October 1, 2013

Okay, so it was October instead of August when I finally wrote a blog post. Been reading a bunch of them, on everything from cancer to restoring our wildness, to learning to sing again, and yoga. I am living by the credo, though, of "Thou shalt not read blogs on divorce." It has been freeing not to do that, but instead do my own grieving, in my own living room, without expensive therapists, but a great journal and a whole lotta girlfriends on the phone.
Where was I? Blogs. Oh yeah, and Anne Lamont, and anything about reading and writing and, UGH(!) the Common Core. Much in the blogosphere that is being talked about on that topic. Teachers generally feel a sense of feeling hemmed in, and having to get up to speed on new vernacular, and teach aspects of literacy that are way above their student's heads and truly don't spark boys.

"Analyze The Westing Game and take notes on how the character's reveal their inner dialogue using the writer's inferred figurative language and write an essay from your notes on the theme of courage and speaking up for oneself."

Alright, I invented that one, but it was easy to blast out in writing because i have read many like it. The boys just yawn and get further turned off to reading and writing. (remember, Common Core authors, boys lag in development of cognition and emotional acuity, compared to girls, and they like more concrete things than inferences about character's moods and feelings!)
So I continue to do the two-step dance:
Liking the more specific and "aligned-between-state-lines" aspect of the Common Core, and disliking the over-emphasis on argumentative writing, which is not developmentally appropriate for a 5th grader, who doesn't know how to stand their ground, much less do they have the life experience to write 2 whole pages about a topic that they are arguing in favor of, or against. Talk about an equation for turning kids off to writing.

I mean, I work with kids who experience a breakthrough when they can stick with a thought long enough to form it onto the paper in two sentences (even though their IQ is higher than mine). What are we to do with them, in an average classroom?

And these are kind of DUH, and I would add a lot of sub skills to the list. And cautionary notes about how Assistive Technology is not a panacea.
I shortened each to the essential points (Common Core jargon there!)

Seven Facts About Learning Disabilities and Written Expression

  1. How can parents tell if a school’s writing program is effective? In addition to providing accommodations and modifications for students with LD, it should include explicit teaching of critical writing skills, processes and knowledge as well as less formal techniques like teacher-student conferences and peer-to-peer editing.
  2. One research-validated approach to teaching writing to students with LD is Self-Regulated Strategy Development for Writing (SRSD). Teachers using SRSD guide students through a process that includes:
    • Developing and activating students’ background knowledge
    • Discussion of students’ current abilities and self-regulation ability
    • Explicit teaching and memorization of strategies
    • Closely working with the teacher for support at early stages of writing
    • Finally, independent performance with teacher support only as necessary

  3. A common stumbling block in writing for students with LD is organization: keeping track of materials (e.g., note cards, research books) and in structuring/organizing an argument to support a thesis.
  4. It often takes a child with LD twice as long (or more) as other students to simply copy a piece of writing. Tasks like copying from the board may be less appropriate for students with writing LD. Also, when planning accommodations like extended time for testing, keep a student’s handwriting speed in mind.
  5. Assistive technology is increasingly opening doors to fluent writing for students with LD. Access to simple word processing software may be helpful to students who struggle with handwriting. Software with word prediction and screen reading capabilities is a powerful tool for many students.
  6. Many students with LD lack self-confidence in writing. Parents and teachers can help rebuild young writers’ confidence by teaching and developing writing strategies and self-monitoring the use of these strategies.
  7. As with other types of LD, early intervention for dysgraphia and dyslexia—LDs that especially impact writing—is important. Students who have speech and language difficulties are another group at-risk for writing problems.