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Writing Instruction For At-Risk Students


Here are some common-sense teaching strategies from a longtime Texas teacher, Donna Garner. She has a special interest in helping at-risk students become good writers. She has taught secondary-level students. But these tips are solid for any age, and for the whole range of abilities, too, not just kids who are struggling academically. You might share them with your child's teachers or school board members, and keep them in mind when encouraging or tutoring your own child:


-- Homework in English is graded for completion instead of accuracy. If a student follows the directions and completes the assignment on time, he receives a 100 even if every answer is wrong. Therefore, when a student makes a zero on a homework grade, it indicates that he is not putting forth the proper effort.

-- English grammar is a competency-based subject.  When a student does not keep up day-by-day with his work, he cannot move to the next higher level because he does not have the foundation upon which to build the more sophisticated work. It is vitally important that students master each day's work so that they can move ahead successfully.  

-- Mrs. Garner offers tutorials on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays for 45 minutes after school. Normally she can stay later if a student needs extra help.

-- Here are some of her other modifications:

Individualized grammar packets -- lowered reading level, sequential presentation
Peer tutoring
Individualized spelling list -- retesting of spelling words after writing corrections
Individualized reading list with reading level noted -- self-selection
Grade incentives given for book reports
Study skills techniques
Short-term goal setting
Oral book reports
Short answer tests
Graphic organizers for writing process
Computer writing lab
Writing partner
Flashcards and other manipulatives
Search and find library unit -- tactile/kinesthetic
Use of memory devices
Use of  memorization, teacher origination, and student origination levels
Teacher-modeled responses
Guided practice on tests
Newspaper articles provided in order to make topics relevant
Writer's conference with individual students when essays returned
Essays marked for content and grammar
Use of computer lab to input and bold corrections after essays marked
Notebooks used as organizational tool
Visual aids (overhead projector, VCR, blackboard, posters)
Tape recorder
Homework graded for completion instead of accuracy
Constant oral drill and repetition
Directions reviewed frequently
Grammar concepts introduced, reviewed, drilled, applied, and tested
Assignments broken into short segments
Preferential seating
Attention-getting cues constantly given
Class rules clearly defined
Minimum amount of notetaking
Directions not given until room is free of distractions
Hands-on library unit



By Susan Darst Williams Grammar Granny 013 2006


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