Differentiation is the idea that all students can learn when given the strategies they need to succeed. It is crucial for improving academic achievement for all students, no matter their ability. However, when it comes to each academic area, differentiation looks very different especially when teaching writing.
Writing is probably the most difficult thing to teach. There are so many components and prerequisite skills that students need before they are able to begin composing even the simplest form of writing. As a special education teacher, differentiating writing instruction is a daily task no matter what grade level and it sometimes carries over into other subjects, like science and social studies, when more writing becomes necessary. But I’m here to tell you that there are simple ways to differentiate writing instruction for students of all ages.
- Graphic organizers
The use of graphic organizers can help students organize their thoughts, understand the writing process, and also help them come up with ideas. Graphic organizers can be used across all subjects, all grades, and for all abilities. They can even be used with the next three differentiation ideas. When using graphic organizers, they can also serve as an outline of what should be included or a check list of the different parts they need to include. This allows the student a guided way to develop and organize their thoughts without missing important details or parts.
- Color Coding
When it comes to color coding, there are SO many ways it can be used in writing. It can be used when helping students plan their writing, during their writing, and also to revise their writing. Color coding can be used so students can identify the beginning, middle, or end of their writing when composing a narrative or if answering a question or prompt, they can color code the different parts of the question to correlate with the color code in their response.
- Student Choice
Writing can be difficult for many students because it can be hard for them to come up with their own thoughts, ideas and sometimes even when given the topic, they struggle to find the words. Allowing students to choose the topic gives them the opportunity to write about something they want to and have knowledge about. They may not always get to choose their topic but it can really help students who are beginning to learn the writing process enjoy writing more.
- Paragraph or sentence stems
If you have students who frequently struggle to start writing whether it’s a short answer, paragraph answer, or any other piece of writing, paragraph or sentence stems are a great way to help them get started. Using paragraph or sentence stems can model and teach students appropriate ways to start writing certain responses or pieces of writing.
Aside from organizing thoughts, some of our students are hesitant to write because they struggle with spelling, grammar, and semantics. Struggling with these skills can cause students a lot of stress even when they have good ideas. Allowing students to use assistive technology, like speech-to-text, or typing using Grammarly or predictive text versus writing, can allow students to write in a more stress free way so their ideas can get on paper.
Having strategies to help students of all skill-levels is key to enhancing educational outcomes across the board. These strategies can be used across all subjects and all grade levels to help students succeed when writing.