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How To: Adjust Your Teaching Style to Your Students' Learning Style
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How To: Adjust Your Teaching Styles to Students' Learning Styles
How To: Develop as a Professional
How To: Implement Standards, Curriculum, and Assessment

Before They Write
Sharon Longert

Many students do not plan before writing; they prefer to just start to write. For others it is important to go slowly and take the time to think about what they will write. Writing is a process and includes planning, thinking, and organizing to get a final product that is complete. Generating and organizing ideas impacts the quality of the work. Students must be able to get started and concentrate on the task as well as monitor the quality of their work. They also need to present their perspective and to think creatively. They need to decide what to write about, develop a topic, research a topic, produce original thoughts, elaborate on ideas, use prior knowledge, think critically, and apply new and learned concepts. Here is a framework you can employ to help your students stay focused, organized, and creative.

  • Help students by having them think about the finished product before they even start. Then have them delineate the steps required to get to the end. Have them outline the information they will include in the report or story.
  • Provide jump starters by providing some start-up sentences to help to generate ideas.
  • Encourage self-monitoring by asking for a plan or outline for the project. Make the objectives clear, specific and measurable–-how long will they work, what will be the length of the report.
  • Allow them to warm-up by noting what they remember about the topic or by quickly reviewing the last class or the recently learned material.
  • At first, use high-interest topics to ensure that they will begin and sustain work on the writing assignments.
  • Be aware that a difficult task will require more mental effort and that some students do not want to perform less than perfectly. This may be a reason some students may not want to start on their own.
  • Writing tasks require long periods of concentration; make sure there is sufficient time for the student who has difficulty sustaining long periods of mental effort. Adjust the rate, complexity, and amount of information that will be produced at one time.
  • Provide summary charts, partial outlines, or other graphic organizers to assist with complex concepts and ideas.
  • Begin with assignments that allow them to choose a small topic that is related to something they know about. Let them know they can include charts and diagrams to explain their views with written captions.
  • Monitor the quality of their work while allowing for self-monitoring. Self-monitoring involves students in noticing their mistakes while writing and proofreading. Use specific exercises that allow students to successfully self-monitor
  • Some acronyms for self-monitoring:

COPS – Capitalization- Over-all appearance & organization- Punctuation- Spelling
TREE – Think of a Topic, Reasons to support the topic sentence, Examine reasons, Ending
DARE – Develop topic sentence, Add supporting details, Reject at least one idea, End with conclusion

  • Provide samples of work that can be used for student comparison.
  • Provide checklists that outline the steps and important components of the process that is being monitored. Make sure to give them out while they are writing so that corrections can be made at regular intervals.
  • Create rubrics for specific areas: organization with a clear beginning, middle and end; purpose achieved in a sensible pattern; opening sentence for each paragraph; knowledge of the topic; interest/appeal to the reader; use of descriptive details; creates mental images; sentence fluency; use of spelling, punctuation and tense.

Writing requires students to focus their attention on memory, language, self-monitoring, and organization. It is a process that teachers need to build as they progress through the term. They are likely to become successful if they have a set of steps and requirements that are clear and have a high likelihood of achieving success.

Levine, Mel; The Schools Attuned Program, Subject Specialist Path Management Strategies; All Kinds of Minds; 2005.

I hope you’ve found these basics helpful. If you have a question or suggestion, don’t hesitate to e-mail me.


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