Tuesday, May 29, 2012

How to Develop Super Writers

Writing is such a challenge for students with special needs.  It’s physically demanding.  Many students fatigue easily. They have difficulty with size, shape, spacing, and printing on the lines of the paper.  They spend so much time trying to remember what the letters look like that they want to get on paper, they often lose their ideas.  When they are able to overcome these obstacles, they have to figure out grammar, punctuation, capitalization, word choice, staying on topic, etc.  So, how do we teach our students with special needs to become competent writers?  
These are some of the tips/strategies that I use in my classroom.  I have an amazing OT that I work with.  She gives me equipment for my students that helps increase hand strength and improves visual motor processing.  Increased hand strength improves student endurance.  By improving visual motor skills, the students are able to recall letter/word formation automatically which increases the number of words per minute students are able to print on paper.
Once we have the physical part of writing under control, we can begin to focus on all of the other requirements of writing. I teach beginning writers to make a picture in their head of the topic.  They have about one minute to do a quick sketch so they can refer to their picture as they write.  The first sentence we write tell the main thing that each character is doing in their picture.  We move into writing two or more sentences about each character in the picture.  The first sentence always tells the main thing the character is doing and the second and third sentences add details about the character.  The next step is answering some how, why, and where questions about the topic.  
Graphic organizers are essential.  Students need tools to organize their thoughts and layout the different parts of their paper and graphic organizers allow students a way to manage their thoughts.  
Once we have the ideas flowing, what do we do about grammar and punctuation?  Mini lessons are very beneficial to the students.  They are more likely to master basic grammar and punctuation skills, if they receive small bits of teaching paired with meaningful practice of the skill.  
Do you use anchor charts in your classroom?  They are amazing.  Anchor charts are most effective when your students help create the charts.  They should be posted in the classroom so students can easily refer to them.  When students make a mistake in their writing, don’t tell them the mistake.  Tell the student, “You have a mistake in capitalization in paragraph two.  Refer to the capitalization anchor chart and fix your error.”  In the beginning, you must go through this process with the entire class.  It works best to project the child’s paper on a smartboard with a document camera.  Tell the class what type of error you see and where it is in the paper.  Model thinking by talking through each step.  Model this process several times and each time use less teacher talk while having the students explain the process of finding and correcting the errors on their own.  Eventually, you want students to be able to edit their own paper independently.  
Rubrics are also helpful tools for students to use to edit their paper.  Rubrics help to focus student editing to specific skills.  Rubrics should change as the students learn and master new skills.  A rubric at the end of the year should be much more detailed than a rubric used at the beginning of the year.  
Rubrics are also an excellent way to differentiate your instruction.  In my class, I have 1st-5th grade students all day.  When I give a writing assignment, I have very different expectations for my older students than I do for my younger students.  I can give a writing assignment to everyone and use 3 (or more) different rubrics to modify what is expected for each grade/ability level.  Rubrics are quick and easy to make and can be used numerous times.  They are effect methods for documenting writing progress. They can also be used to keep track of the type of errors individual students, or the class as a whole, make on a particular assignment or on multiple assignments over time.
Do you have a tip for teaching writing?  I am always looking for new ideas and would love to hear what you have to say.


Sunday, May 27, 2012

Summer Homework

I have a quick freebie for you.  I created this for my class to give them a few simple activities to keep them busy this summer.  Students will need a bit a paper, pencil, and crayons.  I hope you can find it useful for your students this summer.  You can find it here.


Friday, May 25, 2012


This site is dedicated to sharing free resources for all teachers.  Resources are geared for pk-12th grade.  There is something for everyone!  I hope you will check often and enjoy all the freebies!  Happy summer!

Classroom Freebies Too


Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Wow! Look what I found!!

I wanted to share a new artist that creates amazing clipart and she has a very special deal for teachers.  She has 2 types of clipart in her store: cutesy stuff for primary and realistic animals that would work for all grade levels. Aisne at Clipart Club 4 Teachers is working really hard to make teachers happy.  She has a special deal for all teachers.  You can buy a membership to her graphics for only $35 and is good for an entire year.  There are currently over 400 graphics available in her store and she is adding new graphics daily.  She is also taking special requests, so let her know what you need.  All of her graphics can be used in your classroom AND in the products you make to sell on TeachersPayTeachers. Hop on over there and check out her store. She has a few freebies for you to try out.  Let her know that I sent you over!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Teacher Appreciation Jackpot!

Happy Teacher Appreciation Day!!  Make sure you hop from blog to blog (Sunday, May 6th only.)  There will be a total of over 130 freebies offered!

Because so many bloggers are participating, this event will be divided into three grade level groups. Each of those smaller events is being coordinated by one blogger as shown below:

And the freebie is........

Pirate Pete's Treasure: Math and Literacy Centers.  

I hope you LOVE it!   My entire store is also on sale 20% and if you use the coupon code, you will get an additional 10% off anything on the site.

Thanks so much for all you do! We appreciate your commitment to your students and your dedication as an educator!

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