Students with disabilities across the spectrum are challenged by writing for the most to the least disabled. As the emphasis in accountability is toward being “college and career ready, the emphasis in writing is increasing. Much of the challenge comes not but because they have difficulty with “executive function,” the intellectual ability to visualize all the stuff and steps that go into writing, and then visualizing the path they need to proceed down before they have a product (story, article, essay) but because students with disabilities have nothing to say or write about. As a means to help students become lifelong writers, Lucy Calkins, a professor at Columbia University’s Teacher’s College, introduced the Writer’s Workshop. It provided a structure that generated lots and lots of authentic student writing and was used extensively in Michigan when I lived there. I found that it created enthusiastic and fluent writers and also I was substituting in elementary schools then. I have adapted much of the structure for Writer’s Lab, with the understanding that children with disabilities will benefit from additional supports and structure. Success for a child with a disability looks different from success for a general education child – you have to remember this.
You need a topic before you can write. It really helps children if they are asked to write about something they have chosen (choice is always a powerful motivator.) A couple times a year you need to review and create new topics. My brainstorming form focuses on each of the kinds of writing that the Common Core State Standards begin to require by 6th grade, which are formats that will be required in future grades as well. This graphic organizer is really designed to guide a beginner through the process. Hopefully organization format. It is possible to write a complete essay/written assignment using an idea web as an organizing tool. This form is great for students who have just begun writing longer than a single sentence. The form I have created for you provides space for four detail sentences. It could be cropped to three, but I wouldn’t go lower than that, myself. This form will help them lay out the sequence for their own writing efforts as students expand their writing skills past a single paragraph, and have stories to tell. This tool is best for personal narratives of fictional articles. You could also write an accompanying rubric that would give maximum points for filling all six events, fewer for say 5 and still give some points for 2 events. They should write with some fluency in case enough or the most appropriate graph organizers are in place to support your students as they prepare to write. This may be a good time to let disabled writers dictate in case there are issues with holding a pencil or legibility. You can either let the writing process in this case be purely transcription, as a tool for the student to examine his or her own work once it is recorded.