Before a student can become a successful writer, we must first find his ideal pencil. Many teachers make the assumption that a student without the physical ability to hold and manipulate a writing utensil is not ready for writing instruction. Many students are able to use a writing utensil such as a pencil, pen, crayon, or marker. Some students, due to a disability or other factors, may benefit from other “pencils.
Before a student can become a successful writer, we must first find his ideal pencil. Many teachers make the assumption that a student without the physical ability to hold and manipulate a writing utensil is not ready for writing instruction (Carnahan, Williamson, Hollingshead, & Maya, 2012). Koppenhaver and Williams (2010) assert that the essence of writing is generating ideas, not the ability to hold a pencil. Allington and Gabriel’s (2012) research found that successful teachers offer writing opportunities, along with five other elements of literacy, to every child, every day. Knowing that all students benefit from daily opportunities to write, it is essential that teachers find a means for each individual student to generate their ideas into text.
Many students are able to use a writing utensil such as a pencil, pen, crayon, or marker. Some students, due to a disability or other factors, may benefit from other “pencils.” Consider the following:
1) Keyboard A standard or adapted keyboard, can be used by some students. Adapted keyboards may offer helpful adaptations such as large keys, color contrast, or raised letters. One note of caution: when allowing students to write with an adapted keyboard, they should have access to the entire alphabet.
2) Scribe Some students may benefit from dictating to a scribe, either verbally or with an augmentative communication system. This is considered writing because the students’ original thoughts and ideas are being written down, and the text can then be read repeatedly.
3) Alternative Pencils Alternative pencils are available for students who are not able to successfully write with a utensil or keyboard. They can be custom made to allow students who communicate with gestures, eye gaze, scanning, or a single switch to access the alphabet. Teachers can purchase programs such as Writing with Alternate Pencils from the Center for Literacy and Disability Studies or create their own alternative pencils for students.
Check out the following TACtic (for free) from the T-TAC ODU library:
Teaching the Write Way: An Overview of Writing Instruction for Students with Intellectual Disabilities
Allington, R. L., & Gabriel, R. E. (2012). Every child, every day. Educational Leadership, 69(6), 10-15.
Carnahan, C. R., Williamson, P. S., Hollingshead, A., & Israel, M. (2012). Using technology to support balanced literacy for students with significant disabilities. Teaching Exceptional Children, 45(1), 20-29.
Koppenhaver, D.A., & Williams, A. (2010). A conceptual review of writing research in augmentative and alternative communication. Augmentative and Alternative Communication, 26(3), 158-176.