I have been searching for research-based writing materials to support special needs students and have found a terrific program: Empowering Writers. I purchased teacher guides for both narrative and expository writing for grades 4-7 (including the volume pictured above) after hunting through multiple programs, reviewing their materials, and comparing them with my own experiences with students and observation of classroom writing instruction. I have found that the typical writing workshop approach leaves special needs kids in the dust. Often crying. My students need more examples (and non-examples) of each subset of skills, from introductory sentences to writing details. They need more direct practice and scaffolding of skills. Empowering Writers understands the need for specific skill instruction, sufficient teacher-led practice, and a well-organized scope and sequence of skills. This program also makes a strong link between reading and writing skills, using each to improve the other. Check out their blog on teaching writing to special needs kids.
If you visit the site, you’ll find that Empowering Writers has been crafted by experienced teachers who have used research to guide the development of their program. The materials are fabulous, with abundant examples and hands-on activities for kids who read at a wide range of abilities. The teacher guides include CD’s with student pages ready to print. Because they provide such a wealth of resources, I am not required to create everything from scratch, which I also appreciate!
I am adjusting my writing instruction based on the above teacher’s guide for expository writing. For example, instead of starting with main ideas (topics) and creating details, I am now eliciting details and having kids sort them into categories (topics). Empowering Writers has also shown me that I do not provide sufficient teacher modeling and practice on skills. I LOVE it when I can improve my skills. I’m going to purchase the guides for the lower elementary levels next. I can’t wait to see how my writers will blossom!