Building writing strategies is something that is important to do with struggling readers. I love to write and I can have trouble organizing my ideas at times, especially if I have to write about something that doesn’t interest me. Struggling readers have trouble with that also, and often have poor spelling skills and messy handwriting. How would you feel if you were being asked to write and had no idea how to spell half of the words you wanted to say? For this reason and many others, writing can be harder than reading for those who struggle. This chapter lays out a process approach and other strategies to help struggling writers.
Gunning states that between 12-18% of students in grades 4-12 are at below basic writing level. He also says that writing a narrative tends to be easier than writing an informative piece. I saw a little bit of this in my Writing Workshop last semester with a group of third graders. I had one student who struggled and I noticed that some of his best writing was when he talked about an event he went through than anything else. I think it was because he knew it, he experienced it, and it was interesting to him, so I can see how that could come easier to him.
The process approach to writing that this chapter talks about comes in 5 steps: Prewriting, Composing, Revising, Editing, and Publishing. All of these steps are important and should be helpful to those who struggle, since it maps out each step they should take in order to effectively prepare to write a piece. All of the steps are pretty self-explanatory, so I won’t go into all of them. It might also help the writer if you post this routine of the writing process in the room so when you are having writing time, they can use this for reference and to track their steps.
In addition to all of this, it is important not to forget to teach basic grammar skills, such as spelling, punctuation, capital letters, etc. There are also different stages of writing levels, and it is important to be aware of these and know which level certain students are at, so you can grade them accordingly and make sure they get the most help possible.
I really enjoyed that this chapter talked about using Writing Workshop. It’s a great way to put the writing process model to practice and really get kids familiar with it. In a small group setting, like the one I participated in, you are able to adapt each lesson for the needs of a specific child. Struggling readers can have their own differentiated instruction, and that can be really effective. Usually it’s not in a small group setting, but it was cool that I got to experience that.