Teacher tip: A simple highlighter trick to help your child with writing

By The Understood Team

Updated January 31, 2024

When kids are struggling writers or have dysgraphia, they may have poor handwriting and trouble with spelling. They may also struggle with getting their thoughts down on paper. It may be hard for them to read back what they’ve written. They may fatigue easily or avoid writing altogether.

When writing gets in the way of kids learning or showing what they know, having them dictate their responses to a scribe can be an appropriate accommodation. At home, that scribe may be you.

When you scribe for your child at home, here’s a way to get your child more involved in the process. This tip helps your child take ownership of their written work — and provides some handwriting practice, too.

All you’ll need is a thin yellow highlighter and a piece of lined paper. When your child dictates, use the highlighter to record, word for word, their thoughts and responses. Be sure that you’re using good letter formation. Pay attention to the lines and margins on the page, and use appropriate spacing between words. After your child has finished dictating, hand over the paper on which you’ve scribed.

Next, have your child trace over the yellow text with a pencil, starting with the very first word and continuing down to the last punctuation mark. When they’re finished tracing, have them read what they’ve written and make any changes without your help (if possible). Then, have them read it aloud to you.

You may be amazed at how well your child adapts to this scribing method. Just keep in mind that scribing shouldn’t replace good classroom writing instruction. Also, be sure to explore the wide range of assistive technology tools available for struggling writers, like keyboards and dictation software.

—Ginny Osewalt is a dually certified elementary and special education teacher with 14 years of experience in the classroom. She is also an Understood expert.


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