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SPED 780 Class 7 Writing Disabilities/Intro to Behavior Judith Mack, MSEd , MSW Adjunct Professor Department of Special Education. Agenda. Group presentation 20min Debrief online class 5 Writing disabilities lecture 20 Writing activity 10 Vocabulary Centers 40 Debrief-Discuss 15

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SPED 780

Class 7

Writing Disabilities/Intro to Behavior

Judith Mack, MSEd, MSW

Adjunct Professor

Department of Special Education


  • Group presentation 20min

  • Debrief online class 5

  • Writing disabilities lecture 20

  • Writing activity 10

  • Vocabulary Centers 40

  • Debrief-Discuss 15

  • Synthesizing what we have learned about Reading and Writing (small groups) 20


  • Handwriting

  • Spelling/Vocabulary

  • Composition

What handwriting problems do students experience
What Handwriting Problems Do Students Experience?

  • Dysgraphia is a written language disorder involving the mechanical writing skill.

  • Problems with letter formation

    • Include malformation of letters, poor spacing, and extremely slow writing

  • Problems with fluency

    • Slow, labored handwriting may have negative effects on performance in other areas of written expression.

  • Handwriting problems are often associated with other problems, especially in spelling and composition.

How is handwriting performance assessed
How Is Handwriting Performance Assessed?

  • Experienced teachers can readily recognize poor handwriting, so formal tests are not essential.

  • Planning handwriting instruction

    • It is important that students with handwriting problems keep writing.

  • Monitoring handwriting progress

    • Teachers can use curriculum-based assessment to evaluate both the legibility and the speed of handwriting.

What interventions can help with handwriting difficulties
WhatInterventions Can Help with Handwriting Difficulties?

  • The fundamental question of whether to teach manuscript or cursive has yet to be resolved.

  • Effective teaching practices in handwriting emphasize teacher modeling and student practice.

  • Reinforcement and self-instruction training are other effective practices.

  • Tracing

  • Assistive Technology

What spelling problems do students experience
What Spelling Problems Do Students Experience?

  • Because the English language appears irregular in its spellings, it is difficult to learn to spell.

    • There are 251 different spellings for the 44 sounds of English.

Spelling errors and effects of spelling problems
Spelling Errors and Effectsof Spelling Problems

  • Most misspellings are phonetically acceptable, made in the middle of words, and involve alterations of a single phoneme.

  • Difficulty with consonant clusters.

  • Difficulty segmenting words into consonant clusters.

  • Students who have substantial spelling problems can be expected to have difficulties in reading, in part, because of difficulties with phonemic awareness.

How is spelling performance assessed
How Is Spelling Performance Assessed?

  • The three basic methods used to determine the status of a student’s spelling skills are:

    • Dictation

    • Connected writing

    • Recognition

  • Most standardized achievement batteries include measures of spelling skills.

  • Teachers sometimes analyze spelling errors for consistent patterns in student’s mistakes.

  • Informal spelling inventories and monitoring spelling progress (curriculum-based assessment) are two instructional methods.

What interventions help students spelling difficulties
What Interventions Help Students’Spelling Difficulties?

Developmental interventions and remedial interventions
Developmental Interventionsand Remedial Interventions

  • For best results, teachers should:

    • Teach spelling skills directly

    • Include only a few spelling words a day

    • Provide distributed practices

    • Teach for generalization

    • Promote self-correction

Types of spelling words
Types of Spelling Words

  • Regular words: cat

  • High-frequency less regular words: said

  • Homophonous words: they’re, there, their

  • Demon words: misspell

What about vocabulary
What about Vocabulary?

Stages of Word Learning:

  • I never saw it before.

  • I’ve heard of it, but I don’t know what it means.

  • I recognize it in context – it has something to do with…

  • I know it.


Words their way core principles
Words Their Way Core Principles

  • Use assessments to guide “just right” instruction

  • Follow a continuum of support

  • Actively involve students with high-level thinking

  • Provide multiple opportunities across contexts

  • Engage your students

3 level framework for choosing words to teach
3 Level Framework for Choosing Words to Teach

  • Words Not to Teach

    • Words your students already know

    • Words that do not serve your lesson objectives

    • When in doubt, stick with no more than 8-10 words per week

  • Foot-in-the-Door Words

    • May be either content-specific or core academic words

    • Do not require deep knowledge, rather basic understanding

  • Deep knowledge words:

    • Essential for understanding text or overall lesson or unit

    • Or they are high-utility words that students will see in newspapers or magazines

Words their way
Words Their Way

  • Developmental stages

  • Instruction linked to assessment

  • Word sorts, group activities, games

  • Some teacher-led, some independent

Effective teaching procedures
Effective Teaching Procedures

  • In addition to those practices listed in Table 13.2, teachers can use these five techniques:

    • Test-study-test

    • Practice procedures

    • Time delay

    • Morphographic spelling

    • Add-a-word

What composition problems do students experience

Research results indicate that students with learning disabilities are more likely to have difficulty with:

Basic writing skills

Planning, organizing paragraphs, and revising

Thematic maturity and sentence complexity

Word usage, style, and vocabulary

Incorporation of important elements

Problems with reading, spelling, and handwriting are related to difficulties with composition.

What Composition Problems Do Students Experience?

How is composition performance assessed
How Is Composition Performance Assessed? disabilities are more likely to have difficulty with:

  • Screening

    • Screening for writing disabilities is difficult because many students other than those with learning disabilities write poorly

  • Planning composition instruction

    • Requires detailed information about students’ writing skills

    • The PSLT and TOWL are two norm-referenced instruments that require students to compose writing samples

  • Monitoring progress in composition

    • Can be easily done by regularly sampling students’ writing and comparing samples taken at different times

What interventions help students with composition difficulties
What Interventions Help Students disabilities are more likely to have difficulty with:with Composition Difficulties?

  • Teachers should encourage expression, but the fundamental aspects of writing must not be disregarded.

  • Many authorities recommend students learn to write simply by extensive practice in writing.

    • Students should plan, write, edit, and revise.

  • One remedial intervention developed for students with writing problems or learning disabilities is called Expressive Writing.

Effective teaching procedures1
Effective Teaching Procedures disabilities are more likely to have difficulty with:

  • Self-regulated strategy development

  • Learning strategy interventions

  • Explicit teaching of the steps in the writing process

  • Explicit teaching of the conventions of a writing genre

  • Guided feedback

  • Reinforcement

  • Story grammar

  • Cognitive-behavioral techniques

Text structure
Text Structure disabilities are more likely to have difficulty with:

  • Narrative vs. Expository

  • Types of expository

    • Description

    • Sequence

    • Compare/Contrast

    • Problem/Solution

    • Cause/Effect

Planning Sheet for Compare-and-Contrast Essays disabilities are more likely to have difficulty with:

Vocabulary centers
Vocabulary Centers disabilities are more likely to have difficulty with:

Groups of 5

4 Centers

Complete the activity at your station-about 15 minutes

Change centers


Reading and writing
Reading and Writing disabilities are more likely to have difficulty with:

Small groups

For tomorrow
For Tomorrow disabilities are more likely to have difficulty with:

Bring Hallahan book to class


  • Required:

    • Hallahan, Chapter 7

    • Swanson

  • Recommended:

    • Huntington