Writing: getting started

Hello all!!  This is Caitlin from Learning Ahoy! My plan today is to share how I get my kids to start writing.  Just a refresher, I teach special education in pre-k through 2nd grade.  I usually work with the students who are diagnosed in the areas of intellectual disabilities, multiple disabilities, Autism, etc.  I am true believer that all students can write (they do not need to know how to spell or read independently), they just all do it differently.
Before beginning, make sure you have a general understanding of the various stages of writing.
  • scribbling
  • marks & scribble writing
  • letter like forms & individual letters
  • letter strings and my name
  • invented spelling
  • conventional spelling
If you need a refresher on all of these stages, TTAC (remember I posted about TTAC in October. You can find that post here.) has a nice little video with a notetaker that is very helpful. You can find it here.  

Once you are firmed up on the stages of writing, it is time to figure out the student's writing utensil. Yes, for most kids this is a pencil.  Other kids may use a keyboard, pictures from magazines, pre-printed words, eye-gaze charts, flip charts, and the list goes on.  You can check out TTAC's information about alternative pencils to learn more.
Next, you need to figure out what your students are going to write about.  I find that it is beneficial to start with topics that the students are interested in.  For example, a few years ago I had a student who loved Elmo.  So, I hopped on Google images and pulled up some pictures of Elmo.  He picked one out and we worked together to type a sentence about that picture. You could also have parents send in pictures or use pictures from a recent class activity.  With my preschoolers, we will often write a class book using pictures from a field trip.  I will put the picture on the projector and the kids tell me what to write about it.  I usually only need to model one page and they get it. Another idea to get our students writing is to have them label pictures.

The last part of writing is making time for students to share.  They do not need to share everything they write, but being able to read to a peer or an adult is a huge motivator.  You can also post in the hallway, in the classroom,  or share in a class newsletter.

If you need to get started with labeling, you can check out this labeling activity that I did with my students.  We labeled a snowman.  I did this with my preschoolers all the way up to my second graders. All are on various levels.  

With the preschoolers, we simply talked about the different parts of the snowman and then matched the words from the word bank.  I got this awesome freebie from KidSparkz on TpT. This is already differentiated so I used the one where the words were already on the labels.

Depending on the level with the older kids, they put labels on their own snowman, wrote their own labels, wrote complete sentences, and one group labeled then wrote a story.

If you are looking for more information about writing for our youngest learners and those learners with special needs, you can order the writing TACtic from TTAC ( No, they are not paying me to write this post, I just find TTAC very helpful)

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