Written Expression: Scaffolded Strategies for Beginning Writers (DESE)

This professional development course explores diagnostic assessment, process writing, and specific instructional strategies for teaching basic writing skills to struggling writers, particularly students with language-based learning disabilities (LBLD), which fall under the diagnostic umbrella of specific learning disabilities (SLD). This course is intended for educators who wish to help students develop grammar knowledge and build expertise at the word choice and sentence structure levels before stringing sentences together in various forms of written expression. Content would be primarily beneficial for teachers of younger students, but it would also benefit those who teach older writers who need remediation in beginning skills. As a result of the learning experiences in this course, participants will be more competent in their ability to:

  • Identify the hidden demands of writing and understand how they impact the skills of students with specific learning disabilities, such as LBLD
  • Assess student strengths and weaknesses with written expression as a means of informing instruction
  • Scaffold the process of written expression through targeted instruction at the word, sentence, and paragraph levels
  • Employ effective instructional strategies to help students with diagnosed learning disabilities build and develop their writing skills

The course is divided into six, self-paced modules:

  • Introduction to Teaching Writing provides an overview of the hidden demands that make writing a challenging task for students with learning disabilities. This module also introduces diagnostic assessment, process writing, and an appropriate hierarchy of writing skill instruction.
  • Teaching Basic Parts of Speech helps educators understand how to provide targeted instruction in nouns, verbs, prepositional phrases, and adjectives.
  • Sentence Level Instruction introduces the construction of kernel sentences, as well as other advanced sentence techniques and more complex parts of speech.
  • Expository Paragraph Instruction breaks down the elements of a paragraph and provides strategies for helping students craft logical, organized, detailed paragraphs.
  • Multi-Paragraph & Narrative Writing applies the same process for paragraph writing to longer writing assignments, as well as introduces the new strategies necessary for stringing paragraphs together.
  • Revision & Diagnostic Assessment emphasizes strategies for making the revision process more tangible, as well as reviews the process for assessing diagnostic writing samples and connects the writing process to the Landmark Teaching principles™.

Specific Assignments:

  • Pre and Post-Assessments: These ungraded questionnaires will be used to self-assess knowledge and application of course content.
  • Quizzes: The quizzes will assess comprehension of the content from the required reading. The quizzes will be automatically graded within the course platform. Although participants must earn an 80% or higher to move on to the next section of the course, there are unlimited attempts allowed.  
  • Discussion Posts: The discussions will require participants to post an initial response and reply to at least one other post.  
  • Assignments: The assignments in each module will require participants to put theory into practice as they read and follow specific directions and use rubrics provided as guidelines for format, length, and quality expectations.
  • Summative Assessment: This task will require students to synthesize and apply the new content and strategies learned in the course to develop lesson plans for their educational settings and students.

The following text will be embedded in the course:

Jennings, T.M. & Haynes, C.W. (2018). From talking to writing: Strategies for scaffolding narrative and expository writing. Prides Crossing, MA: Landmark School Outreach Program.

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