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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goal-setting, homework

Help your child learn: Change how you think.


Our beliefs either help us succeed, or limit our success when helping our children do their homework.

We have more control over our lives than we think.

Did you know that what we think and believe has a strong influence on what we feel and on what we do?

Even more extreme, did you know that your mind has a powerful effect on your body?

Research has shown that our mind doesn’t notice much difference between an action we visualise, and one we perform (Dispenza, 2007; Rose  & Nicholl, 2011).

our beliefs control how well we do.


Our beliefs are what help us, or stop us from helping our child develop their reading, writing, and maths skills. “The more we think the same thoughts, which then produce the same chemicals, which cause the body to have the same feelings, the more we physically become modified by our thoughts. ….what we think about and the energy or intensity of those thoughts, directly influences our health, the choices we make, and ultimately, our quality of life” (P. 44, Dispenza, 2007).


The Evers-Swindell Sisters at the Olympics!

We all have helpful or unhelpful beliefs that enable us to do well or not do well when we are learning how to do new things. Many top athletes visualise each step towards success before they compete in an event, and research has shown this substantially improves their performance. You can do the same so you can more easily work with your child to develop their reading, writing, or math skills.


Here are four common beliefs I meet when I work with families:

I can’t help my child because I didn’t do well in reading, writing, or maths at school myself.

It’s not fair – school should have helped my child more. Education is not my job.

My child is just a naturally slow learner in maths/reading/writing/learning new skills.

I’m too busy/too tired to coach my child.


If you have any negative thoughts about creating the time, space, and energy to help your child do well at school, check out these tips. They could help you change the way you think, so that helping your child with their reading, writing, or maths becomes joyful and easy. I have used all these strategies on myself Over the last 15 years, both to change myself, and to help families and students change themselves. See if there is one idea that stands out for you, create some words that inspire and anchor you,  and do that one thing regularly will change how you work with your child.

  • Create your own personal affirmation that supports what you believe and then say it aloud quietly to yourself every day, especially when you have difficulties working with your child. E.g. I believe that I’m here to help my child succeed in the world. Or, I will continue to guide my child even when it is hard. Or, my job as a parent is…
  • Create a powerful lie about what you can do and repeat them very day, especially during difficult times. Say you have strengths that you don’t yet have. Make it a statement that is not about the future such as ‘I will…’, rather create a statement as though it is already happening. Use the present tense. Begin with ‘I am…’ or ‘we are….’ or ‘coaching my child is…..
  • Believe without doubt that regular coaching will become easier, and then, step by step, adjust your environment and your thoughts so that it is. Sit down and create a clear picture of easily coaching your child, then plan to succeed. Think about your circle of influence, and expand it bit-by-bit.
  • Make yourself happy when coaching your child. Find a way to enjoy every step you are taking when coaching. Instead of thinking, “How do I get myself to do this?” ask yourself, “How can I get myself to enjoy doing this?”
  •  Find goals that make you feel joy and excitement. Be specific and say exactly what you want and why you want it when deciding your goals. Use the present tense. Begin with saying, “I want my child to….because….” Keep asking yourself why you want that goal for your child by repeating, “I want my child to….because….’ until you find out the most important reason of all why you want that goal. You will know when you have found the core reason you want your child to do well with a skill or subject when you feel strongly about it.

 Persistently thinking positively works over time. Practise acting and thinking positively, and the positive emotions will follow (Dispenza, 2007). Don’t worry about what you feel at this moment, concentrate on what you are thinking and doing instead. Keep practising positive thoughts and actions, alone and with your child, until they become second nature. “Change yourself on the inside and the outside will soon catch up”, (Keith Ellis, p.64).

For more information on how our mind affects how we think, feel and act, check out the exciting Joe Dispenza and read his books.

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. 

Follow me if you like this post and want to know more about how you can develop strengths in your child with minimum fuss and effort. You won’t be flooded with emails. I only write every week or so. 

I like to share my coaching ideas with as many people as possible, so please Tweet this post or follow me on

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Being positively persistent about regular homework

Are you frustrated about the lack of homework happening in your home? Do you find it hard to be consistent and persistent with your child and their homework?

persistence with a child's homeworkI’m here to encourage you to persist. As Babe Ruth the famous American baseball player said, “You just can’t beat the person who won’t give up.

Webster’s dictionary defines persistence as “the quality of being persistent”. And what is persistence? It is “lasting or enduring tenaciously, especially in the presence of obstacles, opposition and discouragement”. Just like a good coach and parent is really.

Positive persistence is when you continue to quietly and firmly make a time for homework each day. When you regularly sit down with your child doing homework, set clear and fair boundaries around when and how and where homework is done, and check carefully that it is done.

The positively persistent parent does not stay flustered, worried, angry or surprised. They may often feel those emotions, but they put them to one side as quickly as possible, and concentrate on what is important. Homework is important. Regular homework enables your child to do well in class, and now it is homework time.

It does not matter how slowly you go so long as you do not stop.


Persistent, consistent effort is the key to regular homework in your house. When, for whatever reason, homework doesn’t happen, realise that this failure to do the homework today is an opportunity to try again more successfully tomorrow. Sit down and positively plan how you can make homework happen.

This is what parenting is all about really. You have the responsibility to train your child  in the skills and attitudes they need to do well in life. An invaluable attitude you can help them develop is that good results in life take persistent effort. You have to show them this by ‘doing’ effort. Both you and your child  can put effort into making homework a habit.

Persistence about homework happening works!

To all those flustered and worried parents out there – remember that you are the ‘boss’. It’s up to you too how much, and when, and what your child does for homework. You can negotiate with them, but don’t leave the decisions up to them. Your child doesn’t earn the money that keeps your household going, nor does he or she always have the wisdom to know how important homework is for their learning future. You do. But in order to take up your rightful authority in your home, you have to assume the role of authoritatively persistent coach. And when you do, your child will show opposition, whining, crying and for some, major melt-downs. Keep a calm, cool head especially then.

It’s often the last key in the bunch that opens the lock

(Author unknown):

Your positive persistence will certainly go through a testing period. I encourage you to not be discouraged. When you see your child sitting down doing their homework without any effort on your part you will understand through your own personal experience what it means to endure tenaciously, especially because the ‘obstacle, opposition and discouragement’ will probably be having a meltdown right before your very eyes.

Persisting in spite of the resistance you find from your child, your own self, your busy life isn’t easy, but it’s worth the battle scars. If you positively persist, your children will learn a life skill on how to persist and succeed in spite of obstacles, so they continue to succeed beyond others’ and their own expectations.

Check out my other postings for more ideas on how to support your child to do well. My next blog will give further ideas on how to successfully help your child do regular homework.

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. 

Follow me if you like this post and want to know more about how you can develop strengths in your child with minimum fuss and effort. You won’t be flooded with emails. I only write every week or so. 

I like to share my coaching ideas with as many people as possible, so please Tweet this post or follow me on

Twitter; and share this post and the website with other like-minded families.



coaching, goal-setting

How to set reading, writing, or Math goals with your child

Reading, writing, or Math goals : Create win-win deals.

If mind and body are aligned we have the force of the universe behind us”

(P.410 Evolve your brain).

It is another new year and an excellent time to set goals with your child.  It is easier to work together when you both know where you want to go – when you can see the goal ahead of you quite clearly and the steps you need to reach it.  Clear and exciting reading, writing, or Maths goals help you both work hard together for as long as it takes to master them.

Set inspiring and powerful reading, writing, or Math goals with your child. A goal you both want is one you will both work hard to achieve. Inspiring and powerful goals make you both feel excited and inspired to work together.

A respectful coaching partnership: Different but equal

Set reading, writing, or Math goals with your child that are:

  • Very clearly described and believable
  • Ambitious, exciting and important.
  • Requiring some effort from your child but achievable
  • For the whole child – intellectual, physical, emotional, spiritual

 Tips to think about when you set reading, writing, or Math goals with your child:

Use ‘What if’ questions and dare to aim higher than you have before for your child. Speculate about ‘what if’ your child could…..fill in the blanks with things they could do, think, feel, and believe.

Have a clear ‘bottom line’. Just as you decide your bottom line before a business meeting or when you sell something, decide what your bottom line is before you set reading, writing, or Maths goals with your child. Before you meet with them, write down your thoughts on what skills your child must develop this year to become an excellent student, what work must happen, and when and how much work must happen.

Create a win-win agreement where you both agree with the reading, writing, or Math goals. Win-win agreements where you are both happy with decisions made are the only ones that work long-term. The younger your child is, the more you decide of course, but find ways you can both agree with the goals set. If you do impose your will on your child, and set  reading, writing, or Math goals they haven’t agreed with, they will not cooperate well with you Even if they don’t want a particular goal you believe is very important, trade off a goal or an activity they do want. Check out this post for further ideas about creating win-win deals. The next post will have more ideas about how to set reading, writing, or Math goals with your child so that you both win.



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!


coaching, Math, reading and writing skills

Coming from left field when coaching reading, writing, or Mathematics: The importance of surprise!

Coming from left field: How to use reverse psychology when coaching reading, writing, or Mathematics skills.

Surprise works! Your main aim when teaching your children is to encourage your student to stay alert, or in optimal learning mode while learning reading, writing, or Mathematics skills. So I often do the opposite of what an adult teaching a child normally does.

For example: Is it useful to remind a child who doesn’t concentrate well to concentrate when working with reading, writing, or Mathematics skills? Try it. They concentrate briefly on the reading, writing, or Mathematics they are doing, then they stop concentrating again.

Instead, I try to beat them at a simple game called ‘First up to 5 points’. I assure them I should win because they can’t possibly concentrate enough to beat me. Play while they are working independently on completing reading, writing, or Mathematics tasks.

  1. Randomly check whether they are concentrating on their reading, writing, or Mathematics work or checking out the room. Take a sneaky peep or look at them suddenly while they complete the reading, writing, or Mathematics task.
  2. If they are working on the set reading, writing, or Mathematics tasks I have to give them that point, which I do with a show of reluctance or disappointment.
  3. However if they are not concentrating on their reading, writing, or Mathematics task at that moment, I gleefully give myself a point!

I have played this game with off-task students from five years old to teens as they complete reading, writing, or Mathematics tasks. They love to beat me. I hate losing and love to beat them. Sometimes whoever wins gets a sweetie. I have often sucked it with enormous pleasure in front of them. It is amazing how fast children who didn’t seem to concentrate well when working on their reading, writing, or Mathematics, keep their heads down throughout the reading, writing, or Mathematics task, or when there are distractions around, look up, check out the situation, then get on with their reading, writing, or Mathematics work.

Warning: Take your child’s disposition into account the first few times you play this game when they are working on reading, writing, or Mathematics tasks. They should never feel greatly discouraged, just convinced that if they concentrate when completing reading, writing, or Mathematics activities, they will beat you. For easily discouraged children you can subtly ‘cheat’ in the beginning by noticing slightly more when they concentrate on completing reading, writing, or Mathematics tasks.

Tips to help your child concentrate when working on reading, writing, or Mathematics activities:

  • Competition is a good thing for all of us – when we have a reasonable chance to win. Teach them the rules so they understand exactly what they have to do.
  • Play like a foolish gambler. Always give them the impression that you believe you will win every game you start when they are completing their reading, writing, or Mathematics tasks; and when you lose, show surprise.
  • Play each game wholeheartedly. Be disappointed when you lose and pleased when you win. They will deeply enjoy and indeed gloat when you lose, and when they lose to you, they will be determined to beat you the next time.
  • Play more than one game if possible. While they complete reading, writing, or Mathematics tasks you can play several games in a row. I often say, “Darn! Thought I’d beat you then. Let’s have another game!”
  • Don’t give up playing if your child cries or tantrums when they lose. In the long run losing isn’t bad for them, but not playing the next day or making the game too easy so they always win is bad for them. I have played this game with students who usually were ‘bad losers’ but who learnt to handle losing after a few games.

Other possible situations you can use reverse psychology:

  • Play ‘first up to five so they use the correct hand-grip while completing reading, writing, or Mathematics tasks.
  • Trick them with wrong reading, writing, or Mathematics answers when they tend to say ‘yes’ without checking (many children do this so watch out for it).
  • When they are reluctant to read and/or write or do Mathematics, show your keenness. For example, be super keen to have your turn when you share-read or share-write with them. If they read or write more than agreed-upon, you can indignantly say, “You just took my turn!”
  • When I want children to write I tell them they are only to write for ten minutes.
  • Be surprised when they write more than expected, or master a reading, writing, or Mathematics skill faster than you thought. I tell them that I didn’t know they could do that so well or so fast.
  • Congratulate them as one intelligent human being to another. Tell them that they have mastered a particular reading, writing, or Mathematics skill and shake their hand.

Don’t act like many other ‘kind’ adults who usually:

  • Praise children as they work on reading, writing, or Mathematics skills using a kind voice.
  • Earnestly tell children that, “You can do this reading, writing, or Mathematics skill if you just try.” It hasn’t worked for them before, why should it now?
  • Tell them how well they are doing with learning reading, writing, or Mathematics skills when the child knows perfectly well that they aren’t achieving well in relation to their peers.
  • Call them ‘good children‘. Calling them ‘good` can be manipulative and patronising. ’Good’ generally means that they are doing exactly what you wanted them to do. Your child is actually an ‘intelligent child‘, when they master a reading, writing, or Mathematics skills.  What I want children to do most of all – is to think for themselves so call them intelligent rather than good and see what happens.
  • Check out further advice here
reading and writing skills

Phonics: The secret weapon that helps your child learn to read and spell.

Reading and writing should be easy to learn.

Many children are reluctant readers and poor spellers who struggled to learn to read and don’t like writing. They prefer not to read, or see reading as work rather than fun, and write the minimum, using simple words they can spell. What a great pity this is for them! Children need to read and write to do most things well at school, and in the world. By the time they come to work with me, many students have struggled to learn to read and spell  for some years and have felt ‘dumb’ in comparison to other students.

Why are there so many students in our schools who struggle with learning the crucial skills of reading and spelling? I believe that it is lack of systematic teaching of phonics skills. The goal of phonics is to enable beginning readers and writers to decode unknown words by ‘sounding them out’ as they read or spell them. If your child has trouble reading or spelling – be prepared to coach them phonics until they master both reading and spelling skills.

The latest research on reading and spelling skills emphasises the importance of teaching phonics away from text as well as in text. Wikipedia has an extensive discussion on the importance of synthetic phonics if you want more information. The Australian Government has also concluded phonics training for children is crucial for learning to spell and read well. On 30 November 2004 a National Inquiry into the Teaching of Literacy recommended the importance of teaching systematic, explicit phonics within an integrated approach. They further state that the direct systematic instruction in phonics during the early years of schooling is an essential foundation for teaching children to read, even when they don’t experience reading difficulties.

Wikipedia defines reading as a complex cognitive process of decoding symbols in order to construct or derive meaning (reading comprehension). There is a lot of information on the web about the whole language versus phonics debate when teaching your child reading and spelling, but actually phonics and the whole language approach are complementary.

Is your child a confident or a struggling reader? Watch how they approach an unknown word. A difficulty with the whole language approach is that children are taught, when attempting to read an unknown word, to read the rest of the sentence, then go back and take an educated guess what the word is, using their understanding of the sentence and of phonics or the letter-sound relationships of that word. Struggling readers usually take a guess what the word might be using the sentence meaning, the picture on the page, and the beginning sounds of the word, so often read a word incorrectly. Good readers also scan the whole word and read the middle and end sounds as well.

Is your child a confident speller? With persistence and support children might have mastered enough words to read accurately, but perhaps they still can’t spell well. When I’m assessing a child’s writing skills, I’m looking for their level of keenness and confidence. I ask them to write for five minutes about something. We discuss what that something is, and then I watch how they pick up their pencil; how they sit when they write (are they slumped?); whether they hesitate for a while before they write, or often stop and say that they’re thinking or that they don’t know what to write; whether they write very simple sentences using simple words; whether I can hear their voice in their stories. Usually when a child over the age of seven has a general reluctance to write, and writes simply, they have difficulty with spelling.

Your child needs to know how letters make sounds to read, and how sounds make letters to spell, before they can begin to be competent enough to enjoy reading and writing stories. If you want to help your child learn to read and spell more confidently, check out the phonics resources on the net and check out my phonics-based Weird Word Game I designed many years ago and now have made in New Zealand. It is a fun and competitive reading and spelling game which gives children basic phonics skills to read and spell more easily.