Academic journal article Exceptional Children

The Effectiveness of Teaching 10th-Grade Students STOP, AIMS, and DARE for Planning and Drafting Persuasive Text

Academic journal article Exceptional Children

The Effectiveness of Teaching 10th-Grade Students STOP, AIMS, and DARE for Planning and Drafting Persuasive Text

Article excerpt

Although some progress has been made in identifying effective instructional practices for students with disabilities who are poor writers (Graham & Perin, 2007; Rogers & Graham, 2008), most of this intervention research has focused on elementary and middle school students. In the present study, we examined the effectiveness of teaching high school students a strategy for planning and drafting persuasive text. We focused our attention on persuasive writing for three reasons. One, persuasive texts written by youngsters with disabilities are typically poorly developed and incomplete (Page-Voth & Graham, 1999). Two, persuasive writing is an important skill for success in high school. A majority of language arts and social studies high school teachers assign multiple persuasive writing tasks during the school year (Kiuhara, Graham, & Hawken, 2009), persuasive writing is a typical staple of high-stakes tests in most states (Hillocks, 2006), and persuasive writing is critical to success in college (ACT, 2008). Three, the capacity to communicate and defend a position about controversial issues, orally or in writing, is central to participation in a democratic society (Ferretti, Lewis, & Andrews-Weckerly, 2009).

We took a strategic approach to teaching persuasive writing to high school students with disabilities because of the success of this approach with other groups of adolescents. Intervention studies with younger, middle school students with disabilities shows that their persuasive writing can be improved by teaching them strategies for planning and drafting such text (e.g., De La Paz, 2005; De La Paz & Graham, 1997, 2002; Wong, Butler, Ficzere, & Kuperis, 1996). There is also evidence from at least one experimental study that such instruction improved the persuasive writing of typical and struggling high school writers without disabilities (Bryson & Scardamalia, 1996). Moreover, Chalk, Hagan-Burke, and Burke (2005) demonstrated that strategic instruction improved the persuasive writing of 10th-grade students with disabilities in a study involving a single group who were tested before and after instruction (experimental control was not established). In addition, in a single subject design study by Jacobson and Reid (2010), the persuasive writing of three students with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) was improved by teaching them a persuasive writing strategy for planning and drafting text. Based on these promising results with other adolescents who were typical and poor writers, including some students with disabilities, we believed that such instruction was likely to be effective with the 10th-grade poor writers with disabilities in the present study. With the exception of the Jacobson and Reid study, which focused just on students with ADHD, this is the only other controlled study to examine if strategy instruction for persuasive writing or any other type of writing is effective with high school students with disabilities.

A second reason we took a strategic approach to instruction is that it provided a good match to the needs of high school students with disabilities. We adapted a strategy developed by De La Paz and Graham (1997) for younger middle school students, upgrading it so that it would be more pertinent for high school students. The De La Paz and Graham strategy centered on two sets of mental operations encapsulated in the mnemonics STOP and DARE. STOP concentrated mostly on the planning process and reminded students to (a) Suspend judgment by listing reasons for each side of a position before deciding on a premise, (b) Take a position after evaluating the listed ideas, (c) Organize ideas from strongest to weakest or most important to least important, and (d) Plan and write more while writing the essay. DARE served to remind students about basic elements they needed to include in their paper: (a) Develop a topic sentence, (b) Add supporting ideas, (c) Reject possible arguments for the other side, and (d) End with a conclusion. …

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