Teaching the Writing Process to Students with Special Needs

Teaching the Writing Process to Students with Special Needs
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I am a lifelong writer. Writing always came easy to me. I brought grades up in college from a “C” to an “A” because of this gift. But like any talent, the same gift was not bestowed on everyone. I struggled with Math, especially Algebra when I was a student. Some people struggle with Writing and English in the same way I struggled with Math. Once I realized that, I became a better teacher.

This series is meant to be a guide and a step-by-step lesson series on how to teach writing skills required for the standardized tests, as well as other contexts.

Teaching Writing to Resource Students

Knowing your students and where their strong points are is essential to helping them flourish with the changing demands of today’s current education system. So, first, assess what skills your students have, including content-writing skills, grammatical ability, spelling, and more, and analyze what they need to work on. But, in order to effectively teach writing, we must start with the most obvious: Content-writing. We will also look at the various steps of writing, and model it in the way students with special needs learn best.

Step 1: The Pre-WritingStage

There are many components to good writing, which include content, grammar, style, tone, voice, and sentence structure. All of these are important but can be difficult to teach to students who struggled with Language Arts skills and writing structure. One of the first things you should teach is content. Content is the fabric that holds the piece together. The rest are just vehicles to good writing. Without good content, you do not have anything. So, starting with good content about a topic is the first step.

To get students to think about what to write about, here are 10 idea starters that may serve to spur their imaginations:

  1. One fun thing I did last summer was….

  2. If I could do anything for a job, it would be….

  3. My favorite memory of Christmas at home was….

  4. The best car for the money right now is….

  5. My goals for the future are…..

  6. Cats make better pets than dogs because….

  7. __________ is the best place to go on vacation because…

  8. What Makes a Nice Person is…..

  9. The Grand Canyon is much more than just a big hole in the ground….

  10. People should not smoke because…..

These 10 writing starter ideas include many of the most important skills tested on the Benchmark exams. They include the skills the standardized test creators expect them to know, including analysis, comparison, persuasive language, and evaluation. They also include the skill of research in some cases, such as defending why a certain place is the best place to go on vacation, or what the Grand Canyon is, besides a big hole in the ground. In addition, they require students to use their imaginations to come up with ideas on their own. These writing starter ideas are only meant to get a kid’s imagination going, and hopefully spur them on to their own ideas. They all require analytical thinking; some require comparison writing, and other skills they should learn to effectively communicate their own ideas.

Content is really about what they know. This requires some former knowledge, but this is also something teachers can teach. Brainstorming is the most essential element of writing at the pre-writing stage. During this stage, get students to think of everything about the topic they possibly can within 5 minutes. They should write everything that pops into their heads. The good writer has often said, “Don’t think. Write.” This is true in this initial stage while working on ideas for content. The revising and perfecting stage comes later.

So in this part, simply have students write everything they can think of, organize their notes, then “weed their garden,” so that their essay will not be too broad. Once they have decided on a topic and developed the ideas, they are ready to move on to step 2: The Writing Stage


This post is part of the series: The Five Step Writing Process for Students with Special Needs

The 5 steps to good writing include: 1) Pre-writing (Brainstorming), 2) Writing (Content), 3) Rewriting/Revising, 4) Editing/Proofreading, 5) Publishing. This series goes through each step, outlining some ideas to try for students who struggle.

  1. Teaching Writing to Students with Special Needs
  2. Teaching Students with Special Needs: The Writing Phase
  3. Rewriting and Revising: Teaching Students with Special Needs
  4. Proofreading & Publishing: The Final Stage in the Writing Process