* Writing surveys

For twice exceptional (2e), high functioning autism kids (ASD), and kids with attention disorders (such as ADHD), writing can be pure trauma.  The key to providing effective support is understanding where the writing process breaks down.  As I’ve mentioned before, careful assessment is vital.  Your student’s feelings and personal assessment should not be overlooked.  Apart from observation and analysis of student work, I use surveys and graphs to elicit feedback from kids.

The surveys always begin with a focus on positives, such as what kids enjoy and which academic subjects are easier.  I create a unique survey for each student, depending upon my assessment to date and their ability to answer questions.  I may already know the answers to some of the questions, but I am interested in the student’s perspective.   Here’s a sample:Survey

As students answer, they refer to the following chart:

survey 2

This chart helps kids keep the answers in mind, although I may probe further if their answers are unclear.  It also gives them something to look at besides trying to decipher what I am scribbling on my clipboard.  When I’m done, I can safely show them the actual survey, since my handwriting is illegible to all but me!

Next post: Writing Graphs

* Rubrics #1

If you are not routinely using rubrics across subject areas, you are missing an invaluable teaching tool.  If you have never created your own rubric, you are missing even more!  Rubrics are an effective tool for understanding what you want students to learn as well as how you will know if they have learned it.  Rubrics can serve as a graphic overview for students during the learning process and support increased student analysis of their own learning.  I will provide an outline of rubrics in this post, then detail their use in social skills development in another post.

Let’s assume you have used commercially prepared rubrics so you understand that a rubric is a matrix of features (categories), measured by a sequential rating scale of performance.  I enjoy using Rubistar for rubric creation (check here for their definition of rubrics) but rubrics can easily be made offline as well.  If you are a novice, Rubistar will guide you through the creation process through both “tours” and prompts.

A rubric for assessing students’ written assignments is a good place to start if you have not ever created your own.  The age and developmental level of your students will guide the wording of the features or categories you are assessing as well as the measure of their success.   For younger students, you could even pair simple pictures with the wording.   Here’s a sample I just created to illustrate some key points:

beginning writing rubric 2

This rubric focuses on four features or categories of the student’s writing: number of sentences, clarity of sentences, and two areas of writing conventions.  A sample picture has been added for non-readers.  The rating scale is indicated by stars at the top.  For the category “I wrote 3 sentences,” you could indicate that “I wrote 1 sentence” is equivalent to one star,” “I wrote 2 sentences” equals two stars, and so on.  Stars are a simple performance indicator for younger kids.  Older students could use a numbered performance evaluation, with more performance indicators (such as 1 through 4) or words (Beginning/Proficient. etc.)  as well as more (and increasingly complex) categories.

You can see the link to what you want students to learn right there in the rubric.  If your goal is three understandable sentences using basic writing conventions, this is your rubric.  If your goal is three sentences with transition words, your rubric would look quite different.

You will need to teach students how to use a rubric effectively.  If the rubric is used solely for assessment, demonstrate its use with various writing samples.  If you are using the rubric to guide student instruction, you could model its function as a measure of ongoing progress.  Students could check or highlight boxes to track their progress and as they edit their work.  During a writer’s conference with the teacher, even young students can share their personal evaluation of their writing to date.

Once students become proficient in using rubrics, they can become involved in the creation of rubrics individually or as a class.  You could elicit more personalized and student-driven writing analysis by adding an empty category box at the bottom of a rubric;  each writer could indicate what other category they want to include and evaluate (such as illustrations or questions).

Stay tuned for the invaluable use of rubrics to support the development of social skills.

* First POINT

Provide mechanical pencils for the student who applies too much pressure and consequently fatigues too quickly. The lead will snap if too much pressure is used. Even young children can use these pencils (which have a wonderful allure).  However, you must hot glue that eraser in place so that you won’t find lead everywhere. This does remove the delight of seeing how the pencil operates, as well as the joy of writing with the tiniest stub of lead imaginable.  But kids will benefit from the lighter touch and have more writing stamina. You can hope the hot glue holds.  And send a spare pencil home for play.mechanical points

* Write away

As I am planning a session for a student with difficulties in writing, I realize once again that writing difficulties are as unique as each child. One student struggles with ideas, another with organization, another with spelling.  Or working memory.  Or confidence.  Or graphomotor issues.  The most important step in teaching writing is careful assessment.  As an example, for today’s student, I began with parent feedback (“She hates to write” “She lacks detail” “She just wants it to be over” “She’s really smart”).  I conferred with the regular classroom teacher and examined writing samples.  Finally, I surveyed the student, using a questionnaire that reflected all of the above information, as well as open-ended options for feedback.  Based on that process, I saw:
1. Graphomotor/ visual perception issues- capitalized B’s and D’s to compensate for early reversal issues; letters that were poorly formed, spaced, and placed; too much pressure on pencil
2. Spelling weaknesses of “instant” words (where, were, want, what, been, etc.)
3. Irregular capitalization (including the B and D mentioned above, along with P, T, N/ erratic capitalization of beginning of sentences
4. Frequent use of incomplete sentences
5. Frequent omission of ending punctuation- lack of variety and complexity in sentences (including lack of descriptive words such as adjectives and adverbs)
6. Inability to write in paragraph form (would need to assess this to determine at what level this breaks down)
7. Difficulty recognizing errors noted above, even when using a checklist

I also saw a really gifted kid who excels in math, has a lot of athletic strengths, is hard-working, and is confused about her writing problems.

Stay tuned for how I have been addressing these needs.