Jul 102013

Is your child struggling with written expression?  Writing is one of the most difficult skills for a child with learning disabilities to master, and it was a significant challenge for us, but we overcame!

When teaching your child writing skills, you need a curriculum that focuses on helping your child develop content, thought organization into a readable essay or story, spelling, and punctuation. We used the programs below to help our boys become proficient writers in spite of their dyslexia, dysgraphia, and ADHD.

For many children with dysgraphia, writing is an arduous task. If your child HATES writing, I would suggest starting out with simple expectations and building on them… and I have one program recommendation for you as a starting point..

When we first started home schooling, tantrums ensued whenever I requested my child write something. So, I backed off trying to “teach” writing. My goal became just getting him over his hatred of writing. If your child “hates” writing, another option to consider is Brave Writer, and possibly the purchase of Julie Bogart’s “The Writer’s Jungle“. Click here to read my review of “The Writer’s Jungle”. A misprint copy of this product was sent to me for review. This program was good for helping my child get comfortable with writing in a journal, and free-flow writing.  It made him “confortable”, but he never did like writing–it was more a case of not being terrified of a blank page any more!

For a long time, my request was that my children write one paragraph EACH day, and a paragraph was defined as “at least three sentences”. I did not specifiy what they had to write, it was just “Anything you want to write about.” I did not check the work for any technical aspect–only to see they had written that day. This was the sum total of our writing program for quite awhile.

Often I got things like “The sky is blue. The grass is green. I hate writing.” Or “I got a toy. I like it. It is fun.” Of course, it was without punctuation, capitals, and often very sloppy, but I didn’t grade or criticize a thing. I simply said, “GREAT job!” as long as my child fulfilled the requirement of one paragraph of at least three sentences. (Sometimes I had difficulty determining where one sentence ended and the next began, but I defined it loosely for his benefit).

After my child self-initiated writing the paragraph daily without complaining, I upped the requirement to two paragraphs (which brought a lot of complaining), then made it two paragraphs on one subject (which brought copious amounts of complaining). After my child was self-initiated, and comfortable, at that level, we moved to three paragraphs on one subject.

This process took us two school years, but in the end I had a child who could write three paragraphs fairly easily, and didn’t think that writing was a dreadful task worthy of all avoidance tactics possible. He had become use to putting his thoughts on paper, which is the foundation for writing anyway.  However, the writing was somewhat random, and not generally what I’d consider ‘grade level’ writing.

The third year we started in with Write Source 2000 and began working on more structured writing. Write Source is very colorful, and uses a step-by-step type of approach. My child has done exceptionally well using this incremental approach to writing. He learned each step in producing a good written essay– prewriting (without worrying about anything techical), revising, editing, and producing the final draft. I did add in graphic organizers to help him visualize how to lay out a paper. Now he can write a wonderful essay.

You can find the **Write Source products at http://www.greatsource.com/. They also have a CD rom that goes along with their writing program which may help your son when you work on a formal writing program, but I would suggest starting with just trying to get over the whole “having to write is the end of the world” mindset these guys get when writing is so difficult for them.

After that, we discovered IEW’s Student Writing Intensive!

I found the **Institute for Excellence in Writing’s “Student Writing Intensive” – I ordered the first level of this product (Student Writing Intensive), but the Institute for Excellence in Writing sent it to me without cost along with a selection of other products to review. The program SWI course was so successful that we purchased the Student Writing Intensive Continuation Course and paid for it outright.

After years of working on writing, seeing little meaningful progress in independent content development for writing assignments, and even less of a love for writing, the Student Writing Intensive has been an unexpected relief in my life! Using the Student Writing Intensive (SWI) has brought about an interest in writing for my reluctant writers that NO other program has inspired.

Reluctant writers relate to Andrew Pudewa because he hated writing as a boy.  He can put writing instruction in terms that make sense, inspires an “I can do this” attitude, and he expresses feelings reluctant writers have towards writing projects. . Mr. Pudewa has an engaging presentation style that keeps my kids laughing while learning about writing.

Having the DVD program has allowed me to become “coach” rather than teacher, and my reluctant writers are responding much better to Mr. Pudewa’s requests to write than they do my requests!

We finished the Student Writing Intensive (SWI) in a couple of months and I anticipate using the **”Student Writing Continuation Course” this year as a means of furthering my guys’ writing skills. For now, I’m inspired by having my reluctant writers greet their writing instruction with anticipation and a degree of eagerness. If you have a reluctant writer, and wish your child would embrace writing, Mr. Pudewa’s Student Writing Intensive (SWI) DVD instruction series may be the ticket for your child too!   Truly, it is the first (only) writing program my kids have really LIKED.

The programs recommended below are carefully selected for recommendation based upon their ability to take a child from a struggling, non-writer, to a child who can readily put his thoughts onto paper in a logical manner.. My favorite three are those listed above, but one of the ones listed below might be better suited to you and your child.

Four Square Writing Method – Four Square is an innovative writing approach that can be used with all forms of writing. The program uses a step-by-step approach built around simple graphic organizers which show students how to collect ideas, then use those ideas to create clear and polished writings. This program is excellent for helping a reluctant writer get initial ideas down onto paper.

**Writing StrandsWriting Strands is a program designed to teach children how to use their language effectively in creative and expository modes. The upper levels of the series have creative, basic, research and report, argumentative, and explanatory training. The lower levels teach the skills needed by the students to be able to take advantage of the upper levels’ exercises. This program has a good amount of explanation about how to approach writing, and explains why a child would want to write using good writing practices. The program is incremental and good for taking a child from the earliest stages of written thought to organized, comprehensive papers.

**Write Source – (Top Choice) For writing we are using the Write Source 2000 books. They are very colorful, and the book starts with why we write, and them moves into designing a webpage (right up my child’s alley). The program has you do small simple writing assignments each day. A five paragraph essay is written over a week. Day one is just brainstorming ideas, day two is picking two of the ideas and seeing if the child could come up with three supporting statements, day three is picking one of the two ideas, and writing as much as he can think of about each supporting statement, etc. The program is in very small steps, but perfect for teaching a reluctant writer without making them dread the writing for the day. It is a good program that will teach a child how to approach paper writing in small steps without being overwhelmed with the thought of writing a full paper. Great Source has writing books for writing, thinking, and learning using the six traits of effective writing. The Write Source has complete curriculum sets for each grade level. What we like most about this program is the direct language, small steps, and vibrantly colored books. It makes learning to write a fun adventure. The program uses lively language, and thorough explanations to guide a child through the writing process.

You might consider some comfy rubber pencil grips to make it easier on your child’s hand as he writes too. Often kids with dysgraphia get a death grip on the pencil because of all of their tension over the task. The kind we got for regular pencils, and which will fit over thin mechanical pencils, are the ergonomic pencil grips. These grips help the child have the correct grip, provide comfort, and prevent blisters from writing. The grips also make it a little more ‘fun’ or novel. You can purchase grips to slide onto pencils and pens, or you can buy pencils or pens with the grips already built into them. We found the grips that you slide onto a standard width pencil or pen to be the most comfortable.

This page concentrates on the thought organization and content creation aspects of writing, known as written expression. Other aspects of writing are addressed on our Supplementary Language Arts Programs page and on the Curricula for Homeschooing and Teaching Handwriting to a Child with Dysgraphia page.


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