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Empowering Struggling Writers

Accommodation Strategies & AI Support

Writing is a complex skill that requires students to integrate various cognitive processes, such as planning, organizing, generating ideas, and monitoring their work. For some students, however, the writing process can be challenging due to difficulties with handwriting, spelling, or other aspects of written expression. These challenges are often associated with learning disabilities like dysgraphia or dyscalculia.

To support struggling writers in overcoming these obstacles and developing their skills, it's essential for educators to provide accommodations and modifications in the learning environment. In this blog post, we will explore different types of supports that can be provided to students who struggle with writing, including classroom accommodations, modifications, technology tools, teaching strategies, collaboration with parents and professionals, and success stories showcasing real-life examples of accommodations in action.

Signs and Symptoms of Dysgraphia

Dysgraphia is a learning disability that affects a person's ability to write legibly and fluently. Some common signs and symptoms of dysgraphia include:

  1. Illegible handwriting
  2. Inconsistent spacing between words or letters
  3. Difficulty forming letters correctly
  4. Slow writing speed
  5. Trouble organizing thoughts on paper
  6. Poor grammar and punctuation usage
  7. Avoidance of writing tasks

These difficulties can significantly impact a student's academic performance, making it challenging for them to express their ideas effectively in written form.

A classroom with several students working on their writing assignments, some using graphic organizers and noise-cancelling headphones, while others work in quiet, designated writing areas.

Accommodations for Struggling Writers

Accommodating struggling writers involves providing support that helps students overcome specific challenges related to the writing process without changing the expectations or requirements of the task itself. Here are some examples of classroom accommodations:

  1. Increase instructional time: Provide additional time for writing assignments, allowing students with dysgraphia or other learning disabilities to complete their work at a pace that suits their needs. For example, if most students can finish an essay within two class periods, consider giving struggling writers three or four sessions to ensure they have enough time to produce quality work without feeling rushed.
  2. Provide quiet and comfortable spaces: Create a distraction-free environment where struggling writers can focus on the task without feeling overwhelmed by noise or visual stimuli. This could involve setting up designated writing areas in your classroom, using noise-cancelling headphones, or allowing students to work in separate rooms if necessary.
  3. Simplify language of writing prompts: Use clear, concise instructions when presenting writing assignments to ensure that students understand what is expected of them. For instance, instead of saying "Write a persuasive essay about whether schools should require uniforms," you might provide more specific guidance like this: "Choose one side of the debate (for or against school uniforms) and write a five-paragraph essay explaining your position using evidence from research studies, personal experiences, and expert opinions."
  4. Use graphic organizers: Graphic organizers are visual tools that help students organize their thoughts and ideas before they begin writing. They can be particularly helpful for struggling writers who have difficulty planning and organizing their work. For example, you could use a story map template to guide students through the process of outlining a narrative essay or provide them with a Venn diagram to compare and contrast two characters in a novel study unit.
  5. Develop individual spelling lists: Instead of relying on traditional spelling tests, create personalized spelling lists based on the specific words a student struggles with most frequently. This allows you to target their unique needs while also saving time by focusing only on the words that matter most for each individual learner. For instance, if one student consistently misspells "separate" and another has trouble with "accommodation," you can tailor your instruction accordingly rather than wasting valuable class time reviewing irrelevant vocabulary.
  6. Provide paper guides: Use lined or graph paper to help students align their letters and words correctly on the page, reducing frustration and improving legibility. You might also consider using raised-line paper for visually impaired students who have difficulty perceiving depth cues when writing by hand.
An illustration featuring a black and white classroom

Modifications for Struggling Writers

Modifying expectations for struggling writers involves adjusting the requirements of a task to make it more accessible without sacrificing learning objectives. Here are some examples of classroom modifications:

  1. Reduce length or complexity of assignments: Break down larger writing tasks into smaller, more manageable parts to help students focus on one aspect at a time and build their confidence gradually. For example, instead of asking them to write a five-page research paper on the causes of climate change, you could assign shorter essays (e.g., 1-2 pages) that address specific aspects of the topic (e.g., greenhouse gas emissions from transportation or deforestation).
  2. Allow alternative means of assessment: Instead of relying solely on written responses, provide opportunities for students to demonstrate their knowledge through oral presentations, multimedia projects, or other creative formats that play to their strengths. This not only accommodates the needs of struggling writers but also encourages diverse forms of expression and communication in your classroom.
  3. Accept invented spelling: Recognize that some struggling writers may have difficulty with conventional spelling rules and allow them to use phonetic spellings as long as the meaning of their work is clear. For instance, if a student writes "I went to the store and bought somthing for my mom," you could still understand their message even though they misspelled "something." By accepting invented spelling in certain contexts, you can help reduce anxiety around writing tasks while also promoting a growth mindset that values effort and improvement over perfection.
  4. Indicate work to a scribe: For students who struggle with handwriting or written expression, consider allowing them to dictate their responses to a peer or adult who can transcribe their ideas onto paper. This accommodation is particularly helpful for students with dysgraphia, as it allows them to focus on the content of their writing without being hindered by motor difficulties related to letter formation and spacing.
A laptop with various technology tools and icons displayed on the screen, representing assistive software and apps for struggling writers.

Technology Tools for Struggling Writers

Assistive technologies can be invaluable resources for supporting struggling writers in the classroom. Here are some examples of technology tools that may help:

  1. Speech-to-text software: Programs like Dragon Naturally Speaking or Google Docs Voice Typing allow students to dictate their thoughts directly into a computer, bypassing handwriting difficulties and improving overall writing speed and fluency. For example, if a student has difficulty forming letters correctly due to fine motor challenges, they can use speech-to-text software to compose essays, research papers, or creative writing projects without having to worry about legibility issues.
  2. Word prediction programs: Software applications such as Co:Writer or Ghotit can help struggling writers improve spelling accuracy by suggesting words based on the letters they have already typed. This not only saves time but also helps students develop their vocabulary and grammar skills over time. For instance, if a student types "th" into a word prediction program, it might suggest options like "the," "they," or "this" depending on the context of their writing.
  3. Spell checkers: Built-in spell checking tools in word processing software like Microsoft Word or Google Docs can provide real-time feedback on spelling errors, helping students develop their proofreading skills over time. Additionally, many modern browsers (e.g., Chrome, Firefox) offer extensions that integrate advanced grammar and style suggestions into popular writing platforms like Gmail, WordPress, and Medium. For a more advanced option, you may want to explore our AI-powered multilingual writing tool, Linguisity.
  4. Text-to-speech software: Programs like NaturalReader or Read&Write for Google Chrome can help struggling writers improve their reading comprehension skills by converting digital text into audio files that they can listen to on a computer, tablet, or smartphone. This accommodation is particularly helpful for students with dyslexia or other learning disabilities that affect their ability to decode written language effectively.
  5. Mind mapping tools: Software applications like MindMeister or XMind allow users to create visual diagrams of complex ideas and concepts, making it easier for struggling writers to organize their thoughts before they begin writing. These tools can be especially useful when planning research papers, persuasive essays, or creative writing projects that require a high degree of organization and structure.
  6. Apps designed specifically for dysgraphic students: There are several mobile apps available (e.g., iWriteWords) that provide targeted support for students with dysgraphia by focusing on specific aspects of the writing process (e.g., letter formation, spelling accuracy). By incorporating these tools into your classroom instruction and practice routines, you can help struggling writers develop their skills more effectively over time.
A teacher demonstrating effective writing techniques on a whiteboard, surrounded by students taking notes and engaged in discussion.

Teaching Strategies for Struggling Writers

Explicit instruction in writing is crucial for helping struggling writers develop the skills they need to become successful communicators. Here are some examples of teaching strategies that can be used:

  1. Model effective writing techniques: Demonstrate how to plan, organize, and revise written work by sharing your own thought processes as you write on a whiteboard or projector screen. This allows students to observe the decision-making process behind successful writing and apply those strategies in their own work.
  2. Provide frequent opportunities for practice: Encourage struggling writers to engage in regular writing activities (e.g., journaling, creative storytelling) both inside and outside of class to build confidence and fluency over time. Offer constructive feedback on each student's progress, highlighting areas where they have improved and suggesting specific strategies for further growth.
  3. Incorporate peer review: Pair students together or create small groups where they can share their work with one another and provide feedback based on a predetermined set of criteria (e.g., grammar, organization, creativity). This not only helps struggling writers receive additional support from their peers but also fosters a collaborative learning environment that encourages mutual growth and development.
  4. Use multisensory teaching methods: Engage multiple senses during writing instruction by incorporating visual aids (e.g., graphic organizers), auditory cues (e.g., text-to-speech software), and kinesthetic activities (e.g., handwriting exercises) into your lessons. This approach can be particularly helpful for students with dysgraphia or other learning disabilities that affect their ability to process information effectively through a single modality.
  5. Encourage goal setting: Work with struggling writers to establish specific, measurable goals related to their writing skills (e.g., improving spelling accuracy by 10% over the next month). Regularly check in on each student's progress toward these objectives and adjust your instructional strategies accordingly based on their individual needs and strengths.
  6. Promote a growth mindset: Emphasize the importance of effort, persistence, and resilience when it comes to developing writing skills. Encourage students to view challenges as opportunities for learning and improvement rather than insurmountable obstacles that signal failure or inadequacy. By fostering a positive attitude toward the writing process, you can help struggling writers develop the confidence they need to succeed both inside and outside of the classroom.
AI-powered language mastery tool, Linguisity, providing real-time grammar, spelling, and style recommendations to help struggling writers improve their written expression.

Incorporate AI-Powered Support: Linguisity for Struggling Writers

With Linguisity - our AI-powered language mastery tool - you can provide personalized feedback and suggestions to help struggling writers improve their written expression in any of our supported languages. By integrating Linguisity into your classroom instruction, students will have access to real-time grammar, spelling, and style recommendations as they write, empowering them to produce high-quality work that meets the expectations of academic assignments. Moreover, Linguisity's advanced algorithms analyze each student's unique writing patterns, enabling you to identify areas where additional support may be needed and tailor your instruction accordingly.


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