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Filtering by Tag: students

Hard Conversations

Alice Mangan, Ph.D.

When we recognize that a student is struggling with some aspect of learning, we know that we are facing a complicated road ahead.  Given the high numbers of children and adolescents diagnosed with learning disabilities, many psychologists, school personnel and other service providers currently do or inevitably will treat and/or evaluate such children and their parents.

Beyond questions of assessment, differentiation, modifications and accommodations, the conversations we must have with the parents of these students is arguably the more difficult to do well and the more anxiety-provoking.  In the context of a struggling student, the parent/teacher and home/school relationship and dynamic is undeniably taxed, and requires even more effort on our part as people in the business of helping children learn.  

When we strive to understand and respond to parents in empathic, supportive and constructive ways—even in the context of tremendous struggle—they are, in turn, generally better able to respond sensitively to their child.  Conversely, adversarial relationships and interactions with professionals become yet another source of stress for parents, diminishing the reserve of emotional energy necessary to adequately mobilize in the face of their child’s LD.  Investing in the relationships we have with the parents of the students with whom we work is essential to actually serving the child. 

In their efforts to build strong and sustainable collaborations with parents of children with LDs,

School Communities:

•       Intentionally foster a sense of connection among parents, teachers, administrators and students.

•       Thoughtfully increase community awareness of and sensitivity toward the diverse range and manifestations of LDs, and the influences of LDs on family systems. Further, they attend to the range of culturally influenced meanings families give to LDs.

•       Invest in ongoing professional development and resources that support all teachers in identifying and meeting the needs of the range of learners in their care.



•       Prioritize the health of the relationship with parents above all and view the relationship as a continuous and ever-evolving process.

•       Nurture empathic, validating, transparent and accessible relationships with parents, knowing that these elements breed trust and confidence and lead to greater chance of success for the child. In moments of conflict, engage a reflective stance and focus on repair.

•       View parents as experts on their child and as partners in the process of supporting the child.

•       Represent the child’s strengths and vulnerabilities in an authentic and sensitive manner, supplying carefully chosen examples of the child’s profile. 

•       Take care not to undermine the strategies that parents may employ to cope with their feelings and with their child’s struggles.

•       Over time introduce new skills and strategies while reinforcing existing adaptive approaches employed by parents.

•       Feel confident in their knowledge and skills, while ever-mindful of the areas that they are continuing to develop as educators. 

•       Reach out to colleagues and supervisors for support in developing their craft.  Recognize when they don’t know how to address an issue, and seek support. 


The centrality of the educator and school community in the lives of parents of children with learning disabilities cannot be overstated.  As such, we who work with these families must strive to create, nurture and sustain relationships that buoy an arguably vulnerable group.  We must keep in mind that these kinds of connections and relationships serve as sources of strength and respite throughout the years of ups and downs in the lives of these families. 



Tackling the Time Crunch

Stacy Rosenblum

In this final piece from our Students Speak video series, we address the very real challenge of time limits during writing assignments. Our student participants were clear and unanimous in their disdain for short timed writing assignments, such as the expectation of writing an essay during a class period, or as part of a timed test.  These make them feel undue pressure, and stymy the generation of good ideas.  Andrew, age 15, describes a feeling common to students of becoming overwhelmed by a flood of ideas, knowing he can’t possibly address them all within a short time.  He describes a feeling that his “brain stops,” inducing feelings of stress and worry.

In addition to stress, short time limits also prevent students from employing the good writing strategies that they’ve been taught and encouraged to use, such as outlining and revision techniques.  Furthermore, the students find the constrained time period to be distracting and distressing.  The constant worry that time is running out can cause even the most competent writers to get off track.

The conversation next turns toward a positive use of time limits - to add structure to a writing assignment over a period of days.  Interestingly, our student panel members expressed a desire for structured due dates for completing the steps of formal essays and other long term writing projects.  A schedule of due dates for portions of large assignments seems to be reassuring to students as these benchmarks ensure students are “on the right track” before proceeding.  A structured schedule of due dates also helps students to work consistently towards the goal instead of falling victim to procrastination.  Our wonderful moderator Dr. Alice Mangan reiterated the students’ feelings about writing so well when she summed up this piece with: ““Give me some power here, but also give me some structure.”

Unfortunately, timed essays and written portions of exams are often unavoidable. Practice can be a big help and relieve the anxiety associated with this "time crunch". Parents, what do you find helps your students when they are writing against the clock? Students, do you have any special tips for maintaining a level head while working under pressure? Sound off below!

Using MyloWrites to Teach the Five-Paragraph Essay

Whitney Glockner Black

Students are expected to become more independent in their writing over the course of middle school. For some, this is a welcome challenge -  for others, a daunting task.

We recently spoke with a middle school English teacher who uses MyloWrites as part of her writing curriculum to assist with teaching and perfecting the five-paragraph essay. By sharing her plan here, we hope to give those of our readers in the education space some ideas on how to use MyloWrites to help students master this stalwart of middle school and high school writing.

We should note that this is anything but scientific (at least, at this point). In the future, we hope to work closely with teachers to establish evidence-based research of our own on the effectiveness of MyloWrites. But for now, we believe that the following teacher anecdotes and ideas on applying digital tools to help students gain more fluency in writing will be both useful and inspirational to fellow educators. (P.S., if you want to work with us to test the efficacy of MyloWrites, please reach out!)

Sixth Grade: Introducing the Five-Paragraph Essay and Providing Structure

In sixth grade, students are expected to make the shift from more empathic, response based writing (think lots of “I” statements) to more focused, thesis-driven writing with textual relevance. This is a tough shift; the idea of supporting arguments with evidence is still abstract to sixth graders. To help students internalize the structure and requirements of a five-paragraph essay, one teacher used MyloWrites in a supported format (i.e., teacher guided) to help give students a framework for their essays. Because the thesis statement is always visible in MyloWrites, the students never lost their North Star and had a clear idea of how to link evidence back to the main point.

Seventh Grade: Gaining Fluency

Come seventh grade, students now have some experience with the five-paragraph essay, but most do not have fluency. One seventh grade teacher offered MyloWrites as a supplemental offering for students to use to gain more independence in their writing.  She offered MyloWrites as one tool or method that students could use to support an independent writing project. The idea was to use MyloWrites to help “take off the training wheels” and complete the essay with far less direct involvement from the teacher. Students seemed to appreciate that they could choose from a variety of options, and MyloWrites provided structure and support for students to help them improve their writing.

Eighth Grade: Tools for the Future

By eighth grade, students must demonstrate mastery of the writing required by high school curriculum. Some students can likely organize an essay outline in their head and follow the writing structure without aid. For others, a tool like MyloWrites can help build confidence and skill in writing. And still, some students continue to struggle with writing; for them, the last semester of middle school is a great opportunity to introduce tools that can bring success in high school. These students can use the tool to ensure that their high school essays are coherent, to the point, and tightly constructed. According to one teacher who used our application in her eighth grade classroom, some students simply didn’t need the additional aid. Yet for those who did - particularly those who had a hard time translating their thoughts to paper- MyloWrites helped set them up for success on class essays and future writing assignments.

As you may have guessed, most of the students at this private middle school go on to study at a private or selective high school. The above examples are just some of many on how teachers can use MyloWrites to help teach the five-paragraph essay. What are your biggest challenges in teaching writing? Tweet or email your questions to @mylowrites or [email protected] and we’ll ask our learning experts for their ideas on what could help!