Writing is much more than forming words with a pencil. Putting thoughts or ideas in written form does not require the author to actually hand write the words (Copeland & Keefe, 2007). If your students have difficulty with writing, consider the following modifications. This is not a comprehensive list, so be sure to collaborate with your OT, PT, and S/LP when individualizing instruction for your students.
Welcome back, teachers! Hopefully you have returned to a class full of smiling students who are eager to learn. As you may already know, this year’s Virginia Alternate Assessment Program (VAAP) has added a new reporting category. If you teach students who access the general curriculum through the Aligned Standards of Learning (ASOLs), your 5th, 8th, and 11th graders will be required to submit evidence for writing ASOLs.
Writing is an essential skill for all students, regardless of whether or not they are being assessed this year. Research tells us that writing instruction is an important component of literacy instruction. Writing and reading are related processes whereby engaging in one enhances the development of the other (Langer & Filhan, 2000, p. 109). Participation in even basic writing activities deepens individuals with disabilities’ understanding of literacy and the uses of print (Pierce & Porter, 1996). Writing is much more than forming words with a pencil. Putting thoughts or ideas in written form does not require the author to actually hand write the words (Copeland & Keefe, 2007).
Application and Resources–If your students have difficulty with writing, consider the following modifications. This is not a comprehensive list, so be sure to collaborate with your OT, PT, and S/LP when individualizing instruction for your students.
Area of Need
|Use verbal, pictorial, and/or written cues. For example, create sentence prompts to read to the students such as I have fun when or my favorite food is . Students can fill in the blank by selecting from picture symbols that also include the written word. Create a word bank with appropriate picture symbols for completing each sentence.|
|Accessibility||Consult with OT and/or PT to assure that the student has proper support and posture for writing. Use a slanted surface such as a 3’’ three ring binder.|
|Holding a writing utensil||Use pencil grips, wide pencils, or large crayons.|
|Manipulating a writing utensil||Use name stamps, word cards with magnet strips, keyboard, or eye gaze. If the student is verbal, use a peer scribe.|
|Use colored or textured paper. Use highlighters, colored font, or highlighter tape to draw attention to certain parts of the paper.|
|Eye Gaze Response||For students who are unable to physically manipulate a pencil or keyboard, consider the WritingWith Alternative Pencils program, which includes an alphabet eye gaze frame. The CD can be ordered (broken link) here. It is also available for checkout from the T-TAC ODU Lending Library.|
|There are several word prediction software programs such as (broken link) PixWriter and Writing With Symbols 2000. These are available for check out from the T-TAC ODU Lending Library|
|Keyboard Access||Place colored stickers on the pre-selected keys that a student will need. Use card stock and tape to cover areas of the keyboard that will not be needed.|
|Organization||Use graphic organizers such as the sandwich or the describing wheel.|
|“Functional” opportunities||Ask students to sign in and out of class with writing utensil, name stamp, or name cards. Create shopping lists for community-based outings.|
Copeland, S.R., & Keefe, E.B. (2007). Effective literacy instruction for students with moderate or severe disabilities. Baltimore: Paul H. Brookes Publishing Co.
Langer, J.A., & Filhan, S. (2000). Writing and reading relationships: Constructive tasks. In S.R. Copeland & E.B. Keefe, Effective literacy instruction for students with moderate or severe disabilities. Newark, DE: International Reading Association.
Pierce, P.L., & Porter, P.B. (1996). Helping persons with disabilities to become literate using assistive technology: Practice and policy suggestions. Focus on Autism & Other Developmental Disabilities, 11, 142-148.