Ah, a flow chart seemed like an excellent idea at the time. And I think it would be effective if sorting out a student’s writing difficulties were as simple as following a recipe. Here’s a sample of how my remediation for this particular student might look (taking into account my own approach to problem-solving, which is both linear and whimsical):
So scrap the flow chart idea on this blog.
Here’s what really happened. I decided to tackle four major issues at once and add components of other weaknesses as they best fit [refer to Write Away post]. First, we worked on graphomotor/visual perceptual problems. My eager student loved the mechanical pencils (and I gave her time to explore the intricacies of lead with me). Since the poor kid’s hand was no longer aching from writing, her classroom teacher was all for it. (Note: She had zero keyboarding skills and there was no way to add that to her life at present, although I recommended it as a summer opportunity). I spent a little time each session teaching my willing writer to form the most problematic letters correctly. This was a student who processed information quickly and tuned out at a similar rate, so she hadn’t seen exactly how her kindergarten teacher formed each letter. The end result was that all her letters were formed from the bottom up, a feat I openly admired. I let her teach me how to make a few of those and I introduced her to a couple of new friends: the margin and the line. After dictation of words that required use of the problematic letters, she had better habits (and I saw some glaring weaknesses in basic phonics).
The second issue we addressed was spelling. After taking an inventory of required words for her grade level, I added those words, 5-8 at a time at first, to my account on Spelling City, where she could play cool games using her words. Once she started making some progress in this area, I let her practice through online games and left this issue until we could address phonics skills.
The third difficulty we addressed was her use of simple, repetitive sentences with minimal detail. This was a kid who could talk your ears off with complex ideas and details, so I knew we were good to go. I taught her “old fashioned” grammar, with each part of speech color-coded (based on Jane Fell Greene’s Language! program). She was able to “write” using colored foam squares, with the goal of making her sentences more colorful and complex. It’s a great strategy for writing because no pencil (or keyboard) is required! She learned the parts of speech quickly; I kept visual cues available to her as a reference and we played multiple bingo games and filled in cloze sentences related to her interests, adding new parts of speech every session. The next step was to edit other students’ work for these features, using rubrics from Writing A-Z, and from there, to write her own sentences and edit those. Eventually she dictated a 200+ word “how to” paper (using dictation because our focus was complexity, not spelling or handwriting). You may have noticed that I added the use of rubrics and checklists into this phase of instruction. This had been another area of weakness for her, so regular practice in editing other kids’ work was less threatening. Who knows? She may become an editor herself with that keen eye of hers.
The fourth area of remediation was complex (hence the flow chart burn out): phonological awareness, phonetic analysis, and syllable rules. Her phonological skills were super, so we started up the ladders of phonics and syllabication. She did not know short or long vowel sounds, which are near the bottom rungs for phonics instruction. I linked syllable types to her phonics instruction, so she now identifies all six syllable types and only needs vowel diphthongs to top off her phonics skills. I suspect your eyes are glazing over, as I know my husband’s would be, so this is a good stopping place. I’ll save the details of this fourth area for later. You’re welcome.