After teaching writing for a number of years, I’ve finally discovered a method that seems to help them put coherent paragraphs and passages together. The special education teacher I co-teach with created guides for his students. Each week, as we progress through a new piece of writing, he gave his students a paper with specific ideas for each paragraph (and, at times, each sentence). I tried it one week, when we were working on a problem-solution essay, which always gives my students problems. What a difference!
The students felt more confident in writing their rough drafts and were much more pleased with their final result. I was happy that I didn’t have to wade through essays which are more first grade than sixth grade quality. These guides have made all the difference. As we progress through the year, my plan is to pull back and offer less support. By that time, however, they should be able to organize their writing on their own.
Reading their mysteries, I’m encouraged by the success. In the past, when my students had to write a mystery, they had a hard time getting started and then their stories tended to ramble. The final drafts I scored this weekend rarely were hard to follow (unfortunately, no strategy is foolproof!) A few needed some help rearranging their paragraphs, but otherwise, they had a good beginning, middle and end. Next, we’ll need to work on their climax.
I have attached a couple of the guides I have used to help them in their writing. We’ll see, as we continue through the year, whether they need the support all year, or if I can pull it back and let them write on their own.