Showing posts with label home. Show all posts
Showing posts with label home. Show all posts
Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Helping Struggling Writers Write Better Paragraphs

Stretching Sentences
In my last article I talked about how using Sentence Stretchers can help struggling writers expand their sentences from very simple sentences to more complex thoughts. This particular material has been extremely helpful to my students with dysgraphia.

Stretching Sentences to Paragraphs

Once my students have gotten a better grasp of how to write a better sentence, then we move on from there helping them to expand their sentences into paragraphs. The way we do this is by taking the student’s expanded sentence and place it in the middle and then we build a story around it. This way we end up with a story that has a clear beginning middle and end. This is a helpful model for students to see how to organize their writing.

Take the fear out of writing

The pictures of this process are from a tutoring session I recently did with the freebie Halloween Sentence Stretchers. I took the activity and transferred it to a Google Document to work on this process with an online student in Europe. Then we used Sentence to Paragraphs Stretchers Halloween Edition to transform his expanded sentence into a short paragraph story. This student used to have an extreme fear of writing but now is making good progress. If you would like to try this process with your students you might try: this or this

These artists shared their materials


Helping Struggling Writers Write Better Sentences

Physical Dysgraphia

Many people are aware that dysgraphia is a condition in which a child has trouble with the physical act of writing. These students have trouble just holding a pencil and organizing letters on a line. This makes their writing messy and often illegible. These children often need the help of an occupational therapist to correct these problems.

Language based Dysgraphia

Another aspect of dysgraphia for some children is when students struggle with putting their thoughts on paper. These children tend write as little as possible I call these students “the shorter, the better” type. These students write things such as “The girl ran home.” or “I hate writing.” The other type of student I call the “brain dump” type.  These children put every thought down they have in their heads with little to no organization. Both situations can be difficult for a parent or teacher to remediate.

Careful Explicit Teaching

Dysgraphic students need to be taught specific strategies and methods to be able to write more effectively. Some helpful curriculums I use are: Institute for Excellence in Writing, Step Up to Writing, and Teaching Basic Writing Skills.

Overcoming Fear of Writing

However, even with a good writing curriculum many students with dysgraphia have a deep fear writing and it’s hard to get them started. For this reason, I am developing some fun low stress writing prompts called Sentence Stretchers based off of the ideas of Dr. Judith C Hochman of Teaching Basic Writing Skills.

Setting Kids Up For Success

I  have used these Sentence Stretchers with dyslexic and dysgraphic students with great success. They can do Sentence Stretchers easily and this builds confidence. Once students are more confident with sentences we can then stretch the sentences into paragraphs. I will share how to do this in my next post.
Here are two examples of what a sentence stretchers looks like. Click here to see Sentence Stretchers For Fall Constructing Better Sentences

If you want to try them with your students try this Freebie or Sentence Stretchers for Fall

Helping Children with B and D Letter Reversal

Struggling with Letter Reversals?

Many children struggle with letter reversals in a child’s mind they flip the b and it becomes a d. Beginning readers or dyslexic students may not realize that the direction of the letter matters, or he may not be able to remember which letter is which.
Certain letters that are mirror images of each other are often confused, including letters b and dp and dp and q, and n and u.

What Is Considered Normal?
If your child is struggling with letter reversals and is between the ages of three and seven and is just beginning to read this is considered quite normal. A letter confusion or reversal problem does not necessarily mean your child has dyslexia or a reading disability. But if your child is seven to eight years old or older and has had reading instruction, and is making frequent reversal errors, this may be a problem. It is important to take steps to solve the letter confusion.
Parents and teachers have two jobs to do regarding letter reversals:

1.   Try to prevent confusion.
2.   Where confusion exists, resolve it.

Preventing Letter Confusion Before It Begins

One of the first ways to help children avoid letter confusion is to make sure the child is forming his or her letters correctly. When your child is learning to print, teachers need to be sure to teach correct letter formation. When children habitually form letters incorrectly this sends confusing messages to the brain. 

According to a very interesting article by Betty Sheffield in the Annals of Dyslexia   "The  special needs of left-handed children and dyslexic children are seldom addressed. Yet, these children need to be taught handwriting meticulously. When forming the letter b, start with the stick first, followed by the circle. The star indicates the starting position.

To write the letter d, start with the circle first, followed by the stick. Again, the star indicates the starting position. If a child has been forming letters incorrectly it might take a while to retrain the brain. For this reason, a teacher or parent should supervise handwriting practice and not just leave a child alone to practice to avoid forming letters incorrectly.

Strategies to help solve reversal problems

When children are writing I teach them to self-talk. For the b we say “go down back up and around.” For the d we say “push like for a c, go up, then back down.
These strategies can help any reversal problem, but I will concentrate on b and d because they are the most common letters which cause confusion.

Strategy 1: Use the sense of feeling

 Get students to feel the difference by using tactile surfaces such as salt trays, gel boards or sand paper letters. Using the pointer finger of his dominant hand, have your child trace the letter b on the textured surface or in a salt tray like the one shown. Be sure that he starts and ends in the correct place. Practice until he can easily write the letter b.

Strategy 2: Use “air writing” 

Another powerful method for correcting letter reversals is “air writing.” Air writing is simple: using the writing hand, the child uses his hand and arm to write letters in the air as he says the sound of the letter. The child uses his hand like a pen.
Saying the sound and using the major muscle groups to “write” the letter  this is a very helpful multisensory activity. It develops a students ability to mentally visualize the letter.

Strategy #3: Use mnemonics.

Some children are helped by first the bat and then the ball. Others find it helpful to remember b is the first letter of bed and d is the last letter.

Strategy #4: Use the shape of the mouth and tongue.
d mouth
b mouth

When we say /b/, our lips come together in a straight line. Point out that the straight line comes first when you write the letter b.

When we say /d/, our lips are open, and we curl our tongue and tap the roof our mouths. Our tongue makes a circle. Just like, the circle comes first when you write letter d.  Helping students become aware of these differences when they say the sounds can help.

Use Games to Practice, Practice, Practice

It is important to give students enough multisensory practice to become fluent in telling the difference between these letters so that this confusion does not slow down reading fluency. Another resource filled with fun games to do this practice is the B and D reversals activity pack that I use with my students who struggle.  Here is a maze game for practicing this concept.

 I designed a complete pack of activities to help children practice mastering this concept. You can get it here.

Article Cited: Handwriting: A neglected cornerstone of literacy

Annals of Dyslexia, 1996, Volume 46, Number 1, Page 21
Betty Sheffield