Learning disabilities & writing, Part 2
In Part 1 of Learning Disabilities and Writing, I broadly defined three particular learning challenges: ADHD, dysgraphia, and dyslexia, specifically identifying how each affects a student’s writing.
Well, it’s one thing to put your finger on the problem, but quite another to find a working solution! We often get the question, “Does WriteShop work for children with learning disabilities?” For many older students with ADHD, dysgraphia, and dyslexia, WriteShop does seem to be an excellent fit.
“WriteShop’s lessons tend to work well for many types of learning-disabled children because of their explicit instructions and requirements.” – Nancy, learning specialist
Below I’d like to share ways that WriteShop can help students who learn with difficulty. Bear in mind that WriteShop I and II are written for 6th grade and above. But the following tips may help you overcome writing hurdles no matter what writing program you choose.
Struggling learners benefit from specific instruction
- WriteShop instructions are written directly to the student in an orderly, step-by-step fashion. They not only include writing ideas and clear directions, but many lessons also tell the student what NOT to write about or include in the composition. Furthermore, the Teacher’s Manual includes tips for the parent so that you can anticipate the most common kinds of errors your child might make.
- Students do better when they can use graphic organizers such as mind-maps (clustering), charts, lists, or diagrams to help them outline and plan their work. WriteShop lessons provide many such opportunities for students to brainstorm and prepare for writing assignments.
- Students who are easily distracted or who spell poorly benefit from word banks. WriteShop’s comprehensive, topical word lists help students make better vocabulary choices because new words (and their spellings) are readily available.
- Checklists are vital to the struggling learner. It’s important for him to be able to mark his progress. WriteShop provides a lesson-specific Writing Skills Checklist for every writing assignment to help the student with his self-editing. A visually-overwhelmed student can use a plain sheet of paper to help him track each line of the checklist.
Struggling learners need reinforcement and repetition.
- WriteShop lessons build on previously-learned skills.
- Checklists help students apply these skills regularly.
Struggling learners benefit from alternative methods.
- The physical act of writing may be too challenging. Instead of making your student write by hand, allow her to dictate to you while you write or type. Usually a student will use more complex vocabulary and sentence structure when speaking, but if asked to write the same information, she will often choose shorter words and sentences. Allowing her to dictate to you helps ease her stress about writing.
- Perhaps she can edit and revise the draft you write and can recopy her own revision.
- Or allow her to use the computer, including the spell check function.
Struggling learners do better with strict parameters.
- They flounder when assignments are open-ended.
- WriteShop gives specific requirements for each lesson, from brainstorming to writing. Students always know what they need to do.
- WriteShop also restricts the number of paragraphs (usually just one) and paragraph length (at first 5-7 sentences but never more than 10 sentences in WriteShop I).
Struggling learners need bite-sized assignments.
- WriteShop’s lesson schedules spread out assignments to allow for paragraphs to rest between drafts.
- Assignments begin with prewriting activities and brainstorming exercises that narrow and focus in on the topic.
- Lesson instructions are written in a step-by-step manner.
Dyslexic/dysgraphic learners benefit from projects that build writing skills.
- Have them write letters, keep a diary, and make projects that use writing but are not writing-intensive, such as posters, mobiles, brochures, and cartoons.
- WriteShop’s Teacher’s Manual has a wonderful supplemental appendix that is filled with ideas you can use with students of all ages.
“Our son is a junior in high school, and writing has always been rather a nightmare for him. He has ADHD and getting thoughts and words on paper is a difficult and long, drawn-out process for him. BUT your curriculum so quickly gave him the tools to help him to put descriptive, concrete thoughts on paper that I am truly amazed at what he can write after only Lesson 4. I know of at least one other home schooling family that has a son with special learning needs, and they rave about your writing program as well.” –Laurie, NY
Photo: Patrick Bell, courtesy of Creative Commons.