Open-ended writing can be dreadfully difficult for school-struggling children.  Many kids, especially in the early grades, find the task of writing to be overwhelming on a variety of levels.  Typically, schools recommend occupational therapy (OT) to address the issue.

While OT is a valid approach to start with, it really addressed to the lowest level of the process-defined-motor/motor-planning aspects of writing.

The problem is, beyond this level children often feel at a loss and the need much more guided and direct instruction.  To address writing difficulty, the intervention/remedial program needed is involved and follows a similar sequence to the structured, multisensory reading programs that are a part of the Orton-Gillingham methodologies.

With such structured approaches a child would be started at the smallest possible sentence level, that is a two-word sentences.  Children would be trained to see that every sentence has at least a square (now) and a triangle (verb).


Fish                        Swim.

(square)                 (triangle)

Kids would be practicing the mastery of two-word sentences before moving on to more complex 1’s.  When they have this skill mastered they can add other elements to the sentence, with the sentence such as the following:

The lively Fish swim.

(circle) (diamond) (square) (triangle)                

The corresponding shapes which would be on a white board in the form of manipulatives  provide children with tangible, visual anchors and allows them to understand that sentences have component parts.

The simple level of sentence structure would be practiced in many different ways with some variation to keep it interesting.  From there, more complex sentences can be introduced.

Once different sentence styles are mastered, the child can work on the concept of one paragraph, with a topic sentence and four or five supporting sentences.  This approach would represent a highly sequential skill-mastery approach to writing development and is contrary to the more popular open-ended approach that is the norm across the country.

To some, such an approach may not be seen as much fun, but it is an approach that the struggling 40%  of the school population can get their minds are around.

By practicing with smaller, digestible bites, the child can gain a sense of confidence that he or she does not typically experience with open-ended writing.

Adapted:  “School Struggles,” Richard Selznick, Ph.D. (Sentient Publications, 2012)