I previously posted on the value of eliciting student feedback on writing through surveys and graphs. I concluded that the student started to flounder while generating/mapping his ideas. What would account for this problem? Anxiety is a huge factor, which means that his higher thinking processes are compromised before a single word is written. Another detrimental factor relates to his assigned writing topics. He is not typically allowed to write about his personal interests; instead, he writes about seasonal and science /social studies topics. Third, his weak spelling skills are compromised as his working memory is depleted. Finally, I make inferences about his reasoning process, based upon my previous experiences with him and review of writing samples. I know that he appears to have word finding issues, with particular difficulty using descriptive words. Even with his favorite topics, this student often uses weak adjectives such as “nice” and “good.” In fact, his weaknesses in specificity are also apparent in conversations. He uses words like “things” and “stuff,” speaks in short sentences (often exclamations), and overuses adverbs. He does not qualify as speech-language disabled in part because he has a strong receptive and expressive vocabulary, can sequence his ideas well, and follows multi-step directions easily.
I have already taught him how to identify parts of speech, which has led to an improvement in his skills and confidence. My next steps will focus on improving his use of adjectives and ability to generate adjectives by category. I will begin at the receptive level, matching adjectives to nouns. The following is a sample using word cards and Velcro (no writing!).
I will address his spelling weaknesses through MegaWords, a solid program that focuses on syllable types, spelling patterns, and affixes.
I will make some use of McGraw Hill’s direct instruction program called Reasoning and Writing. I’ll have to pick and choose my lessons since his skills are uneven.
I’ll keep you “posted!”