Parent came round last night to go to a meeting with my wife. Her son had always had problems with writing, and was having trouble with his degree in a practical subject that needed a lot of writing. This is what we did in one session on the family's kitchen table.
1. I explained the basis of sentence construction, beginning with verb, and making the crucial point that not all verbs do things. This old idea of a verb as a doing word prevents people from using their knowledge of verbs to construct sentences, as the most frequent verbs, to be and to have, do not do anything. Then the concept of subject, and finally link words to put more ideas into one sentence.
2. We went through his latest piece of coursework, pointing out where he had repeated the subject of a sentence or introduced a new subject without adding strong punctuation (ie more than a comma) or using a linkword. We discussed how this might be changed, and the student got the idea at once.
3. We looked at some simple ideas for organising work, including De Bono's Consider All Factors, and Plus, Minus, interesting, and the use of bullets to concentrate ideas.
4. I introduced the slimmed down spelling idea.
A bright student, but how did he come to leave secondary school with all of these problems, when they could be so easily sorted? This was about eight months ago, and we've had no problems since then. Student reports that his writing is shorter and his marks higher.