Differentiation Tip for Writing Instruction: Paper

Differentiation Tip for Writing Instruction: Paper

One year while I was teaching 6th grade, a difficult student of mine, named Salvador, sat with his blank piece of paper for almost the entire period.  The next day, as I watched him dreading the small writing task, he again proceeded to stare at the same blank paper.  No amount of encouragement seemed to help, so I impulsively grabbed my stack of Post Its from my desk, separating one sheet and said, “Here, just write your ideas on this!”  After I circled the room, I came back to Salvador and saw that he filled the entire Post It and he said he needed another one!  By the end of the period, he filled four Post Its!

This was an epiphany for me!  If something as simple as changing a piece of paper can be a motivating factor for students, let’s go for it!  So, the next day, I brought in larger Post Its with lines, wide-ruled paper, yellow legal pads, half and full sheets of colored paper…I even added some templates I used while teaching kindergarten–picture box with solid lines underneath. 

Each time I assigned students a writing task, I gave them the choice of using a keyboard or any kind of paper.  Feeling liberated and motivated, students enthusiastically embraced the writing task.  They also learned more about themselves while they learned to appreciate or tolerate writing more. 

About a week and a half later, we had a class discussion about what they learned about themselves.  Some comments were along the following:

      “I like writing more now.”

       “At first, I used Post Its and then I realized I was using so many Post Its that I could fill a half sheet.  So, now I’m using half sheets of the blue paper.  Blue because I like the Dodgers!”

       “I learned that my writing was sloppier when I used wide ruled paper, so I’m back with college ruled.  I think better too when I write small.”

       “I’m more motivated with the keyboard.  I can get my ideas out faster.”

       “Keyboarding takes me too long, so I prefer paper – my favorite is the yellow legal pad paper.”

It was a celebration of differences and a time I thanked them for helping me be more aware of their needs and differences.

When we ask students to write, we also need to make sure that the task is not a daunting one.  It should be just one small teachable concept that is explained and modeled.  EDCON has broken down the many steps that are necessary in writing essays across the genres in grades PreK-8th grade.  With just a few clicks, teachers can send students an entire genre study which is a series of video lessons for students.  There’s even an amazing grading program!  Visit edcon.us for a free trial.