Episode 14: How Do You Teach Writing Skills on the Personal Brain Trainer Podcast

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How Do You Teach Writing Skills on the Personal Brain Trainer PodcastEpisode 14 on the Personal Brain Trainer Podcast




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Full Transcript for Episode 14

Welcome to the Personal Brain Trainer Podcast.

I'm Dr. Erica Warren and I'm Darius Namdaran and we're your hosts.  Join us on an adventure to translate the scientific jargon and brain research into simple metaphors and stories for everyday life.  We explore executive functions and learning strategies that help turbocharge the mind. Come learn how to steer around the invisible barriers so that you can achieve your goals.  This podcast is ideal for parents, educators, and learners of all ages.

This podcast is brought to you by Bullet Map Academy. We have free dyslexia screener app called dyslexia quiz.  It's a fun, engaging and interactive app.  Try it now.  Just search for dyslexia quiz on the app store and see how your score differs from your friends and family.

This podcast is brought to you by www.goodsensorylearning.com where you can find educational and occupational therapy lessons and remedial materials that bring delight to learning.

Finally, you can find Dr Warren's many courses at www.learningspecialistcourses.com .  Come check out our newest course on developing executive functions and study strategies.

Hey Darius, what are we going to talk about this week?

Well, I'd really like to talk about how you and I teach writing skills to our own students because there's a whole executive function piece when it comes to writing, it's not just about English and grammar and all of that, it's about organizing your ideas, your thoughts and structured writing and so on.

And I know you do lots of techniques to help you've got valuable tools that help make the process fun and memorable and I do too and there's a little bit of an overlap, but we don't duplicate each other.

So, I'm really intrigued by your approach, and I'll share a bit of my approach and we just talk about this whole executive function aspect of writing from our own experience and maybe a little bit of the research there as well.

So how about we do that?

Yeah, I think that's a great idea.

I think that writing is such a complicated skill just like reading is but being able to help kids with that initial executive functioning piece which is the organization of the information is imperative.

It is and I think so many teachers in my experience say okay Children do a quick outline of what you're going to write and then we'll write the essay, and they expect the Children to put down four or five bullet points of ideas they've got and then they go into the writing piece.

However, there are Children.

Well not every child can do that straight away, but most Children can learn to do that quite straightforward.

But there are some those with dyslexia or ADHD, or executive functioning issues or other processing difficulties who keep writing this list of ideas in random order or they've got lots of little details here and none of the big ideas and it's all higgledy piggledy and they just get stuck at that very first step.

Or in my language the first gear of going through the gears, the five gears of going up the manual transmission of your mind, they get stuck in that first step and the teachers got the kids going on to, you know, 20 miles an hour, 30 miles an hour in third gear and fourth gear and that kids still revving up in first gear and trying to make it work and they've not got an outline, and so they just end up writing whatever comes to their mind, and it becomes this random, never ending long piece of work with paragraphs that are nearly a page long or no paragraphs and it's just the stream of consciousness and then they do that a few times and then they get embarrassed and they feel awkward that it's not quite right and they don't know what to do.

And then what happens is when they're asked to write something, they write a sentence and that's it.

So it becomes one or the other, they write nothing or they write way too much and there isn't this structured writing in between, so that's, that's what I've observed, what's your observation being interesting because, you know, you will often hear teachers and parents talking about their kids, well, you know, they've got writer's block or they'll kind of characterize it with organizational issues or such.

But one thing that I love to do because every student processes differently is I like to get my kids when I first start working with them to draw what it is like for them.

So, I can remember a situation where I did this with one of my students and I said, you know, your mom says that you've got writer's block, but let let's draw it.

And it was wonderful because he draws this, drew this really complicated image with all of these lines coming down to a single point and that this was his brain and there were all sorts of squirrely lines and everything, but everything had to come down to this single point.

And when I looked at it was like, oh my goodness, you don't have writer's block, you have writers’ bottleneck.

And that was an incredible realization because writer's block would be addressed very different differently than writers’ bottlenecks.

So, what I discovered is that whenever I work with kids, and I want to have a deeper understanding of how they're processing so that I can help them best is I get them to draw what it feels like in their brain no matter what we're doing.

And those drawings can be incredibly enlightening on what's going on in their minds.

So, it's kind of a little story on the side.

But it's a nice thing to do with kids.

I still love that.

That is fantastic.

And gosh, that's great, that is so great.

I should do that as well.

I think, Yeah, I love it.

I love it when it comes to your experience of writing an executive function.

What's your approach?

Well, it's interesting again, it's very much in line with what, how the kids process, how they process best.

So, in some ways when I first start working with them, I work in ways that are comfortable for them because it opens them up to the process and then I also want to build new skills as well.

So, if I know that a child is very visual, then initially I want to use a lot of visuals.

Color coding is a big piece of pretty much all of my writing approaches because it's a no brainer and it helps them to organize ideas and kind of categorize and the child is very good at sequencing, then we'll start off with sequencing, but if they're not good at something I hold on to a little bit later, because if I can tap into their best ways of learning, we connect and they open up so I don't want to teach them the skills that are too hard too quickly because I don't want to shut them down.

Yeah, I got you, you know, you have a slightly different approach than me, you've got a very, I suppose, very personalized approach to each student because you have that educational psychologist, your Doctor of Learning and you can tailor it to them.

I think what I've done is I've gone down the route of creating like a formula for organizing with something called the story star.

I'd love to tell you about that.


Please tell us about the story starts.

It's you've got such a unique approach that is so comprehensive and so multi-sensory that it really does accommodate a lot of learners.

Yes so, I've got dyslexia and I've got self-identified ADHD

I've got to go and get it formally identified.

And with that comes lots of different challenges when it comes to writing a piece of work.

And I I've tutored Children on this, and I've taught my daughter how to do this and I've got my own process of using mind mapping.

But what I realized was that a lot of Children when it comes to organizing things visually, they can't go straight into creating visual order to their thoughts.

There needs to be a kind of process.

So going straight into a spider diagram or a bubble diagram just totally stresses them out because it basically helps visualize is how they feel on the inside all these thoughts floating around and it stresses them out.

It doesn't help them.

So, I developed this system where I took the essence of Cornell notes and mind mapping, combine them with seven executive functioning techniques all into a one-page process.

So, you have a piece of paper and some colored pens, and you follow this process.

And I reckon you anyone any difficulty can go through this process step by step and get to the point where they've got their ideas mapped out and they can write a story.

I think even a child who can't read and who can't write, can use this process to map out and tell a story.

Now that sounds rather incredible, but it's actually quite simple.

So, let's take the scenario.

You've got a person who can't read, and they can't write, how do they write, create a piece of written work?

Well, there is a simple way you take a piece of paper, you ask them to draw doodles in a circle clockwise of their different ideas on their story and then you get them to point to the story that the doodles talk through the doodles and retell the story from the doodles as markers.

And then you can use some voice to text software to transcribe it down onto a piece of as a piece of text and there you have it a written piece of work.

Now that's very simplistic.

But what we do with the bullet map process is we get Children to write down a bullet list of all of the random ideas and we accept that their ideas are random and that's okay then we get them to take some of the underline a few of those keywords and that's an executive function skill too because that's an element of your talking about inhibitory control, you're saying I'm looking at all of these words and they all seem super important but they get stressed out.

I have to use them on you go.

It's okay you can keep them all.

But let's just choose a few key words and emphasize them as key ideas.

And you start focusing in, you inhibit, you’re excluding the other words and focusing in on a key word and then you take the keywords, and you take them across, and you draw them in as a map a visual map like a mind map on your piece of paper.

But the thing that we've added to this is something called a story star because a lot of Children are like I don't know where the beginning or end of the story is and they just write everything they're thinking and it's more like a report of what they're seeing of the movie in their mind, all sorts of facts and details and characters and what's happening and then it just stops because time is up and they write the end and then the teacher says that's not an ending, that's not complete story.

And the child's like, I don't understand that's lots of words in there.

How is that not complete story?

Well, we show the Children that actually is a formula.

Every story writer uses in on Netflix or YouTube or in in books that you read, and the formula goes like this, it has five main elements.

There's always it's five-pointed star, there's a face on the top of the star, the top point, there's a face and that represents the characters, the faces in the story, then the next branch is an eye and that represents what the main character has, their eye on what they really want.

And that's the key to a good story and that's often missed out by Children.

What does the main character really want?

They want to get rich; they want to fall in love, they want to get free, they want to find a friend, what is it they want?

And then there's the third step, the third branch is afoot.

There's always something that trips you up.

There's always something goes wrong in an interesting story, but it doesn't stop there because the fourth step is a hand.

There's always a helping hand.

There's always a guide that comes along and helps you in some way it could be like, what's the fairy in Cinderella, you know, the Fairy Godmother, and you know, you've got Yoda, you've got all sorts of different characters that come out and help you and guide you and give you wisdom and ideas and knowledge or tools.

And then the fifth element is always the crown.

The reward, what you get out of it at the end of the story.

And so what the child does is they take all these ideas and pop them into the relevant place, and they can see where the gaps are and then once they can see where the gaps are, they have another creative moment and they fill in the gaps once they've got their story star filled out that they can use their finger and talk through the story star and verbally process it before they actually turn it into text.

Now many of our Children, they then talk through the map and use voice to text to get all the text out onto a page and then they go through the text one by one and sort it out and do all the spelling and grammar and para graphing and things like that.

And so, what you've got there is these seven steps and you're going through the gears the process of it.

So you don't miss anything out And it's utterly incredible what happens when you see a 13 year old or a 14 year old who's never been able to write a story in their life, do this process within an hour and they've written a piece of work with a coach that is, you know, and they've got a piece of work and they're like, oh my goodness, I just wrote a story, I can't believe it.

And then you take like maybe eight sessions, six sessions, eight sessions, depending on the specific learning difficulty to go through the process slowly and steadily and they can write that story out, but the magic is once they've gone through a story and they've done that map, here's when the magic happens it activates something in their mind where we've got kids who go into school and the teacher asked them to write a story and they don't do the story star because they're not quite confident about doing a school yet.

But what do they do this one?

Young lad said oh I pictured it in my mind, and I went through the story star, and I just wrote it out in the story starts straight away and he wrote a finished piece of work faster and better.

And his teachers like, my goodness, he's doing so well because his confidence has gone up because he has a process.

And so, I just wanted to share that whole encapsulated story.

I think I've inadvertently realized that this is an executive functioning tool.

I always thought of it as a dyslexia tool, and it is because a lot of Children have difficulty with writing and organizing their thoughts with dyslexia and they need a way to do voice to text in a structured way and so on.

But actually, the essence of this whole thing I've realized through you Erica is that this is an executive functioning tool.

Thinking tool that is this important bridge between researching and learning and writing.

You need this intermediate step of organizing your thoughts visually in a structured way so that you can then output it as a YouTube video or uh explainer video or a diagram even that isn't necessarily a map, but it's a well-structured diagram or whatever is infographic, whatever you're doing.

So that's my kind of experience of writing and executive function now.

How do people access this, this resource from you?

Oh right.



I didn't want to go into sort of a sales pitch necessarily here, but basically go to bullet map academy dot com and you'll see the resources there so they can get a free demo on how to do it.

And there's an introductory little course and some videos to see if your child would like to do something like this because it's very important that chance motivated to do it.

Like we talked about in the past and then they can get some online coaching with our coaches.

It's really cool, it's really cool.

I really like it and you're right.

I think that kids really need a very structured and organized way of approaching writing because it is so complex, they're juggling so many balls and as we know, working memory can only handle so many pieces and if kids have learning disabilities, they can handle even less pieces.

And so, building some of these skills to automaticity, which we've talked about in the past is really, really important.

I think this isn't just relevant for people with learning differences or learning disabilities.

What what's interesting about learning disabilities and differences is that it highlights some of the extreme strengths and weaknesses.

So, you start to see what's under the hood and what the process involves.

And then that learning in this personal brain trainer podcast is for everyone?

That learning can be applied by everyone in a different way because otherwise it stays unconscious and unseen whereas with people with these extreme abilities and difficulties you start to notice what those processes are and how important they are.

And I would say one of the things that I really integrate into my program and working with kids.

And then I also have a teaching writing skills course that I sell.

But I think one of the most important pieces are the games I find for my kids.

So, you know, so I have one game called the five Ws detectives and it's really all about learning about the who the what the where the when and the why and they have to use them to solve a case and then they write a pair, a kind of a case paragraph.

But it's one of the most popular too.

It's good for elementary kids.

But then I have other ones like show don't tell which is a descriptive writing game.

And that gets them to use more descriptive language where they learn about adjectives and verbs and adverbs and metaphors and personification and ways of bringing what I like to call painting with words.

So that's let's look at it from a brain trainer perspective.

You've got the 5WS, the detectives.

What aspect would you say?

How would you relate that to executive function?

Is that very much an English based one?

Or is there an executive function element in that?

What I would say is that it's a way of categorizing, it's a way of breaking writing down into manageable chunks.

It's really defining again as you were suggesting kind of a blueprint of well okay, we want to make sure that we talk about the who, the what, the where, the when, and the why.

But and a lot of teachers in the U.


Education system talk about those pieces and do that a lot with elementary kids.

But bringing a game into it brings a little bit of joy and for some kids that are somewhat shut down if you turn it into a game all of a sudden, they're very intrigued and very interested.

So, I find that the games are really helpful in reviewing some of the principles but also you know bringing in some more of the motivation.

But I, you know, the other piece that's really important I believe is technology offers so many amazing tools.

So, for example just using google, keep I teach kids to use google keep I have it in my course, but I do it in my practice to where I teach them to use google keep, to write a paragraph.

So, I have standard templates in google keep and then they can right over the top of the templates so that they, for example, for a five-paragraph essay template.

The template is there and then they just write their thoughts over the template just by doing a save as and so that creates that kind of structure and organization.

But what I love about google keep is it brings in that kind of color-coded ideas.

So, each paragraph is a different color block and then by color coding too.

And we have main ideas for example, each main idea is a different color.

So, it helps kids to take the idea.

If they have a new idea or a new detail, they can figure out which main idea goes under by thinking, okay, what color would this be?

Oh, this would be if I'm writing an essay, for example on Otters.

Oh, this has to do with reproduction, reproduction is pink.

So, I'll put it in the pink box so that they're organizing their ideas as they're gathering them.

It's really good for doing any kind of research paper, but I also teach students to use the online resource they call it scribble, but it's spelled scribe all.

So, it's spelled S C R I B L E and it's a really amazing tool that's funded by the National Science Foundation and I interviewed the founding person a number of years ago and it's, it's really dynamic.

It's really great.

It works with google docs so that you can get the add on, there is a nominal fee to have it every year but it's very reasonable, but it really allows you the coolest feature.

Well, there's so many cool features in in scribble, that one of the coolest features is that you can open up any article online then just by hitting the little scribble button which can be in your toolbar along the top, it enables you to highlight the article in real time and then it saves it into your scribble account.

So anytime you access that article through your scribble account you can see all your annotations and then the beautiful thing is all those annotations are automatically accessible in google docs so that you can pull them up on the side and you can literally drag the quotes into your document, and it will do the in-text citation and the bibliography for you.

So, you can see and then what I get my students to do is I bring in that color coded piece so that as they're doing this, they're always color coding it so that it goes under the right main idea and the essay writes itself.

So, whether they use google keep which I love because you can reorganize ideas and sentences really easily, which you can't do in a word processing program.

So, both of them do very similar things, which is that idea of color coding, main ideas, so that all the details are organized initially.

So, what I've seen is the schools will say, okay, the first thing you do is you highlight all the main ideas, and the kids are all using one color and then they have to go through it all over again and decide, okay, well, where does all this stuff go?

Maybe they'll write it onto index cards and then they have to organize the index cards.

Well, that's a lot of unnecessary steps.

If they define the main ideas of what they're going to be doing right off the bat, then it's easy every time you highlight something to say, okay, what color is this?

What main idea does this fit under?

And then you've just cut out hours and hours of frustration.

That's brilliant.

That's fascinating.

The other cool thing about it is that for college students that are doing research papers, if they do it this way and they're dragging everything in and it adds in the in-text citations for you all you've really got to do is add transitional words, a topic sentence, maybe a transitional sentence.

And you don't really have to type anything because it does the typing for you.

You never typed anything.

All you ever did was highlight and drag and drop because if it's a research paper, really very little should be your own words.

But this way you never have to worry about plagiarism.

But even within scribble, it enables you to put it into your own words and if you do that option and put it into your own words and drag it in, then it actually doesn't put it in quotes.

So, it keeps track of whether it needs to be quoted or a direct quote or not, but still gives the credit to the initial article.

Okay, so, I mean, I'm going to go to a meta level here, basically what's super important in relation to executive function and writing is to have a process, you have to have a system randomly hoping it might work or you might eventually just get it.

No, you need a process and whether they admit it or not, every writer has a process.

Everyone has a process, whether it's conscious or unconscious.

The thing is, the more conscious you make it, the more efficient it becomes, and the more effective it becomes.

And so, there are some people like me who have to make a conscious process otherwise, nothing happens.

There are other people who are automatic, and they just go with it and maybe it's unreal.

They don't reflect on it very much, and their writing is pretty average and basic and so on, and it gets the job done and that's it, Fine leave it.

But what's fascinating is that there are some people who are dyslexic, some authors who are dyslexic and their extraordinary authors because they've had to be so intentional about their process and the way they go through these gears, they become like expert racing drivers knowing when to shift into what gear, at what point in terms of their writing, because they've had to be so intentional about it.

And so, I think in terms of executive function, the key is everyone needs their own process, but it also needs to be their own process that matches their way of thinking.

I'm so glad you said that because, you know, one of the things that when I first started as an educational therapist and learning specialists in my practice almost 25 years ago, as I noticed that they in schools that they were always going from main ideas to details.

And occasionally, I would have a student that just didn't think that way they thought from details, two main ideas and I thought, wow, okay, that's kind of like writing backwards.

But if that's the way you think and you're forced to write the other way, it's very uncomfortable.

And so, it's funny.

I often will kind of assess the student to see whether I want to teach them to write forwards or write backwards.

And what I mean by that is do they write from main ideas to details?

Or are they more like a qualitative researcher that goes from the details?

And then the main ideas emerge from the details.

But there are two different ways of organizing and that's a perfect example of how I have to be flexible because I want to pay attention to how they process.

So, if they process from the details of the main ideas, it's a slightly different idea, even though it's a similar formula.

It's interesting because it makes me think about my observations when I started to become conscious of the way I mind map and the way I taught mind mapping, I would teach people who are experts in mind mapping already in the dyslexia word and they go, this is amazing, Darius, your way of mind mapping is different and I'm like no, this is the way Tony Buzan wants people to mind map and they're like, no, I've been taught by Tony Buzan and this is not the way he did it, it ends up being the same way, but there's something different about it and I don't quite know what it is they would say.

And then I realized that often the way I map is, there's two ways to map similar to what you're talking about, the big ideas, the details, or the details of the big ideas.

When Tony Buzan would teach it, he would start with the main idea in the middle, take branching main ideas off that and then add details onto the branches and that would be such a delightful way of doing things.

If you were such a well-structured thinker as he was and many people are, but I'm not that structured and so what I find is often if you can imagine a cloud of ideas and words around the edge of the page and then you start pulling things closer into the center and then gradually you discover what the main concept is and the main branches are and it distills and crystallizes in the middle.

So often I would find that I would create a map from the outside in rather than from the inside out, do you see what I mean?

Yes, now don't do that all the time, that's what meant that I created this halfway house, Having the bullet point list is like having this random cloud of ideas that you then start taking keywords and bringing them into the center of the map so that you know that those are the main ideas and then we, you've got them, you can then grow back out and add the details in.

So, it's, it's a kind of combination of both, you know, starting from the outside, finding what the anchor idea is adding in main ideas, adding in the details, so if you're a list thinker or systematic thinker, the bullet point will really help you if you're not etcetera.

Each element has something that really helps people, and you don't always have to do it that way.

And one of the things that I've noticed is that Children, it's a journey of discovery for them, they really love the doodles, or they really love the branching or normally in a map I noticed there are three things you either have a keyword, a branch, or a doodle.

So, a keyword branch or doodle.

And I've noticed that students are either are often default attracted to one or two of them, but very weak on the other.

So some students are really strong on words and structure of branches and organizing it, but when it comes to doodling or visualizing it or something like that, they're like, oh no, I don't like that, I don't know how to do that and it becomes a learned skill and they see the benefits of it, they don't have to do it, but they need to know how to do it.

And it reminds me a bit of your eclectic learning profile where you've got like, you know, lots of different learning styles, you know, experiential, social, visual verbal, that sort of thing.

How sometimes it's useful to have this sort of range of things you can do, work with what you find natural and then develop what you don't find so natural not because you have to do it that way, but sometimes it can unlock something special for you so that you know, you've got it in your toolkit when you need it Absolutely, and what you're really touching on is that multisensory and if we tie that into executive functioning, we're going back to working memory because working memory really collects all the sensory information, right?

And if we collect all that sensory information is going to be easier for us to organize the information and encode it and retrieve.

But it's being aware of all those things.

But the sense is by making things multisensory and I think you and I just do that we do that.

Maybe that's because we both have dyslexia and that's our coping mentality or something.

But multisensory is, to me such an important piece of it because when you go multisensory, you're giving multiple anchors so that you can really access the kind of speaking multiple languages simultaneously.



And when you overlap them it's easier to learn.

Yes, because like if you I kind of sometimes think of the multisensory, you know, if you're speaking visually there's a visual element, there's a verbal element, there's some movement in there, there's some color in there.

There's what are all the senses, kinesthetic, et cetera.

There's lots of different senses being said if a person's natural language is movement or color or visual or verbal or words you inadvertently start speaking their language and they start really absorbing that language.

It's kind of like, well you do not everybody does.

There are those teachers that really pressure kids to process the way that works for them because they have trouble understanding that anybody would process differently and they're so excited about this success that they experienced with the way that they processed.

They assume that everybody else will have as much success as they do.

It's very true and I'm not immune from it either.

You know, I mean I am very visual, I like maps.

I like, you know, mapping information out visually etcetera.

And it's tempting to assume that everyone else would.

But my wife hates it.

My wife's like a director of bullet map academy, she's a director bullet map academy.

She can't map and she doesn't like it, but she realizes she doesn't want it or need it.

But others do right.

And that was such an incredible teaching.

I mean the fact that she couldn't do it was such a great teaching lesson for you to understand that not everybody.


I think my biggest wake up moment on how different people process information was when my wife and I went to university for a second time in adulthood as mature students.

We both went to university, we did exactly the same course part time while we were working, and we had the same reading materials and we had to write the same essays and assignments and it's a bit weird.

Okay, but the moment you start doing that it makes the differences in the way you think so clear because when you're at home, like for example I be a lecture we'd have a three-hour lecture, we'd come home, and I want to talk all about it and she's like no Darius don't talk to me about it.

I'm like why don't you want to discuss it?

She's like, no, I really need to process it and she would need 2 to 3 days before she could talk about it, so that would make her kind of a logical and reflective thinker.


Whereas I really need to digest it by discussing it with someone and verbally processing it and what about this?

And what about that?

And is it like this, is it like that and really explore a creative and so on, what would that be in that would be verbal, your verbal learner.

So, I think Everybody is on their 12 different ways of learning and everybody's on the continuum, but there were in different places.


So then when it came to writing, for example, reading a book, I have to underline highlight, scribble, bends the pages, write notes in the margins, and basically digest it by writing and scribbling and so on.

It's, I just buy a book, it's still a whole book.

But I feel like I'm a contributor to the author, I have to write notes and ask questions and underline and highlight.

And my wife, nothing is allowed to touch the book.

The book has to be pristine.

She takes exact notes of full quotes and things like that and very systematic and structured.

So, I couldn't read a book before she did, because I would destroy it and she was like, I can't read this, that's so interesting and in fact I process it even differently.

Whereas when, when I was in graduate school, a lot of my professors asked me if they could use my diagrams because anytime I read like one of their articles or a chapter, I would create kind of a web and a map and an image that followed the sequence of the logic.

Because, you know, when you're studying education and so much is in theory there's not a lot to visualize that.

I would create these really cool maps and they love them and they're like, wow, can we have them?

That would be really nice to have it to go with the article or with the chapter.

So yeah, to me, it's more of the simultaneous processing that I need.

Sequential processing makes me uncomfortable for some reason, which is just a different way of organizing.

Maybe that's the sequence.

Sequential processing maybe is an issue in my, my type of dyslexia because I think everybody has a different type, but I love categorizing things and seeing how they connect, which is more of that kind of simultaneous processing.

So, it's so interesting.

So yes, it goes right back to the idea that we all process in a very, very unique way, depending on our strengths and our capabilities.

And I think if we are sensitive to that with our students, it can be really game changing.

But I also want to talk some more about some other technology tools that we like for teaching writing, you told me about WordTune, and I love it's so cool, some teachers would say that it's cheating?

But it's not because you had the initial idea, you had the initial sentence and it's just giving you different ways of organizing it and maybe a few different words that you can use and what I'm noticing with my students that are using it, they're also learning to think a little differently and they're learning to organize things a little differently and they still have to choose what sentence they want to use and before I go any further, Darius tell us what word tune is.

Well, word tune is this incredible development of artificial intelligence, machine learning in the realm of language, you know?

So originally we had like spell checkers, which is a form of machine learning and then we've got like Graham Early which is incredible in terms of restructuring your grammar and finding mistakes, it's like spell check on speed and then there's word tune which is like if you've ever experienced Graham early, it's kind of like Graham early but very specifically different and better in that occasionally Graham Early will give you certain suggestions on how to rephrase something.

But this word tune is very specific, you choose a sentence, and you click the WordTune button, and it drops down six alternative ways of saying that same sentence.

So, it might be slight changes or big changes or rewording?

And this machine learning is kind of guessing and saying, are you trying to say this?

Are you trying to say in this way, and you read it and you go gosh, that is what I'm trying to say.

And sometimes it's like the way a grown up would say it or someone would say it formally or whatever.

And so, what I find using word tune is that it's kind of like using spell check over and over again.

You start learning the spelling, you know, you don't just miss the mistake, you keep noticing it until finally you learn that spelling after two or three years.

If you're dyslexic, other people might learn it after like two weeks of getting it wrong and then it clicks and fine for me it can take years same.

I'm finding with word tune the way they're free rephrasing a sentence.

I see that and I go gosh, that's great.

And then I would go away and start applying that phrase more and more to other things that I write.

So, it's actually educating me in how to phrase.

It's not cheating.

It's yes, I'm getting the result but I'm also learning as I go along, and I'm being taught as I go along.

It reminds me of whenever I get my wife to proofread what I do with dyslexia, I have to get someone to proofread what I do, it's a bit awkward because I write this whole page or article, it's maybe been a day or so since I've done it?

I give it to her and then she starts giving me feedback on it and I've forgotten that phraseology but with something like word tune it's giving me instant feedback and I go ah yes and it's that instant feedback loop that is so helpful with some of this technology.

Oh, I totally agree.

And you know another piece that I teach all my students is the importance of using a thesaurus.

If you if they're using google docs there are addons that you can use, or we can open a separate tab.

And that way you can either toggle back and forth or you can open both of them on the screen at the same time which I like to do so that you're not overusing words but at the same time you're developing your vocabulary.

I mean I would say that when I discovered that in high school using a thesaurus my vocabulary started to just explode because I had so much fun, I'm like oh what's another way of saying enormous wow that's a great word, I've heard that, but I have never really used it and it's just it's just such a great way to expand just that word.

Op those word options for kids.

You just highlighted working memory hack there.

Okay, so one of the interesting things that working memory is kind of my main hotspot because it overlaps between dyslexia and executive function as we've talked about in a previous episode and handling working memory.

Working memory difficulties often co-occurs with dyslexia doesn't necessarily cause dyslexia, but it co-occurs with it, and I've got smaller working memory.

So, I have to find hacks and one of the hacks is using split screens so you can see it right on one side and you move it directly onto the other, so you're not having to use your working memory very much to hold that information temporarily and put it somewhere else.

So, if you're flicking between screens, you switch one on and then you close it down and you go to another one, you've got to use some of your working memory to hold onto that information temporarily and put it in there.

And while you're doing that, you're restricting the other information and thinking processes that you've got in there as well.

Whereas if you split screen on your iPad or your screen or a book right beside you, those are working as your temporary memories.

And you can take the load off your working memory.

So, I just think that's a useful takeaway in terms of the meta level of understanding working memory with all of these processes is try not to unnecessarily overload your working memory with trivial stuff.

Like trying to remember something between one web pages another and just split screen.

It Yeah, yeah, that was a really, really great point.

Well, I feel like this was a really, really valuable podcast.

I really enjoyed talking about this.

It was lovely to dive a little deeper into some of your processes and to share some of mine, and I hope this was helpful for the audience.

Yes, I hope you enjoyed that.

And Erica loved it.


Looking forward to the next session.

I think we're going to talk about learned helplessness, aren't we?

We are.

I'm really looking forward to that.

We've talked about it.

We've touched on it in so many episodes, and you and I just said, oh my gosh, we just have to prioritize that.

So that's what we're going to be doing next time.

Great, speak to you then.

Great, bye.

Thank you for joining our conversation here at the personal brain trainer podcast.

This is dr Erica.

Warren and Darius Namdaran.  Check out the show notes for links to resources mentioned in the podcast, and please leave us a review and shares on social media until next time.