Resources to Teach "Formal" Writing to Middle Schooler?
February 27, 2017 3:34 AM   Subscribe

I'm working with a student who's been diagnosed with "Slowness on mental recall; executive function issues." We're focusing now on her "formal" (i.e., short essay) writing and I'm looking for resources that would offer exercises in things like paraphrasing, outlining an argument, developing strong thesis statements and the like. Thx.
posted by Jon44 to Education (4 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Back when I was tutoring middle and elementary grade writers, I relied a lot on the resources at Purdue's OWL. You'll need to rejigger the lessons and exercises a bit for your audience, but you'd do that for most anything.
posted by notyou at 6:50 AM on February 27, 2017 [3 favorites]

The Schaffer Model is what we learned in middle and high school. It's great because when you are just starting, you can literally give the kid a worksheet so she can fill in the blanks.

Wikipedia says it's good for students who "struggle" with paragraph structure, but I learned it in "talented & gifted" English class. It just works. It has a nice natural rhythm. Teacher told us we could stop using it once our papers written without the model were superior to our papers written using it.

It doesn't help with your ask re developing strong thesis statements, which (at least for me) just took practice and instruction. There's a reason that "In conclusion, there are many similarities and differences..." is a running joke around here.
posted by radicalawyer at 8:35 AM on February 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

We also used the OWL as a quick reference resource in the Writing Center where I worked in college.
posted by radicalawyer at 2:31 PM on February 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

I've tutored a lot of students, several with memory or processing issues. I found that breaking up the elements of the task was essential. The structure of the writing is one thing, the content is another. When teaching the structure, make it fun or about a topic the student likes. When they have the pattern of the writing, you can then add the new content. While it may seem silly to write about frivolous topics, it's all about reducing the cognitive load. I've read a LOT of stories and essays about Minecraft and basketball....

Graphic organisers help. They take the pressure off because it reduces writing and reading, being a picture and because they don't need full sentences. Once the ideas are down, you can then move to making the sentences.

Having a structure to "plug" the answer into helps too because it reduces processing. Learning the "rules" of paragraphs and essays, mean the student knows where to put the information. Have a look at the teacher resource sites like Twinkl or Teachers Pay Teachers. There are plenty of free resources available there (though you'll need an account). Teacher resources from libraries or friends will help - there are tonnes of books with photocopiable planners, and the old ones still have great tools.

I often search Google or Pinterest for "graphic organizers" (the US spelling gets more results), when I'm looking for a resources, like the structure of a persuasion. Sounds like the Hamburger (or Oreo) paragraph might be a good starting point. The PEEL paragraph is also helpful for students ready for a more formal approach.

Thanks everyone for the other links here! I'm alreading planning how to use them in my classes!
posted by liss at 3:56 AM on February 28, 2017 [2 favorites]

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