are many strategies to support struggling writers. With an inclusion
classroom, I quickly became familiar with many of them: Graphic organizers,
scribing ideas, enlarged lines, recording students as they voice their ideas
and allowing them to transcribe later, pencil grips, sentence
starters/prompts…etc. In my first year of teaching, I used every
strategy I could come up with to try and support my students. Although
I saw improvements after implementing these strategies, something was still missing.
I couldn’t put my finger on it, but it was beyond supporting executive
functioning, expressive language and fine motor skills. I used author
studies, examined rich texts to identify elements of great writing, and
immersed my students in robust vocabulary. Still, something didn’t feel right. What was it that was getting in their
winter break of that year, I asked my students to open their journals and
write about their vacation. Many
of my students eagerly picked up their pencils and started drawing scenes from
their week off. I watched as
students wrote about their weekend in New York City, a family cruise, a trip to
Disney, or visiting with grandma and grandpa. I came across some blank journals as well. When I checked in with those students, most said
that they hadn’t done anything over their vacation, or they couldn’t remember
what they had done. I found this
hard to believe, but tried a few prompting questions that might spark a memory. Some of these students recalled an event or two, but with little detail.
Two others finally said that spent their vacation in their home while their parents worked.
One of those students highlighted an experience with a “large beetle” in
the kitchen, but they didn’t want to write about it because “it was gross!” (AGREED!)
is when the light bulb appeared above my head. MY STUDENTS CANNOT REMEMBER, OR SIMPLY DO NOT HAVE
EXPERIENCES TO DRAW FROM TO BE ABLE TO WRITE!
my ah-ha moment, but now what? How
could I provide my students with experiences to help them become better
writers? I couldn’t very well take
them on field trips every time I wanted to teach writing! To better know my options,
I sought out some professional development opportunities that summer. In my search, I found
a great program called Writer’s Express. It was exactly what I was looking for
and most importantly, it was doable!
Writer’s Express encouraged me to create short activities based on a
skill I was looking to teach. For
example, if I wanted students to learn how to incorporate details that utilize
the senses, I should give them an experience that would encourage those kinds
of details (e.g. eating popcorn, standing in the rain, lying in the grass,
using finger paint…etc.) I was a
sponge, absorbing all of the ideas and getting excited for the possibilities!
I don’t think I need to tell you that the results were amazing! (Otherwise, why
would I be sharing it with you!) I have continued to use experienced-based
writing, and am constantly impressed by the quality of writing my first graders
demonstrate. I have found so many
benefits to this format, but those that top my list are:
luck with your experienced-based writing and thanks for stopping by!