing and how writing requires multi-tasking.

Chunk the Work
Plan ahead and avoid procrastination at all costs.

"Chunk" assignments so that each step in the writing process gets a night of work (or its own designated and special time).  If your child is at school, ask for the teacher's help with this.  If the time between the giving of the assignment and the deadline are too close together to allow for this kind of chunking, ask the teacher if assignments can be given earlier so you can break the assignment down into smaller pieces for your child.

Use a calendar or planner to specify which nights are for each step in the process and treat the assignment as though it is a bunch of smaller assignments with lots of deadlines instead of one big assignment with one looming deadline.  This is less overwhelming and avoids leaving the child feeling overwhelmed to the point of "writer's block."  It also prevents stressed out, late nights with all kinds of fighting and unpleasant and unhealthy interaction between you and your child in trying to get it done.

Teach your child how to "chunk" as they grow so that they can eventually go through this process on their own.  Contrary to popular belief ADHD does not suddenly go away for most, some time during adolescence or the teen years.  They will need these skills to function in their later years.  Besides, these same skills are the skills that help any driven person gain and maintain success any way.

To chunk work, you'll want to break down any assignment into its component parts.  Even for a second grade student, breaking down the steps in creating a one paragraph essay can make a huge difference in leaving them feeling capable and confident to tackle the job at hand.   For an intermediate paragraph writer, one night can be for research and the next night for writing.

To make things even more simple for the true beginner, break down the steps in writing a paragraph essay.  This is an example of one genre of writing and one way to think about breaking it down - there are other ways to think this through, let your child work with you to find the style that fits best for him or her and the assignment at hand.
  1. Brainstorm possible "topic sentence" ideas
  2. The next step is to determine which topic sentence sounds the most interesting and "doable" for the child or to determine the topic sentence.  
  3. Then the child writer will need to brainstorm his or her list of supporting fact ideas to go with the topic sentence.  
  4. The brainstormed list will need to be pared down to the ideas that best support the topic statement.
  5. Each supporting fact or idea will need to be turned into a complete sentence.
  6. The order of the supporting sentences will need to be determined.
  7. For older writers, transition statements, and the combining of some sentences to increase flow for the reader will need to be added.  Additional clarifications and edits can be made here.
  8. Editing for flow, mechanics, structure and grammar can happen.

As the child grows, so will his or her assignments, but so to with the child's ability to handle the task of writing.  Once writing a paragraph is a standard ability, the requirements and expectations will grow to writing one page essays (with an introduction and closing) and then multiple page essays with a thesis and conclusion.  The same steps listed above can be tweaked a bit to apply to the over-all written assignmentAt these stages chunks can be more sizable, but the habit of chunking will still be useful and applicable - I would argue, more useful and even more applicable with the larger complexity.

You might also be interested in:
The Writing Process 
Teaching Wiggle Worms

How to Make Your Own Fidgets
Writing Tasks for Your ADHD Student - Part 3: Idea Generation 
WTYADHDS - Part 4: Getting it all Organized
WTYADHDS - Part 5: Putting Technology to Work

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