Facing the Writing Challenges

April 04, 2019

Open-ended writing can be dreadfully difficult for school-struggling children.  On so many levels, they find the task to be overwhelming.

For those who are struggling, the more common classroom writing tasks that encourage the child to write as he/she feels is problematic.  The typical “write about your weekend,” is a classic open-ended prompt that struggling children have no idea how to proceed.

To address writing problems, schools typically recommend occupational therapy (OT).  While OT serves certain purposes, for the vast majority of children with writing issues the remediation given by OT typically centers upon the motor-aspects of writing and does not address the more challenging aspects of the writing process.

In short, they find the whole process overwhelming.

While this is a drum that we have been beating for number of years, there are no signs of any changes taking place on any meaningful level and the ongoing demand to just keep writing persists.

With the structured approaches the children are taught at very basic sentence levels. The remediation needed is long and laborious.

They practice the writing of a simple sentence until they have mastered the basic concept.  For example, the children are taught that every sentence has a triangle which represents the subject of the sentence, as well as a square, which is the action or the verb.

Simple sentences are generated.

The children  play   

Once simple sentences are mastered,  more complex sentences can be practiced and generated.

(The happy children played in the school playground after doing their schoolwork.”)

As different sentence styles are mastered and internalized by the child, he/she can work on the concept of one paragraph containing a topic sentence and four or five supporting sentences.

This processes is highly sequential and based in skill-mastery in order to develop fundamental writing skills.

The approach is clearly in opposition to the more popular, open-ended approaches that are the norm in schools across the country.  These sequential approaches that are so crucial are often criticized as depriving the child of creativity.  They certainly do not tend to tap into the child’s imaginative processes.

However, when the child is unable to understand the components of writing a basic sentence, this lack of understanding clearly impacts any potential creativity and their ability to communicate effectively in writing.

Having assessed thousands of kids in my career, I am continually struck by the challenges children face when it comes to their writing.  At a very basic level, they have little to no idea what goes into the writing of a sentence, no less a paragraph or a more involved and complex essay.  For children who are on the dyslexic/LD spectrum, their writing problems are profound.

For children who are on the smooth road and who seem to have little problem with the writing process, business as usual in school is fine for them.

For the children of concern, the ones on the rougher road, we need to find alternatives to help them become fundamentally literate.

Just telling them to do more of it is unacceptable.  It’s like handing a kid a tennis racket and telling them just play the game without showing them how to grip the racket or how to hit a forehand.

The fundamentals need to be taught directly and practiced over time to be internalized.


Copyright, 2018 www.shutdownlearner.com
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All comments (8)
  • Magge McCann
    April 05, 2019 at 5:54 pm

    Great blog today. It's so important for children to learn how to establish a simple structure and then build on it.

    Reply
  • Donna Lyons
    April 05, 2019 at 9:37 pm

    So how do you go about teaching the fundamentals of writing? I have an 8 year old who struggles with reading and writing greatly and […] Read MoreSo how do you go about teaching the fundamentals of writing? I have an 8 year old who struggles with reading and writing greatly and it is a struggle for me to teach them because writing comes so easily to me that I really don’t remember how I started out writing at all. Read Less

    Reply
    • Richard Selznick, Ph.D.
      @Donna Lyons
      April 11, 2019 at 11:07 pm

      Hi Donna: I know what you mean. My best advice would be to keep it very simple. Start with simple and very basic sentences. […] Read MoreHi Donna: I know what you mean. My best advice would be to keep it very simple. Start with simple and very basic sentences. Try and get across the idea that every sentence has to have those basic elements and then practice them over and over until it is internalized. Email me and I may be able to get you some suggestions. Read Less

      Reply
  • Lorri Bond
    April 06, 2019 at 1:09 am

    A writing curriculum I’ve used that follows this pattern is the Institute for Excellence in Writing. I’ve also been learning about The Writing Revolution, […] Read MoreA writing curriculum I’ve used that follows this pattern is the Institute for Excellence in Writing. I’ve also been learning about The Writing Revolution, which seems very systematic, and excellent for students with dyslexia. Both of these curricula would work well in a homeschool setting because they use a unit study approach (the writing is based on a subject the student is already studying). Read Less

    Reply
    • Richard Selznick, Ph.D.
      @Lorri Bond
      April 11, 2019 at 11:09 pm

      Nice!!!! Great suggestions. Are there website links you can share?

      Reply
    • Ginny
      @Richard Selznick, Ph.D.
      April 20, 2019 at 1:54 pm

      https://www.iew.com/ This is the link to Institute for Excellence in Writing. Quite formulaic and my DD who has no LD issues hated it. Decided to start […] Read Morehttps://www.iew.com/ This is the link to Institute for Excellence in Writing. Quite formulaic and my DD who has no LD issues hated it. Decided to start using it with my LD son and it appears to be a good fit. Read Less

      Reply
    • Nancy Lynn Barth
      @Lorri Bond
      April 19, 2019 at 7:33 pm

      Ha! I missed your comment! I agree with your suggestions.

      Reply

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