When you think of the word "dyslexia" reading problems immediately come to mind but many students with dyslexia struggle with writing as well. Dysgraphia, or written expression disorder, impacts handwriting, the spacing of letters and sentences, omitting letters in words, the lack of punctuation and grammar when writing and difficulty organizing thoughts on paper. The following resources should help you better understand dysgraphia and work with students to improve writing skills.
Understanding Dyslexia and Dysgraphia
Dyslexia and dysgraphia are both neurological based learning disabilities but both have specific symptoms. It's important to learn the symptoms, types of dysgraphia, and treatment options. Dyslexia impacts writing skills in many ways. Students with dyslexia show a significant difference between what they can tell you verbally and what they are able to convey on paper. They may have trouble with spelling, grammar, punctuation, and sequencing. Some may have dysgraphia as well as dyslexia. Knowing how this learning disability affects writing can help you develop specific strategies for working to improve writing skills.
Teaching Students With Dyslexia and Dysgraphia
Once understood, you can make some accommodations in the classroom to help improve writing and learning in students with written expression disorder. For example, experimenting with different kinds of pens can help you find what is most comfortable for your student, and improve legibility.
Written assignments completed by students with dyslexia are often filled with spelling and grammar errors, and the handwriting is sometimes illegible, causing a teacher to think the student is lazy or unmotivated. A plan of action provides a step-by-step approach for organizing thoughts and information to help make the writing process easier. when teaching writing skills to students with dyslexia.
Ideas for Lesson Plans
Arm yourself with specific strategies to incorporate into your daily teaching that will help you work with students with dyslexia and dysgraphia improve their writing skills. One suggestion is to put away the red pen when grading papers and use a more neutral color to avoid the student becoming discouraged when seeing all the red marks when you return an assignment.
- Building Sequencing Skills: From the time we are very young, we learn to complete tasks in a specific way, such as tying shoes or using long division. If we do the task out of order, the end result is often wrong or doesn't make any sense. Sequencing skills are used in writing as well, making our written information make sense to the reader. This is often an area of weakness for children with dyslexia. Students with dyslexia can frequently see the "big picture" but have trouble understanding the steps it takes to get there. Plan a lesson requiring students to take parts of an event or story and put them in the correct, chronological order.
- Journal Writing: Helps students in middle school practice writing skills by keeping a daily journal. Writing prompts are given each morning or as a homework assignment and students write a few paragraphs. Varying the writing prompts helps students practice different types of writing, for example, one prompt might require descriptive writing and one might require persuasive writing. Once a week or every other week, students choose a journal entry to edit and revise.
- Create a Classroom Book: This lesson can be used from 1st through 8th grade and gives you the opportunity to teach social lessons as well as writing lessons. As you complete classroom books, put them in your classroom library for students to read again and again, helping them learn about and become more tolerant of one another's differences.
- Writing Newspaper Articles: This project not only works on informative writing skills, but it fosters cooperation by teaching students to work together to create a classroom newspaper.
- Outline Writing Prompt: Teachers often give students writing prompts to help generate writing ideas, however, students with dyslexia may need additional assistance in organizing information. Provide a step-by-step guide that goes through the process of putting together an outline that organizes information.