coaching, reading and writing skills, story writing

Writing stage two: The writer stays in control.

The writing Roles of ‘writer’ and ‘editor’ help keep your writer in control of their writing. 


hainvg fun learning

Dear families.

Many of us have a tendency to believe that we know more than our children…and often we are right, but in the case of writing stories I can’t emphasize enough the importance of NOT taking over your child’s writing because you believe that you have better ideas! Before you know it, you will be writing for them, or dictating what they should write. How does that help them find their own writer’s voice?

When the child is writing a story, their role is that of ‘The Writer’ and so they must keep control of their writing, which includes choice about what and how they write.

You are ‘The Editor’. You are often the expert about spelling and grammar and can help them with proofreading their work.

Another important role as ‘The Editor’ is to motivate them by offering writing suggestions, but you do not decide or pressure them about what they will write so please remember to suggest possible plots and scenarios and characters in a way that they do not feel pressured to accept them.

Only make suggestions relevant to them. People write more expressively and in more detail about what they know about. They can base adventure stories and fantasy on scenarios and with people they know well. The best stories are based around skills the writer has, such as riding a scooter or skate board or bike, and they are set in areas they know well, and with characters based on people they know. For example, my students have written about creatures from outer space but set the landing of their space-craft in their town. They have written about a young spy based on themselves and friends, and  using events happening at school or at their home. They have written about fairies living in a piece of wilderness, or by a stream, or in a garden they know well. They went snorkeling and then wrote about a fantasy world under the sea.

In order that  I don’t take over the writing I pause in between suggestions, to give them a moment to think whether that idea would work for them. After offering two or three suggestions I often pause again to discuss why they don’t like those ideas, or do like them but have reservations about them. Then I can make suggestions closer to what they want. If they don’t like any of my ideas I stop discussing writing until the next suitable coaching time. Remember…no pressure!

When ideas start flowing write them down immediately. Flow charts and mind-maps as well as lists are useful ways to get ideas down onto paper. If your child is not at all keen to write, you can write story ideas down as they tell you. The time spent thinking up ideas and then ordering these ideas is valuable and often underestimated. Successful adult writers often spend a lot of time thinking before they write.

A simple way I often use with writers is to have a piece of paper folded width-ways into three parts which you head up with “Beginning, Middle, and End”, then ask them to write down very briefly what happens. I always lean heavily on the question starters ‘what, where, when, who, why, and how.

Under the Beginning you can ask them to describe where and when the story takes place and who is in it. For example, Where are you? When is this happening? What can we see? What can we hear? Who is with you? How old are you in the story? The beginning is where the writer introduces their character(s), describes the background the character(s) are moving around in, and may even jump right into the middle of the difficulties those in the story are experiencing What is happening? What do you do?

The main action happens in the Middle so “What happens next? What terrible or exciting, or weird thing happens now? What trouble do they get into? How do they solve that problem? are good questions to ask. This is where the hero(es) solve a crime or mystery or have an adventure or series of adventures where they overcome difficulties.

Endings can be difficult if not thought through in the planning stages, and a satisfying ending is very important when you are telling a story. How can we end it? and What will happen at the end? are useful questions to ask.

The good thing is that this planning process can be on-going, and indeed the first ideas can be discounted and radically changed at times as the characters develop and change and as twists and turns of the plot reveal themselves. Get the writer to quickly jot down new ideas on their planning page as they occur.

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coaching, homework, learning and remembering, resilient children

How does your child perceive their own intelligence?

Intelligence: Does your child believe that it is fixed at birth or that it is something that can grow?

negotiating homework with your teen

Carol Dweck, a leading researcher in the field of motivation, has found that children hold either a fixed mindset or a growth mindset when they think about their own and others intelligence. Have you heard your child say, “Oh she is just smarter than me,” or “I’m dumber than them”? Those with a fixed mindset believe that their basic talents and abilities are decided at birth and that they have a certain amount of intelligence or talent, and that’s that and can’t be changed. This is the mindset that saps children’s motivation and stunts their mind because they don’t see the point in persisting in learning things that they find difficult.

In contrast, those who have a growth mindset believe that their most basic talents and abilities can be developed through practice, learning and support from others. They tend to work harder and ask for help. They are more likely to say, “I’m going to practise that until I get it,” or “I don’t get this and can you help me?”They understand that even a genius like Einstein needed to put in years and years of dedicated study to make his discoveries. They are not afraid of using trial and error to figure something out and they often get a buzz out of new challenges.

Any learning develops new pathways in the brain. However, what is interesting is that our children might indeed believe that if they practise hard they can continue to develop skills in many games and sports such as skateboarding, basketball, and computer and board games, but not believe that a similar amount of effort and good coaching will mean they can also develop skills in areas such as Maths, Science, and English. However, if you believe that any learning is growing the brain’s pathways, you can convince your children that effort and good learning strategies will mean that they can also learn academic subjects that they thought were impossible to master.

Professor Carol Dweck  makes the point that many of us who think we’re doing the right thing by our children when we tell them they’re little geniuses and champions may be actually hindering more than helping them. It is better to praise them for the determination, effort, and clever strategies they are using when they are mastering new skills.

Here’s why:

1. Kids with a fixed mindset only care about looking smart and therefore avoid challenging learning tasks. Kids with a growth mindset and who therefore don’t have anything to prove, tackle challenging learning tasks with gusto.

2. Kids with a fixed mindset believe if you have to make an effort it means you’re not smart. Kids with a growth mindset understand that hard work and practice make you smarter.

3. Kids with a fixed mindset regard setbacks as failings. Kids with a growth mindset regard setbacks as a natural part of learning.

Dweck says these results explain why so many children with a fixed mindset give up, run away, and become defensive. She says that when we see our children acting bored, or acting out, or blaming the teacher, it’s often because they are trying to hide the fixed mindset fear of not looking smart. When we praise intelligence  we tend to create a fixed mindset in our children but if we praise process (effort, strategies, focus and persistence) we are more likely to create a growth mindset in them.

Ways to help your child believe they can grow their intelligence

The good news is it is possible to teach a growth mindset to our children. We can help them realise that every time they push out of their comfort zone and learn something difficult and new, they grow new neural connections. I know how excited and empowered I felt when I realised that the brain can be developed just like a muscle!

Carol Dweck believes that it is a basic human right for children to live in environments that help them grow their abilities and fulfill their potential. The manual Coaching your children to be excellent students   and my posts have straightforward tips which help you develop such a learning environment at home so that your children will believe in themselves as students and grow their own ability to learn.

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coaching, goal-setting, self-care

The modern-day cult of busyness: What happened to relaxed time with family?

parents and children making timeAre you enjoying your family?

Having a conversation with a parent today reminded me that what I best remember as a parent of young children were the special times when I was relaxed and completely there with them. I wouldn’t be thinking about work, or a problem, or about something in the future or past; I would just be enjoying whatever was happening. We could be having a deep conversation while I drove us somewhere, sharing a lovely meal we cooked together, playing on the floor (Lego, barbie dolls, play fighting), watching them, sharing a laugh.  It didn’t matter. What was important was that my mind and body were relaxed and there with them.

Home is where the heart is.

Is your home a peaceful place where you and your family can recharge and relax? When you create regular ‘down-time’ for your family where you all can relax and enjoy each-others company or have time alone, you are also giving yourselves time to recover from the stressful lives you have been living, and live happier and healthier lives. My grownup children remember these moments too. I planned time to relax with my children because I knew that relationships are built and developed in those times, and that it was also good for my wellbeing. I’ve come across others who think like I do.

An article by Mary Grant (Autumn 2013, Parenting) is about the importance of spending unhurried time with those we love. She  says the human heart feeds on time spent being with loved ones, time spend doing simple unhurried activities such as  eating together, going for a walk together, talking and laughing together. However, these simple, deeply pleasurable moments happen less as we strain to accumulate all the things and experiences we believe will make us happy. Today people often spend more and more time on getting things, and less and less time just relaxing with their loved ones.  Perhaps with our busy lives we need to set goals around creating daily/weekly times we relax with our family and with ourselves.

Stephen Covey (The 7 habits of highly effective people) always put the most important things first, his family and his own personal development. He uses the idea of a tiny tug-boat moving a gigantic liner to explain how with small changes we can improve the quality of our lives and our family’s life.  His busy jet-setting career was built around spending regular quality time with his children and grandchildren, as well as regular time reading and thinking and writing. I meet his ideas more than 17 years ago. He helped me plan to succeed in my business, but more importantly he helped me regularly rethink what I wanted to develop or change about my relationship with myself, my children, my home, and with friends.  My life is all the richer for the gentle coaching in Stephen’s books.

What can you change to create a richer more relaxed home for your children and yourself?


Maybe it is time to re-look at whether you spend time and energy on nurturing the most important things in your life. Small changes in your routines- 15 minutes at a time – create big changes in your life. Regular relaxed contact with those you love (which includes yourself) feeds your soul and helps you function more effectively in the world. Check out my coaching on how to set goals here.

I’m working in partnership with you the reader and I like to know what you are thinking! Please feel free to write your thoughts, questions, and comments at the bottom of this page. 

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homework, Math, reading and writing skills

How to help your child so reading, writing, and Mathematics becomes fun.

Reading, writing, and doing Mathematics: How not to help your child.

Think back to when you were a child and being told that you would like something you had already got to dislike. Do you remember how annoying and unhelpful those talks were? You didn’t believe them. You wished they would stop trying to convince you. You avoided talking with them about it if you could.

In my memory that well-meaning adult would just keep on trying to convince me that understanding Physics, eating lumpy porridge, or throwing a baseball was fun and easy.  I have stubbornly persisted in not finding lumpy porridge or throwing a baseball easy. Fortunately I am learning to be very interested in Physics, but I have had some good coaches along the way who have persisted in discussing ideas with me, shown me how Physics ideas work, and believed I’ll understand physics ideas over time.

Here is what I find works when helping your child read and write and do Mathematics – and anything else, even Physics and skateboarding.

having fun learning reading, writing, and MathematicsDon’t ‘just tell’ them something is fun and interesting. A mistake adults often make when helping their children learn a reading, writing, or Mathematics skill or any other skill, is to ‘tell’ them encouragingly how much fun and how interesting a particular skill or topic is that the child doesn’t yet like and can’t yet do. They won’t believe you, and why should they? Their experience is that that skill or topic is very difficult and quite boring.

Show them how fun and interesting you find a reading, writing, or Mathematics skill or topic. When you truly do like that skill or topic, you can show them it is fun and exciting by smiling as you do it, even glowing with enthusiasm and excitement. You can also talk enthusiastically about the topic. Just don’t over-do it, and keep enthusiastic comments brief. You can gently continue to say and show that you really enjoy/like/love that type of mathematics, that book, that topic, each time you work with them. They don’t have to like it yet but you already do.

Tell the truth. If you don’t like a reading, writing, or Mathematics skill or topic, be honest and tell them how you managed to learn it anyway, or how you will now learn it with them. If you also find that skill or topic difficult, please tell your child. You can let them know you will both learn how to do it together so that you both get to like/enjoy/master the skill. This means that you can  work on an equal footing together, as two students, to understand and master difficult reading, writing, or Mathematics skills. I have personally found this a very powerful and useful way to coach a student when I am unsure yourself about a topic or skill.

As a coach, I have found that being honest about my thoughts and feelings when coaching reading, writing, or Mathematics skills is always the best policy. Some of my best coaching sessions have been when I was not comfortable with teaching the topic or skill, and we worked together to master it. As I tell them – the best way to learn something is to teach it.

Thank you for any feedback. Love hearing from you!


coaching, homework, learning and remembering, Math, reading and writing skills

Chunking. A better way to help your child learn and remember.

Help your child learn and remember by chunking.

Why chunk your child’s work and time?

Chunking is when you break  down skills or knowledge into small, careful coaching steps that your student can learn and remember with a little effort. It is the same process a wise person uses when when they begin to exercise their overweight and unfit body. They plan for little, achievable,  spurts of effort, and then a rest, rather than a marathon effort every exercise session. Motivation to exercise and the body’s level of fitness has to be built gently in small steps or we usually stop exercising. Your child’s motivation and level of fitness to learn has to be built gently and in small achievable steps too, so they continue to want to work with you.

As your children attempt to learn and remember new skills and information, imagine that you are walking alongside them up the learning hill at their pace, reassuring them, and walking up in small steps with them.

helping your child learn and remember

Chunking is when you break a task into smaller tasks and break time into smaller chunks of time. The time they spend on learning, and the amount they complete, will stretch as they stay more focused and gain confidence. For example, you could suggest, “let’s only read for 10 minutes” or “ let’s only do five of these Mathematics problems”.

When they can’t seem to stay focused to learn and remember – chunk more. Chunking amounts of time or the amounts of work helps support children who lose their concentration often, who don’t want to ‘do’ the work, and who are afraid of how hard the work is.

 When they are reluctant to work with you – chunk more. Chunking time or amounts of work is particularly effective when coaching children who are afraid of failing and refuse to learn that skill or subject for very long. Often children who are reluctant to work are afraid they can’t learn and remember that particular skill, so they won’t spend much time, or take many risks, when learning and remembering that skill or subject.

When they have no confidence they can learn and remember a skill or subject – chunk more. They may have also developed a strong dislike and fear of that particular skill or subject. Their fear and dislike is based on their past experiences, and is real to them. You can help them learn and remember by chunking their work and time, and continuing to work with them gently, firmly, and with respect.

Chunking or breaking down the skill or knowledge into smaller pieces or amounts of time can encourage your child to use more effort to learn and remember it because it isn’t forever. They know they only have to work for that short amount of time or that short amount of work. I say to reluctant writers for example, “You can only write 10 minutes.” If they are reluctant to write 10 minutes break it down even smaller to 5 minutes or take turns writing. Check out this post on ways to help your child without fights.   You are the one who can help them stay steady – and continue to walk through their fear and dislike to mastery of a particular skill or knowledge. You are the one who can get them regularly practising skills so that they  learn and remember them more easily, and master them.

My next post will talk more on how to chunk. You will enjoy working with your children more when you break down their homework, or reading or Maths practice, or any other skill they need to learn,  into small digestible pieces.

Please send me any questions or comments you have. I love receiving them!

Feel free to share my coaching ideas with as many people as possible so hello fellow Twitter user! Don’t forget to Tweet this post if you like it. Keep spreading my ideas and share this post and the website with other like-minded families, so they develop the skills to create exceptional students in their families.



coaching, goal-setting

First things first: How to support your child’s reading, writing, and Math skills

goal setting and helping your child learnFirst things First – do the important tasks first – the coaching –  and all else follows. This is the first of two posts on how you can find the time, energy and space to help your child do well at school.

Although you have realised that if you coach your child in reading, writing, or Maths skills they will learn faster and easier at school, you might have also noticed that the coaching often gets cancelled or forgotten. Urgent appointments with others, extra work, tiredness, difficulties with family, urgent homework, illness, your other children’s needs and demands, or unexpected visitors, can take the coaching time and energy meant for your child.

Coaching your child regularly is not an urgent job that has to happen right this moment, but it is a very important one. Regular success at school will give them confidence and skills that will change their life. However, unless we plan carefully, we often get trapped by all the urgent tasks in our day, and never get to the crucial ‘not urgent but important’ coaching. Goal-setting is the first step in check out here for more idea on goal-setting

Prioritise the very important but not urgent task of coaching your child – and the urgent tasks will still get done. Steven Covey tells the story of a professor playing with stones, sand and water, and a jar, in his book ‘First things first’ (1994). He first placed all of the sand and small stones in a jar then tried to place the larger stones in, but they wouldn’t all fit.  The sand and smaller stones had taken up all the room inside the jar and there was no room for the larger stones. He began again using the same amount of stones and sand, but he placed the large stones in the jar first, then trickled in all the smaller stones, then the sand, and then tipped lots of water on top as well. His message was quite simple. You will always find time for the urgent tasks, but if you don’t fit in the ‘not urgent but important tasks’ first – you won’t fit them in at all.

I will give you ideas in the next post on how to plan so that the ‘not urgent but important’ tasks get done first.

Check out my e-book on how your child can become an excellent student



reading and writing skills

Learning how to handwrite is not an unnecessary skill….yet.

Handwriting helps our children

learn easier – and it can be taught.

I’ve already written  in a previous post about how handwriting can help us learn and remember. Many of you might have children with dyslexia or learning disabilities and I still firmly believe that even if your child has poor motor skills, they can still learn to hand write much better than they currently are. It will cost them more effort, but your child can  learn to write more fluently using reasonably legible handwriting over time and with regular, steady practice. They might not believe they can learn to hand write legibly, even the professionals might not believe they can, however, in my experience your children can learn to do things generally considered impossible with your support and their determination, and this includes hand writing legibly and fluently.

However, you might have to supply most of the determination at first. Decide what both you want and go for it. Check out this post for how to begin working with your child.

I still believe people need to learn how to physically write down their thoughts and ideas. To summarise what I’ve said in a previous post, when your children write facts down they are more likely to learn and remember them. Check out my post on how to coach your child handwriting.

How your child forms their letters, is vital. The direction that letters are written improves fluency and speed and neatness.Worksheets to help your child remember where to begin writing and which direction to write in will help make  learning to use the correct writing technique so much easier.

Between the four sites listed below, you will have many options to produce that type of handwriting worksheets that you want to use. You can start beginning writers out with the Amazing Incredible Handwriting Worksheet Maker so that your child will have a starter dot to know where to begin writing the letter.

This Amazing Incredible Handwriting Worksheet Maker website gives you a starting point:

After they know where to begin when writing a letter, you might like to experiment with  worksheets on other websites to find the most useful for your child’s hand writing lesson:

Check out their hand grip when writing. Are they using the correct pincer movement when holding the pen? I personally like to keep the coaching of new skills as light and easy as possible. Look at the post on coming from left field to help your child remember faster how to hold a pen. Just reminding them works so much slower than ‘the first up to five’ game, and is a whole lot less fun for you.

Coaching is fun!