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Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Help for Frustrated Writers

Writing is a subject I could spend a lot of time on. It consists of several processes, any one of which can have various idiosyncrasies. First, writing begins with thought. Students who have language disabilities can have difficulty with word retrieval, vocabulary, grammar and syntax or spelling. They can have trouble generating new ideas, organizing, and elaborating. Summarizing and concluding  involve higher order thinking skills that many students with disabilities are not taught. Then there is the motor planning component. Holding a pencil correctly, forming letters and holding on to a thought can be exhausting for some students. Keyboarding isn't much easier.

Brainstorming and organizing are essential to the writing process, but so is spelling. Students who have learned some basic phonics principles may have trouble spelling, so they need some assistance in that area. Some do well enough just by using spell-check features of word processors, but there is a program that is excellent and adaptable called Co:Writer. It’s fairly expensive - $290 -but the good news is the app is only $17.99. Co:Writer accepts the input of the student and gives up to 6 choices in a drop-down menu. If the student is unsure about which word is the one she wants, she can mouse-over the words and the program pronounces them one at a time. In addition, you can enter special dictionaries of your own to teach about specific topics such as anatomy or paleontology.

I always tell my students how important their writing is. There is no one else in the world with their viewpoints and we won't know what life is like for them if they don't tell us. The world needs to hear from each of us, for we each have something important to say. Are you writing? A journal, a blog, a book, or just grocery lists. They all tell the world about you.

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