Sunday, December 6, 2009

December 4, at Jay Middle School


On Friday, I was fortunate enough to spend the morning conferencing with Cheri P., special education teacher at Jay Middle School.  We reviewed her students and looked at where they were in the writing process.  She has one group she finds challenging, so we took the time to work together and brainstorm some solutions.  

We discussed their writing and their process and determined they had not yet established fluency.  This is often a problem for special ed. students for a variety of  reasons. 
  • Sometimes they have low oral language.  This prewsents a challenge because early reading and writing are base on oral language. 
  • Sometimes the physical act of writing slows down the thinking.
  • Sometimes short term memory can not hold the information long enough to write the complete thoughts.
Given all of the challenges, we decided to use the four sqare format  (look at the bottom of the page and you can download a powerpoint) to create brief group compositions on common experiences the students have had.  The general framework looked something like this.

  1. Choose a recent experience all students have had.  Share the topic with the students, i.e. Thanksgiving dinner.
  2. Divide the students into pairs.  Using think, pair, share have each student write 3 "things" about the topic, i.e. 3 things you ate for Thanksgiving.
  3. Next, have the students meet with their partners and decide on 2 "things" to share, i.e. things they ate for Thanksgiving.  The teacher moves around the room helping groups as needed.
  4. Each group reports out and the teacher records the invormation in the appropriate section of the 4 square (details). 
  5. After adding the details, the teacher helps the students create and write a summary sentence.
  6. This piece can be added to each day and eventually result in a short paragraph or "piece" by the end of the week.
This level of scaffolding and language is beneficial for students developing the writing process.  Keep the pace brisk.

We tried it in class and the students thoroughly enjoyed it.  Stay tuned.  We will keep you posted.

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