The Importance of Content and Style
Once the initial prewriting phases are completed, students should weed out any extra filler material that is not essential and start focusing on style. Style is considered one of the hardest aspects of writing to teach and is often associated with talent. However, the two are not entirely the same. Style has to do with the voice or personality of the writer, whereas talent is a sort of high-level ability to communicate is a specific style, in manners unlike anyone else. Famous writers come to mind such as Twain, Melville, or Shakespeare when we think of style.
However, someone does not have to be a famous writer or possess this type of grandiose ability to communicate style. All they have to do is take the content, and as they begin to write, to make it their own. Instead of saying something is good; they can say it is engaging. Instead of saying something is fun; they can say it is "entertaining." Choice of words with the use of a thesaurus or other tool can get this going for students who struggle with writing. The point is to look at the content in their pre-writing and have the ideas flow together in meaningful sentences in this second stage.
By thinking about their own experiences related to their content of choice, they can begin to create a unique piece of writing that has both content and style that is unique to them. Style is considered one of the main reasons students score higher on writing standardized tests. If you can get your students practicing this, their scores will likely improve, and they will become a more proficient writer in the process.
Methods to Teach Style
Give your students good examples of style. Read them a passage from "Hamlet" or "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer." Let them see what different styles look like and sound like. The goal is not to get them to sound just like some of these great literary figures, but if they can hear different styles, they will start to see what good style is all about and start adapting their own.
Here are some other pointers to work on with students with special needs regarding style:
1) Have students name their favorite author and explain why they like that author more than any other.
2) Have them describe a sunset, in 3 different ways or paragraphs.
3) Explain to them that style is an author's personality in writing.
4) Ask them if they understand what is meant by a "hairstyle" or a style of cooking. See if they can make the correlation to writing styles from this analogy.
5) Have them swap papers with their neighbor and underline parts of the paragraph or essay which have a strong sense of style.
Over time and exposure, students with special needs, or any students who struggle with the concept of style should begin to understand what it means, and start developing their own style in their writing.