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Prevention and Intervention of Writing Difficulties for Students with Learning Disabilities

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Picture Books as Framing Texts: Research Paper Strategies for Struggling Writers

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Some students benefit from having their math problems machine copied in enlarged format with additional white space, as this also prevents errors in copying the problem. Some students perform better in manuscript whereas other students perform better using cursive. Allowing work to be completed by computer word processing helps the student use staging more efficiently while also bypassing the mechanical difficulties of letter form and space.

Hold students responsible for correct spelling on final drafts, encouraging use of a phonics-based spell checker, such as one of the Franklin Electronic Resources with a speaking component. It is unfair and counterproductive to make a student with writing problems stay in for recess to finish work. These children need more movement time, not less.

The most efficient compensation for any student who struggles with basic letter form and spacing is to develop efficient word-processing skills. Parents and teachers need to be aware; however, that it is very difficult to go through life totally avoiding use of paper and pencil and, consequently, it is important for each student to develop at least some basic handwriting skills.

Specific multisensory strategies designed for dysgraphic students are useful for any student who needs help developing appropriate letter form and automatic motor movements. Specific remedial strategies that incorporate air writing, use of the vertical plane chalkboard , simultaneous verbal cues, and reinforcement with tactile input, are most effective Richards, Students are able to learn keyboarding skills at a very young age.

However, keyboarding development requires practice and many students complain that the practice is especially boring. This can be a problem because consistency and frequency of practice are very important in developing automaticity. Consequently, it is useful to have the student practice keyboarding on a daily basis, but only for very short period of time each day.

In early elementary, the student may practice only 5 to 10 minutes a night. In upper elementary, the practice sessions could be 10 to 15 minutes a night. If the student is just beginning to learn keyboarding as a teenager, it may be necessary to extend the practice sessions to 15 to 20 minutes a night. The consistency of the practice is critical. Many fun and efficient software programs are available to help students learn appropriate keyboarding. Offering access to a variety of programs helps decrease boredom and allows for choice, as the student may select different software each night.

Alternate programs have also been developed which teach keyboarding skills based on the alphabetical sequence. One such program starts with the left hand and uses a poem which begins, "little finger a, reach for b, same finger c, d, e," King, Initially, as the student is learning, correct finger should not be required when he is typing for content, as this greatly increases the demands on active working memory.

For most students, the habits developed during typing practice will eventually integrate with the finger used while concentrating on ideation and content. Once a student learns word-processing skills, she will have the option of progressing to use of voice-activated software, such as Dragon NaturallySpeaking. Such software allows the student to dictate into a microphone without the need for direct typing on the keyboard. However, this is a higher level skill which is much more efficient once the student knows and understands basic word processing and writing skills.

Clear enunciation, lack of slurring words, and use a precise preplanning and organization are critical for success with voice-activated programs. This is particularly laborious for older students in high school or college, who have much greater note taking demands.

While a laptop computer can be efficient, it can be cumbersome to carry around. Also, it is expensive to fix or replace a vandalized, dropped, or otherwise broken computer. A successful alternative that has become popular with some older students is the use of a personal digital assistant PDA such as the PalmPilot series or the Visor Handspring series.

These units are quite small palm size and easy to transport in a backpack. A nearly standard size keyboard can be attached which greatly facilitates typing and, hence, note- taking. This is especially useful for recording homework assignments and "to do" lists. To illustrate, adults can typically spell 10, or more words correctly, but are only taught how to spell about 3, words while in school, and not all those words are mastered.

Consequently, both formal and informal methods should be stressed, as neither by itself is powerful enough to ensure the attainment of spelling competence. This does not mean, however, that equal amounts of both should be provided. Instead, the level of formal and informal instruction needed by individual children, including those with LD, will vary and should be adjusted accordingly.

With balanced instruction, the fulcrum is the child, and balance depends on what the child needs. Teachers do struggling writers no favor when they suggest, even implicitly, that one or more of these are unimportant. Likewise, the amount of emphasis placed on each area should be adjusted so that it is consistent with the needs of the child.

For example, Juel found that some children who were poor writers had difficulties with both form e. Thus, some of the students in her study would have benefited from additional help in both areas, whereas other students needed help in only one. Currently, spelling, planning, and revising are the areas we know most about tailoring writing instruction to meet the needs of students with LD. According to Graham , an effective spelling program for students with LD includes 4 components. One, students with LD need to be taught how to spell words they commonly use when writing.

Validated procedures for teaching spelling vocabulary to these students are summarized in Table 2. Two, students with LD need to learn how to generate plausible spellings for unknown words. Three, students with LD need to know how to check and correct any misspellings that occur. This includes learning to use spell checkers and other aides, such as a dictionary, soliciting editing assistance from others, and applying strategies such as reading text aloud to locate spelling miscues.

Four, students with LD need to develop a desire to spell words correctly. Teachers can promote this inclination by modeling correct spelling when writing in class and providing plenty of opportunities for students to share, display, and publish their writing to promote attention to correct spelling in practical and social situations.

Undoubtedly, the use of traditional procedures, such as a predictable writing routine where planning and revising are expected and reinforced see Table 1 for other examples , increases the likelihood that students with LD will engage in these processes when writing.

With this approach i. Support ranges from the teacher working as a partner in applying the strategy to peers helping each other apply the strategy to simple reminders to use part or all of the strategy.

Students also learn any background knowledge needed to apply the strategy, develop a thorough understanding of how the strategy can support their writing, and systematically investigate where and how to apply the strategy beyond the initial learning situation i.

Learning and application of the strategy is further supported through the use of self-instructions, goal setting, self-monitoring, and self-evaluation. To illustrate, children often develop and use a specific self-statement for managing some aspect of their behavior e. Finally, instruction is criterion-based, as students do not move to later stages of instruction e. These include brainstorming, semantic webbing, generating and organizing writing content using text structure e.

For readers interested in a more detailed presentation of these strategies or the Self-Regulated Strategy Development Model, see Harris and Graham This interest is based primarily on the assumption that early intervention programs yield more powerful benefits than efforts aimed at remediating problems in later grades.

The basic goal is to help struggling writers catch up with their peers early, before their difficulties become more intractable. Such programs typically seek to accelerate the progress of struggling writers by providing them with additional instruction, either in a small group or through one-on-one tutoring.

To date, only 4 studies have examined the effectiveness of early intervention programs in writing. In each study, young children received extra instruction in either handwriting or spelling from an adult tutor, classroom aide, or a parent volunteer.

In the earliest study Berninger et al. The handwriting treatments evaluated 5 alternatives for learning how to write the lower-case letters of the alphabet: After 8 hours of instruction with a specially trained tutor, children in the 5 treatment groups made greater improvements in handwriting than students in the contact control condition, with the most successful treatment being the one where children wrote the letter from memory after examining a copy containing numbered arrows.

This finding is especially noteworthy because it showed transfer from instruction in handwriting to composition fluency, at least for the group that made the largest handwriting gains.

A second investigation by Jones and Christensen extended this initial finding by demonstrating that supplemental handwriting instruction improved not only the handwriting of 1st grade children with poor penmanship, but the quality of their writing as well. Over the course of an 8-week period, the participating children received extra handwriting instruction individually or in a small group from a teacher aide or parent volunteer 10 minutes per day.

Instruction focused on learning how to form the lower-case letters of the alphabet, correcting errors in letter formation, and writing letters fluently. At the end of the 8-week period, both the handwriting and story writing quality of children who received this extra instruction improved to the point where it was indistinguishable from that of their regular peers who were initially better hand writers and story writers.

A third study by Graham, Harris, and Fink replicated the earlier finding that supplemental handwriting instruction can boost compositional fluency, but it did not replicate the finding that it enhances writing quality as well.

First-grade children with poor handwriting were randomly assigned to a handwriting treatment condition and a contact control condition i. The handwriting treatment included instruction in naming, identifying, and writing the lower-case letters of the alphabet as well as repeated writing exercises designed to increase handwriting fluency.

After approximately 7 hours of instruction provided by specially trained tutors, students assigned to the handwriting condition made greater improvements in handwriting than those in the contact control group.

They also evidenced greater gains in crafting sentences, as in Berninger et al. Handwriting instruction, however, did not improve the overall quality of the stories that these children produced. On 6-month follow-up probes, most of the advantages obtained by the handwriting group were maintained, including their superiority in crafting sentences no conclusions could be drawn about story writing, though, as this measure was not administered at this point.

In contrast to the first 3 investigations, a fourth study by Berninger et al. Second-grade children who were poor spellers were randomly assigned to 7 spelling treatment groups and a contact control condition i. Specially trained tutors provided approximately 8 hours of instruction to students. Children in the spelling groups made greater gains in spelling than those in the contact control condition. For one of the experimental groups, spelling instruction also resulted in improved writing performance i.

Students in this group were taught common phoneme- spelling associations; practiced new spellings by pointing to each letter in a left-to-right order while simultaneously saying the sound; and used their spelling words when writing a short composition. Although additional replication is needed, the findings from this study suggest that early and extra spelling instruction can also have a beneficial effect on compositional fluency.

These finding have important implications for the prevention of writing problems, as data collected by Berninger and her colleagues indicate that impaired compositional fluency in the primary grades may serve as the developmental origin of writing problems in later grades. Some caution, however, must be exercised in the selection of early intervention programs for handwriting or spelling, as many of the approaches employed in the studies by Berninger et al. Additional research is needed to identify other approaches for preventing writing problems.

Early intervention practices that are likely to be effective include allocating additional time for writing, providing individually guided assistance when writing, and supplying additional help in mastering critical skills, such as planning, revising, and sentence construction. Such approaches would provide a broader and richer range of options for accelerating the writing progress of young children with LD and other struggling writers in the primary grades.

As is often the case, Snoopy is sitting on top of his dog house, banging away on his typewriter, when Lucy asks to look at what he has written. She quickly renders her decision: During literacy instruction, such negative views may take the form of more criticism, less attention and praise, fewer interactions with the teacher, and briefer and less informative feedback. These children may be viewed as so challenging that a form of pedagogical paralysis occurs, as teachers are uncertain about what to do or lack confidence in their own capabilities to successfully teach these children.

However, the findings from the study by Englert and her associates Englert et al. A critical element in designing a successful writing program for these students is recognizing that they are capable. This belief was evident in an interview with a first grade teacher who had been identified by her principal as an outstanding literacy instructor. She indicated that she approached each child as a competent learner-one who can learn to work productively and independently in the classroom.

Another essential ingredient was articulated by a second outstanding literacy teacher. He indicated that the weaker students in his classroom are never shown disrespect.

For example, he has made sitting next to him a special honor in his class, so when he sits next to weaker students to support them, no stigma is attached to time spent interacting with the student. We believe that it is also important to ignore negative expectations e. She goes on to explain that she felt smart when she woke up this morning, but it started to snow as she was walking to school and that all those snowflakes must have cooled down her brain. A critical element in enhancing the writing development of children like Peppermint Patty, the perennial D student, is to identify and address obstacles that impede their success in learning to write.

Children with LD may exhibit one or more maladaptive behaviors, including a low tolerance for failure, attention difficulties, and problems in activating and orchestrating the processes involved in learning. For instance, teachers at the Benchmark School, a facility for children with LD, identified 32 academic and nonacademic roadblocks experienced by their students.

This included difficulties such as impulsivity, disorganization, inflexibility, lack of persistence, frequent absences, poor home support, and so forth. An investigation by Sexton, Harris, and Graham provides one example of how this can be accomplished. This study focused on 5th- and 6th-grade students with LD who had writing difficulties and displayed a low level of motivation and maladaptive beliefs about the causes of success and failures.

These students were not only taught a planning strategy to help them improve their written work, but instruction also included a component designed to address their maladaptive attributions. Students were encouraged to attribute their success to effort and use of the planning strategy.

They also learned to use self-statements e. An investigation by Harris, Graham, Reid, McElroy, and Hamby provides a second example of how interfering roadblocks can be addressed. This study involved 5th- and 6th-grade students with LD who had difficulty staying on task because of difficulties with attention. To address this situation, the participating students were taught to daily count and graph the number of words produced while writing.

In a final Peanuts cartoon, Sally is sharing her report with the class. After telling the class her paper is about Walter Diemer, the man who invented bubble gum, she stops and blows a bubble. She then proceeds to inform the class that we are all grateful to Mr. Diemer, stopping once again to blow another bubble. As MacArthur noted, technological tools can make the process of writing easier as well as more motivating for students with LD.

Word processing, for example, provides at least 3 possible advantages for these students: Technological tools can also provide support for planning and revising through the use of outlining and semantic mapping software, multimedia applications, and prompting programs. In addition, text production processes can be supported or even circumvented in some instances by using spell checkers, word prediction programs, grammar and style checkers, and speech synthesis.

Finally, the use of computer networks allows children to collaborate and communicate easily with audiences that extend beyond their classroom. This senior, who had trouble writing and focusing his attention, typically produced what he referred to as "the bare minimum" when completing written assignments. Once he started composing on a computer that allowed him to dictate text, his papers became more complete, as he could now "write stuff in detail" because he could speak it in detail.

Although technology can support and even change how students with LD write, it is important to keep in mind that it does not make writing instruction superfluous. For instance, many of these students often fail to take advantage of the power of word processing when revising because they continue to revise in the same old way, mostly trying to correct mechanical errors.

Teaching them to focus their attention on substantive changes when revising, however, can result in a much greater use of the editing features of word processing, as the students are more likely to make additions and rewrite parts of their text. Similarly, a spell checker will not eliminate spelling errors or the need for spelling instruction, as students with LD only correct about one-half of their errors when using such devices.

Clearly, the impact of technological tools will be restricted if students with LD fail to develop the knowledge, skill, will, and self-regulation so critical to effective writing. In this paper, we outlined 6 principles that we believe can help prevent as well as alleviate the writing difficulties experienced by children with LD.

One, we focused only on what the school can do and not on other critical constituencies such as the family or the community. Two, individual schools or school systems will undoubtedly need to add additional principles that are responsive to their specific situations.

Preventing writing difficulties and intervening successfully when such problems occur requires a sustained and concerted effort on the part of the school, parents, and the community. For many children with LD, writing problems are a chronic, not a temporary, condition. There is no quick or easy fix that will make their problems disappear.

It is not only important to intervene early, but also to provide a sustained and coherent effort over time. Theory-based diagnosis and remediation of writing disabilities. Journal of School Psychology, 29, Treatment of handwriting problems in beginning writers: Transfer from handwriting to composition.

Journal of Educational Psychology, 89, Early intervention for spelling problems: Teaching functional spelling units of varying size with a multiple-connections framework. Journal of Educational Psychology, 90, Written language instruction for children with mild handicaps: Is there enough quantity to ensure quality? Learning Disability Quarterly, 12, Literacy learning in whole language classrooms: An analysis of low socioeconomic urban children learning to read and write in kindergarten.

Issues in literacy research and instruction pp. High tech for the disabled. Education Review, July 26, The Early Literacy Project: Connecting across the literacy curriculum.

Learning Disability Quarterly, 18, Spelling unfamiliar words by an analogy strategy. Journal of Special Education, 19, Making writing and self-talk visible: Cognitive strategy instruction writing in regular and special education classrooms.

American Educational Research Journal, 28,

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essay questions for the salem witch trials Research Paper Strategies For Struggling Writers ap language synthesis essays essays website. For example, in our own research (Graham, Harris, MacArthur, & Schwartz, b; Harris & Graham, ), we have successfully taught students with LD to use the same kinds of planning and revising strategies that more skilled writers use when they compose.