Students with reading disabilities tend to not read as much as their typically developing peers. That means that they don’t get exposed to the mentor texts that could potentially help them become better writers.
This is one reason why I believe that even intermediate students should have opportunities to experience read-alouds. The benefit of hearing rich language and being exposed to literary devices like onomatopoeia and metaphors is invaluable.
But even the best mentor texts can’t manage students’ thoughts. My students have wonderful ideas, but they continually have difficulty organizing them for their readers. Many IEPs include an SDI (Specially Designed Instruction) for providing writing frameworks to aid students’ writing. This type of graphic organizer is vital to improve a student’s writing progress.
A few years ago I created a “Planning Organizer” that I use consistently with my students. Without a doubt, it helps students develop as writers, moving from higgledy-piggledy, muddled, stream-of-consciousness writing to more controlled, well thought-out pieces.
Once my students are able to complete a basic planning organizer with topic sentence, key ideas and details, I move them on to one that includes a “grabber” sentence, transitions, and planning sentences, and eventually one that expands a well-written paragraph to a multi-paragraph.
My ultimate goal for my students is to NOT rely on any one graphic organizer, but to be independent in organizing their own writing. I designed the planning organizer to be simple in nature, so my students become so familiar with it that they can reproduce it on their own on lined paper. You can imagine my surprise and delight when one of my students did just that last week, before I even suggested it!
The use of an effective planning organizer for all students, but especially for students with learning disabilities, is essential. And the surprise and delight is contagious!