Academic journal article Learning Disability Quarterly

Increasing Story-Writing Ability through Self-Regulated Strategy Development: Effects on Young Writers with Learning Disabilities

Academic journal article Learning Disability Quarterly

Increasing Story-Writing Ability through Self-Regulated Strategy Development: Effects on Young Writers with Learning Disabilities

Article excerpt

Abstract. In this replication study, supplemental writing instruction in strategic planning was used to improve the story writing ability of young writers with learning disabilities (LD) and poor writing skills. Six 2nd-grade students with learning disabilities who experienced difficulty with story writing were taught a strategy for planning and writing stories using the Self-Regulated Strategy Development approach. The effects of the strategy were assessed through a multiple-baseline-across-subjects design. After learning the strategy the stories written by the students at post-instruction and maintenance became more complete, longer, and qualitatively better. In addition, planning time at post-instruction and maintenance increased. Limitations of the study and implications for practice are discussed.


Writing poses challenges for many students. While composing, a writer must manage complex problem-solving writing processes that include planning, considering the audience's needs and perspectives, generating organized content, and revising for form and ideas. Although many students struggle occasionally with writing, writing is especially difficult for less skilled writers and writers with a learning disability (LD) (Graham & Harris, 1989).

For many students with LD, writing problems exist on two levels: (a) lower level--including grammar, punctuation, and spelling; and (b) higher level--including audience awareness, planning, content generation, and revising (Newcomer, Nodine, & Barenbaum, 1988). Obstacles on either level may detract from the overall quality of the written message. For example, spelling errors may make stories more difficult to understand, while lack of audience awareness may make the story unappealing or irrelevant.

Students who have LD and struggle with writing may have difficulty executing and monitoring many of the cognitive processes writers need to effectively manage during the writing process (Saddler, Moran, Graham, & Harris, 2004). Although writing is a multifaceted process, they may approach the writing task as a solitary activity--to only write (Englert & Marriage, 1991). Such an approach, called a "what's next?" strategy (Scardamalia & Bereiter, 1986), minimizes the role of planning and revising and may lead to several undesirable story characteristics. First, the stories may be shorter as authors cannot find enough to say while writing. Second, the stories may be less coherent as writing assignments are converted into question-and-answer tasks, where whatever comes to mind is included and a clear focus for the story is not established (Newcomer et al., 1988). Third, the ideas that are stated are not developed into cohesive story lines, leading to stories that lack basic story elements such as an ending or premise (Graham & Harris, 1989, 1993, 1997). Fourth, much irrelevant information may be generated because these writers may have less knowledge of story structure or what elements a story may include (e.g., setting, characters, ending).


Researchers investigating writing instruction have attempted to help less skilled writers develop the more sophisticated approaches to writing that skilled writers employ (Graham, Harris, MacArthur, & Schwartz, 1991). Writing researchers have largely focused on three critical areas: explicit teaching of the writing process through strategies and procedural facilitators; adherence to a basic framework of planning, writing, and revising; and feedback (Gersten & Baker, 2001). Specific intervention research has included teaching specific types of text structure (e.g., Welch, 1992); navigating the writing process via "plans of action" (e.g., Englert, Raphael, Anderson, Anthony, & Stevens, 1991); planning (De La Paz & Graham, 1997); peer feedback (MacArthur, Schwartz, & Graham, 1991); modes of transcription (MacArthur & Graham, 1987); and sentence construction (Saddler & Graham, 2005). …

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