Academic journal article Exceptional Children

Teaching Writing to Exceptional Children: Reaction and Recommendations

Academic journal article Exceptional Children

Teaching Writing to Exceptional Children: Reaction and Recommendations

Article excerpt

Teaching Writing to Exceptional Children: Reaction and Recommendations

Currently educators are responding to the challenge of teaching children to write. This special issue is a manifestation of their concern as it pertains to exceptional children. The research reported in this issue varies in focus, resulting in a variety of recommendations for instruction. This article attempts to provide guidelines for evaluating the research base that supports those recommendations for instruction. It also presents suggestions for further research that would provide more complete instructional approaches for teachng writing to exceptional children.


A review of the articles in this issue shows the overwhelming importance of the process model as the basis for most current instruction and research. Figure 1 depicts the goals of the researc that pertain to the process model, that is, toward understanding the writing process and the instructional approaches related to it. One goal of research, understanding the composing process, emphasizes the cognitive operations engaged in by the writer. Writing is viewed as a recursive activity involving planning, drafting, and revising. These three processes are not totally discrete stages of writing, and may occur or reoccur throughout the period of composing. For example, a writer might revise by reorganizing the sequence in which topics are discussed at any point, though such revision is done more often after the composition has been drafted.

Figure 1 also shows the second goal of research--developing instructional approahces. The fruits of the second goal, of particular interest to the readers of this issue, are explored in detail here.


We believe that the recommendations for instruction associated with the process model can be understood best if two separate roles are considered--that of the teacher and that of the learner. Before discussing these roles however, it should be noted that instructional approaches frequently are offered to teachers as if they had been derived directly from research with unskilled writers and as if their effectiveness had been tested scientifically and substantiated. Usually, such is not the case. Approaches to teaching writing are derived partly from the study of competent writers in the act of composing and partly from classroom observations of writing activities. Although this information is valuable in understanding the act of writing (goal 1 in Figure 1), we need to proceed cautiously in assuming that processes or behaviors observed in an experienced writer can be transformed directly into teaching techniques for exceptional children (goal 2). The need for caution is even more pronounced when we consider that instructional approaches suggested to teachers of exceptional children are general and, for the most part, have not evolved from investigations of exceptional students.

Teacher's Role

The teaching role under a process model is characterized as active, directive, facilitative, and supportive. The active teacher both understands the nature of the writing process and is equipped with techniques to provide direction and support for the learner throughout the stages of writing. Thus, the teacher facilitates writing by providing instruction to guide student planning or revision, to increase schema building, or to encourage the student to monitor his or her own writing. The teacher knows which writing skills the child has acquired and which ones need further development.

The role of the process-oriented teacher can be clarified by contrasting it with the teaching role associated with the now-outmoded, product-oriented model of writing, which prevailed in pubic schools until the last decade. The product approach was based on the notion that students learn to write from reading and analyzing published texts and noting their stylistic and organizational features. …

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