I have seen far too many kids in my clinical practice who are really smart, thoughtful, and expressive kids who can’t get their ideas into writing. They have amazing vocabularies and are knowledgeable and insightful but may display the written production of a third-grader, even when in high school. These are kids who would dramatically benefit from learning how to start their writing assignments with dictation. While the technology for dictation is readily available to kids – simple versions are on all smartphones – mastering the use of dictation in the service of creative, persuasive, descriptive, narrative, and expository writing needs to be taught. Our team at LearningWorks for Kids recognizes how dictation skills can help kids with executive functioning difficulties and school. We recently developed a program and will be offering it soon via LW4K LIVE.
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Learning to use rudimentary phone-based dictation as well as comprehensive dictation programs such as Dragon Anywhere is easy. Dictating short notes or lists is simple and useful for staying organized and communicating with others. However, learning to dictate in order to produce text for a website or to complete a lengthy writing assignment for one’s English class requires far more skills. It’s one thing to talk into a dictation device or to record a conversation with others, but writing in complete sentences with proper grammar and punctuation requires training and practice. It takes work to become accomplished at dictating, so you may need to convince your child it’s worth the effort. Not only can dictation improve a student’s writing, it can also enhance other skills that play a role in writing and academic success.
Here are 4 executive functions that will improve by learning to dictate.:
ORGANIZATION – Help your child to understand how dictation can improve organizational skills. Dictation can be very handy, particularly for children and teens who enjoy using their cell phone to organize activities or projects. They could generate a list of the different activities they need or want to do and later rearrange them into a useful order. Dictation is handy because children can use it immediately at the time that they are thinking about something, and unlike a note on paper, they will always know where it can be found.
TIME MANAGEMENT – Help your child to value the skill of dictation to improve time-management skills. Dictation can be a very quick way of generating ideas and completing written assignments compared to handwriting and even typing. If you want to convincingly prove this point, direct your child to handwrite this entire paragraph while you dictate it using Dragon Dictation or another app. Be sure to use all punctuation and time it. (Going at a moderate pace and making very few errors, it took me 61 seconds.) The youngster would be astounded at how much more quickly you were able to complete the task. Encourage the child to use dictation to create a draft of a written assignment by asking a series of questions about the topic at hand and having the youngster respond in complete sentences. Dictation can be a great timesaver that allows more time for editing, doing research, and playing rather than struggling to type or handwrite an assignment.
WORKING MEMORY – Demonstrate the value of developing dictation skills to support weak working-memory skills. Children and adults who struggle with working memory have something on their mind but very quickly forget it. In the slow process of writing or typing something onto paper, it is common to forget the idea or, more often, the words they wanted to use to state it. Being able to quickly and immediately dictate what they are thinking about can help with overcoming weaknesses in working memory. Dictation skills can be particularly helpful in supporting working memory when children are engaged in a writing task while generating ideas for a project, or while engaged in creative tasks such as planning a party or doing a science project.
PLANNING – Help your child to see the value of dictation to support planning skills. Being able to dictate a series of steps or directions for work or school can be very useful. Dictating generates a to-do list very quickly that is saved in the form of a highly readable text. Dictation tools can be used in conjunction with apps such as Evernote, where one can dictate into a schedule, and to Notes, where a dictation of brainstorming lists can be very helpful for planning. Our team at LW4K LIVE can teach your child dictation skills that will make school more rewarding and reduce many of the frustrations experienced in writing.