Tuesday, February 11, 2014

An "Ah Ha" Moment! Working through "Strengths" Part I

My teen had one of those  "Ah Ha" moments this morning. We had been working on writing for quite a while now. Both teens do fairly well in writing naturally, mostly due to their oral and written narrations we have done through out the years.

Yet when you get to the point where essays are involved and more technical writing is pursued things can sort of get confusing. We had been with IEW writing for a few years now. The boys wrote very well and often times the writing sounded and read very nicely with great word choices and such.

But I found when asked to do a writing assignment for another subject their writing was often dis-jointed and I found they were not really using the skills/concepts that were taught with IEW.

I couldn't understand why~ I do now. We were not working enough through their strengths. IEW emphasized their weaknesses with outlining in the very beginning and keeping things very logical and systematic in their efforts to create sentences etc., I think this may have hindered their ability to actually understand the information- the why's or how's of the writing.

This was just a hunch, so what I did was set aside IEW and have them do some free-writing because I really wanted to see ( not just from narrations) where their understanding was and how much of the information they internalized. My surprise was not much. So IEW sits on the shelf.

an example of how my teen used his visual strength to help with this exercise
Today we began a new writing endeavor Essentials in Writing. And surprisingly my teen came to me and showed me something that proves and gives an example of how working through strengths really helps.

After watching the DVD
(Essentials in Writing  is a DVD program whereby the student watches the video on DVD and then does an assignment from the printables that come with the DVD) my son asked for some hi-lighter markers. Then he exclaimed " I finally can see how a paragraph is actually broken down". " It's like an algorithm."   And he showed me what he worked on.

He explained he now understands how at times he never knew when to actually start another paragraph when writing about a topic. "Aha Moment" for sure! I was really surprised but kept my thoughts to myself and let him finish off his work.

I realize that these last few years I have been able to show him "how" to actually work through things with his own strengths and use his own abilities to figure out how something can be understood and work for him.

Another example I can give for my other teen who has more auditory strength is we had been working on a really tough spelling word list ( from his ITL "Individual Spelling List" derived from his writing work) and it had been a few days he was working with these particular words. So I decided to turn things more toward his strengths and had him enter the words onto a site called Spelling City. After working a day with those words doing the exercises he was able to get ALL the words today just by adding a more auditorial component. This is just one more example of how using strengths can really help in areas of struggle.

I thought this post might be helpful to some who are skeptical of the thought of having children work through their own strengths. It works. And it helps. You won't be sorry if you try things this way~ I promise.

update 6/14: After reviewing the years writing for their portfolios my older teen has found he really continues to love the Essentials in Writing and will continue to use this writing through the rest of his Highschool.  Interesting to note however, I have my other learner (my younger teen )who enjoys the more classical approach and after going over his writing and year's worth of studies  had requested to go back to using IEW ( Institute in Writing) because he felt it is more thorough and gives him better structure for his writing. I thought that was very interesting and of course we will be going back to using what he feels is best for him and works with his strengths.

I suppose this once again shows how working through their own individual strengths and remaining flexible in their learning really is beneficial.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Quick Tip and Share: Using Comments Feature in Microsoft Word

Computers have made writing so much easier. There are many different things we can use online to help us with our writing.

Do you still print out drafts of your learners work during the editing process? You don't have to~

I am finding when working with teens and writing or for assignments that have been worked in Microsoft Word it is much easier to edit and work with them online instead of printing out drafts.


The "Comments" feature in Word really helps with this. You can annotate and/or make corrections you would like the student to see "before" making any changes right on the page.

I am still trying to learn how best to use this but so far I find it really helpful to put all of our online work and writings in Dropbox and work right from there. Each teen has a folder in our family dropbox. Under each of the teens folders are sub-folders for each subject of study and inside those are their work we add in. I use this very often and it is a great cloud for the storage of the items they have worked on before and are currently working on now.

Here is also some more information about this tool in Word. And here is how to go about using it. I think it is one of those things you play around with to get it right. How I am using it, is I go to the line or word I am referring to and highlight it then I click on "comments" in the ribbon above and it gives me a bubble to type in comments.

Its a great way to work with teens who might not have time to sit with you and go over something they are working on~ I really think we will be using this more and more as we go along.

There is also a quick little video on how to use this feature also if you want to check it out. This particular link can be helpful if you have older versions of Microsoft Word.

 I can see how it would be great for collaboration on a project for Co-ops and other things where you might have more than one author.

If you have other ideas on how you use this tool I would love to hear from you.

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