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Monday, April 2, 2012

Strategies that Help Students to Organize Ideas, Build Paragraphs, and Implement Transitions in Their Writing


         Organizing ideas and building paragraphs can be a taxing and complicated process for beginning writers.  Writing requires multitasking. When some of these tasks are challenging, they can become overwhelming hurtles that trip up the flow of ideas and can stop the creative process in its tracks.  For instance, if a student is still toiling with the formation of letters, the second they go to write down their fabulous ideas, their attention is swept away by the engulfing fine motor task.  Likewise, those that tussle with spelling often lose their thoughts as they get diverted down a path of sounds and symbol associations.  Still, others find that although they have great thoughts, it’s a tough and tedious workout to sequence the surge of scurrying words and ideas.
        
         For many students, they must develop some degree of automaticity before they can gracefully interlace the required tasks that are necessary to become a confident and savvy writer.

So, what are some strategies that can help students to master the basic elements of writing.

1.     If spelling is a challenge, allow the student to dictate answers as you write them down or use voice to text software, such as Dragon Dictate. 
2.    If organizing ideas is difficult, help the student to define main ideas and details and sequence ideas in an outline or web.  An excellent software tool that can help with this is Kidspiration or Inspiration for older students.  You can learn more about it at: http://www.inspiration.com .  You can also find an online, collaborative version of this software on the internet at: http://www.webspirationpro.com .
3.    If handwriting is labored and the student is able to type quite well, allow them to use a computer for written assignments and class work.
4.    If handwriting and typing is a problem, again consider allowing the student to dictate answers to you as you write them down or help them to use voice to text software, such as Dragon Dictate. 
5.    If getting started is a problem, discuss the topic.  Ask a lot of guiding questions and record the student’s ideas in writing or with a voice recording device.
6.    Whenever a student is struggling with any of the tasks required for writing, make sure they get plenty of practice so that they can master the skill. Try to make the exercises fun by using game like activities or software programs that can assist with tasks such as typing.  
7.    If the student experiences persistent difficulties with writing or any of the many tasks required to write, consider asking your school district to provide a full battery of testing to rule out a learning disability.  You can also pursue testing outside your school district with a professional in your community.   

     If you would like to learn more about helping students with the organization of ideas and the layout of writing, look at my recent publication, Categorizing, Paragraph Building and Transitional Word Activities.  The 30 page downloadable document offers a series of printable game-like activities that help students to understand and practice organizing main ideas and details as well as sequencing sentences and adding transitional words.  These fun activities are appropriate for elementary students and there are also additional materials for an older population.   http://goodsensorylearning.com/collections/top-level-category-1/products/categorizing-paragraph-building-transitional-words-activities
 
Dr. Erica Warren is the author, illustrator and publisher of multisensory educational materials at Good Sensory Learning and Dyslexia Materials.  She is also the director of Learning to Learn and Go Dyslexia, in Ossining, NY.  To learn more about her products and services, you can go to https://godyslexia.com/www.goodsensorylearning.comwww.dyslexiamaterials.com & www.learningtolearn.biz  
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