Creative Writing: Poetry

Some people utilize writing as a tool--as a means to an end--other people use it as a creative outlet and way to interact with and comprehend the world around them; personally, for me, writing has acted as a lifeline.

At the age of 15, I sustained a massive stroke, and was subjected to spinal meningitis. My blood temperature rose to 107°F, leaving me with a profound memory deficit. I was no longer the same student I had been before my stroke and was forced to acquire skills that would allow me to compensate for my newly found inability to process information quickly or effectively.

I was forced to re-define my personal notion of what it meant to be successful and came to believe that perfect results were less important than the act of taking action. If I maintained focus and engagement, learning, eventually, would follow; luckily, in the early stages, following my final stroke and ensuing brain surgeries, one class, creative writing, captivated me and provided me with a distinct affinity for writing.

Through poetry, I was able to express myself and amass confidence in my communicative abilities. It sustained and motivated me, even though I struggled with academic writing that was requisite for my English and content-area classes. Writing was hard; yet, I was still a writer.

The struggles I experienced with the writing process are not atypical; vast numbers of learning disabled students enter post-high school academia with weak writing skills and a lack of confidence in their ability to produce effective communication.

Learning disabled students often struggle with writing, reading and studying, at as they attempt to adapt to new routines and responsibilities required for them in higher education. Often, they do not complete their degrees. Disabled students who do not complete college experience difficulty in becoming gainfully employed. One longitudinal study of learning disabled students found that 42% of LD students are unemployed.

As a disabled individual who attended four separate schools, before attaining my bachelor’s degree, I understand the sacrifice and faith that is required for a learning-disabled individual to persevere as an undergraduate student. Effective writing instruction can have a profound impact on disabled learners’ lives; this is due to the fact that writing enables students to achieve success and explore their own thoughts and values.

Detailed here is an alternative learning writing lab that combines best practices for learning-disabled writing instruction with poetry writing, as a means to expose students to the poetic function of language and is utilized to develop students’ understanding of the writing process. Students in the lab develop their abilities to use imagination while they comprehend new knowledge and experiences. As well, they explore poetry writing, in a small group setting, with a skilled instructor, who utilizes best practices for LD writing instruction.

Explicit, individualized instruction and writing strategies’ development are stressed and simple poetry writing techniques are used to demystify (don't get me started on the delicate geniuses that fancy themselves to be creative geniuses who are able, inexplicably, to pull words out of the ether) the creative writing process and provide students recursive opportunities to move through the stages of generating, organizing and revising their work. Writers will engage in a set of connected, scaffolded writing learning opportunities which are engaging and that encourage writers’ willingness to experiment in wordplay in and out of the LD Writing Lab.

Learning Disabled students practice critical writing processes and engage in meta-cognitive discussions to determine and reflect upon best writing strategies that can be utilized and  how  these can be applied to current and future writing tasks. Introducing learning disabled students to poetry writing supports several goals of the alternative writing lab. By virtue of the act of composing poetry’s status as a new experience for the targeted students, it presents them with a clean slate perspective of themselves, as writers.

The abridged format of poetic form will act to alleviate pressure learning disabled students experience, or when called upon to compose long texts or expected to synthesize large amount of new information, in preparing to respond. These characteristics of academic writing them pose obstacles to the learning process and impede students’ mastery of the writing process for learning disabled students.  By eliminating these distractions and providing writing strategies that are supported with intense engagement and instruction, learning disabled students can gain confidence and proficiency, before entering the fundamental composition class.

Optimally, learning disabled students should be able to transfer, seamlessly, from the alternative writing lab experience to bear her first-year collegiate composition class that will, as well, be taught by an experienced learning-disabled strategies instructor. This instructor will build upon the sad of skills that learning disabled students have acquired, previously, and will impart the customary rhetoric-driven English 101 curriculum. 

Common Difficulties Experienced by Learning Disabled Students

When cognitively disabled students enter post-secondary education, they experience difficulty that stems from a variety of affects that are imposed by their unique disabilities. In fact, written language problems are believed to exceed LD students’ other academic difficulties (Li & Hamil, 2003) and are a major concern, not only of the students, but of their instructors as well.  LD students often have experienced failure and humiliation because of their writing  and have trouble controlling negative emotions that arise when they  need to write. (LD Professional Guide)

 Learning disabilities are varied and can range from dyslexia, ADHD, memory deficit and the scrappy at; however, common difficulties exist among the experience is learning-disabled students, at each stage of the writing process. In the pre-writing stage, cognitively-affected students struggled to generate and develop ideas. (Gould, 1991) learning disabled writers, as well, experience difficulty when attempting to access prior knowledge, as a means to communicate effectively on a topic.

In the organizing and drafting stages, all student writers must employ complex sets of thought processes, to synthesize new information acquired from reading or from lecturers with their prior knowledge, while organizing that knowledge and maintaining consideration of their assignments’ prescribed parameters. When learning disabled students attempt to accomplish these simultaneous tasks, they all are often hindered by week reading comprehension skills and poor listening and processing capabilities which often force these students to struggle to determine the most prone ideas on which to focus. Learning disabled students, also, struggle with spelling, capitalization and punctuation, as well as with semantics-, syntax-and grammar-related issues. Some disabled learners experience difficulty associated with the mechanical aspects of writing.

During the revision stage, learning disabled students prioritize mechanical changes and fail to focus, in-depth, on content and coherence (Gould, 1991). Often times, the students assume that their readers will comprehend their intended meaning, failing to recognize that what they have written the lacks clarity (Gould, 1991). Thereby, the students often receive negative responses to their writing and become accustomed to receiving substandard or mediocre grades own written assignments.


Proven successful strategies for facilitating learning disabled students’ acquisition of writing skills include the provision of intensive, explicit instruction and focus on strategy instruction. Explicit instruction methods are comprised of: (a) providing concise instructions to develop skills and writing strategies (b) modeling thought processes that are used by successful writers (c) working with students as a means to determine most effective strategies for writing tasks (d) providing scaffolded, recursive instruction, including frequent feedback and (e) pro-viding opportunities for discussion and time to plan for application of new skills to other writing tasks (National Institute for Literacy, 2009).

Strategy instruction focuses upon hire-order thought processes that gird and support planning, drafting and evaluating processes of students’ written performances. These strategies are communicated as a sequence of directions which learners follow as a means to acquire the ability to work and act independently.  One particular strategic method is the Self-Regulated  Strategy Development method (SRSD) that uses acronyms to facilitate students’ abilities to memorize its components.

In a meta-analysis of data that were gained from research on methods for teaching adolescent writers effective writing skills, Graham and Perrin determined that instruction they utilize Self-Regulated Strategies Development (SRSD) facilitated significantly-enhanced positive results for learning disabled students’ writing abilities. (Grammar & Perrin, 2007)

The most effective tutoring services are provided to students, in one-on-one or small group situations, space utilizing explicit instruction that facilitates highest games and literacy skills. (Allsop, Maskoff & Bolt, 2005; Butler, 2003; Hock, 1998) a specific model for tutoring that provides students explicit instruction is referred to as the Strategic Tutoring Model (Hock, Deshler & Shumaker, 2000).

The Strategic Tutoring Model is comprised of four steps for instruction; these are: 01 assessing a student’s currently-utilized approach to writing, 02 collaborating with the student to develop a learning strategy and reviewing the components of the strategy, together, 03 modeling the strategy for the student, and, 04 with the student, conferring as to ways the strategy can be applied.

In a survey to analyze strategic tutoring models, a sampling of 28 low-achieving pupils, including three learning disabled students, worked with strategic tutors’ assistance for three hours per week, during a full semester; students received explicit tutoring services to assist them with themed writing assignments and were enabled to acquire writing strategies and begin to transfer the skills they acquired to other aspects of their academic work (Hock, 1998).


A Personal Perspective

            In being a writing educator, my approach to the act of writing emerges from a slightly unique set of circumstances; I am both a writing tutor of students and struggle with writing, myself. Upon entering undergraduate school, three years after having undergone life-saving brain surgery, I transitioned to higher education in the way many learning disabled students do: bewildered and utterly unsure that I would be able to succeed, scholastically.

As part of my personal transition, I had to learn a variety of compensatory methods that enabled me more readily to achieve success as a college student; however, in contrast to what many other learning disabled students experience, I entered higher education, willing to embrace the writing process, even though it was sometimes painstakingly difficult.

I was fortunate to have graduated from a high school that had a strong creative writing program which emphasized poetry; our teacher encouraged students to embrace writing, from the vantage point of a poet; and, thus, I ingested, processed and externalized responses to lesson plans that promoted experimentation with language and writing concepts that taught me how to discuss my writing and provided me a positive view of my own written proficiency, no matter how unorthodox or counter-intuitive my undergirding inspiration or method was.

Making the transition from high school, junior college/community college, to university-level academia can easily frustrate and discourage students who have learning disabilities. During their first semesters, disabled students often struggle with new methods, routines and strategies for learning. LD students, especially, are often struggle for several semesters before having the chance to access courses and curricula that are specifically important to their personal aspirations or that are just creative and fun. There is another approach.


 James Britton et al, in their study, entitled “The Development of Writing Abilities”, (11-18) classified the function of  language as expressive, transactional or poetic.  Transactional language focuses on the production of communication for a purpose: to inform or influence. The researchers defined poetic language as that which allows writers to examine knowledge through a personal lens that utilizes imagination to understand and apply knowledge. (Young, 2000).

In “Considering Values: The Poetic Function of Language”, Art Jang asserts that poetic form encourages students to become a spectator in the writing process and to shape their writing around their personal conceptions of their own values and understandings, as they relate to new knowledge or experience. Poetic writing focuses upon the experience of the individual, encouraging students to reflect upon their role in the writing process and what they value, empowering students to experiment with who they are, as writers.

Writing poetry provides students the ability to control their own written expression, with-out the impending pressure to achieve, inherent in transactional writing methods. At Clemson University, Art Young has experimented with infusing poetry writing into the school’s writing across the curriculum program and, while his students are not required to be of learning disabled status, data returned from business, science and engineering students evidence the potential benefits that the usage of poetic writing presents, leading to the hypothesis that students should be able to access this type of engagement learning (Young, 2000).


Detailed here, is proposal for improving learning disabled individuals’ writing skills through the implementation of an alternative learning writing laboratory, wherein poetry exercises will be used in small group settings to teach and rehearse the writing process and build generating, organizing, directing and revision skills through explicit, intensive strategy-based instruction that has been proven effective for educating learning disabled students. Another goal of the lab is to provide students access to alternative writing experience that will re-introduce them to writing, as a process that can be fun, manageable and rewarding.

Simple, sequential poetry writing techniques will be utilized to encourage Learning Disabled students to embrace experimentation with language and grow to enjoy writing. Students will be challenged to reflect on the writing process and be facilitated to develop confidence in their writing and thinking abilities as they quickly grow and learn to create beautiful language.

To support learning, the writing lab will utilize intensive, individualized instruction and assessment methods.  The instructor will model writing strategies and scaffold individual concepts, employing recursive communication, and tell each student writer has learned all of the processes’ components and is enabled to write independently. Guided discussions of writing strategies, compensatory techniques and students’ experiences and choices will allow students to apply concepts to authentic content-area writing tasks. Learning disabled students, having experienced this curriculum will develop new perspectives on what writing is, with the goal that they will become more willing to engage in writing and will acquire greater proficiency in analyzing their own learning processes.

Explanation of Word Paletting

            The alternative writing lab is designed around one simple, yet flexible, poetry writing technique: Word Paletting, a sequential poetry writing process that supports learning disabled riders as they move through lessons that are structured to teach key concepts and writing processes of verse. The Word Paletting method focuses on wordplay, versatility of language, creativity and discovery. Due to its step-by-step nature and inherent versatility, it is quite manageable for use by learning disabled students. The technique supports several specific learning opportunities, including supporting the practice of pre-writing and imagery-generation, acquisition of comprehension of the role of audience, the power of word choice, cadence, connotation and denotation and rhythm, building College-level expectations of the revision process and learning to reflectively discuss written work with others.

The Word Paletting Process

 The process’ first step requires the student writer to select his or her anchor term; this is a word or phrase, from which each student brainstorms a palette of connected words, each of which, in conjunction with the anchor term, comprises a compound word or phrase that is recognized as commonplace in conversational speech.

Simultaneously, the nature of the word, being conversational allows writers not to be intimidated by the prospect that they are, indeed, producing "high art" and lets them experience ease in producing their lists.

In the next step, students are prompted to write an introduction that segues in to incorporate the first paletted term. Student should be guided to worry less about meaning-making and to focus more on generating a flow of ideas, while utilizing their creativity and imagination. Learners should seek out potential connections that exist between the paletted term they have chosen to include next, in the wording of their poem.

 Then, in the “rock-tumbling” stage, students need to assess and adjust the wording within the poem, to improve its flow, eliminating unnecessary wording. After “rock-tumbling”, students are introduced to “bridge-building”, the act of adding wording or layering implied meaning, within their works.

Lastly, in the “wrap-up” stage, writers adjust line-length, interviews slant rhyme and add homophones, homonyms and alliteration, to enhance the poem’s cadence, while preserving the meaning of the written work.  Students, at this point, need to modify the poem’s visual representation, by experimenting with typographic elements, such as line-breaks, typography, form and creativity hyphenation.

The primary focus of Word Paletting is placed on language creation and making connections in various stages of the writing process; meaning usually is discovered in a Word Paletted poem after the act of composing it is completed. After writers acquire proficiency in Word Paletting’s usage, the instructor is able to divide his or her subsequent lessons to emphasize specific skills or experiences. Students’ interests, strengths and weaknesses can be used to guide the teacher's or tutor’s act of developing subsequent units, allowing him or her to have the ability to model the behavior and decision-making processes that exist and which are carried out in a creative discourse community.


Generation of Ideas

This poetic process prioritizes the generation of words and ideas and is built around the concept of a palette which provides a tool to a learning disabled student that is used to amass and store the raw materials of thought and writing. The student brainstorms usable language for his or her poem. This brainstorm the latest can be easily referred back to, recursively. For writers who are inexperienced and who are learning the Word Paletting strategy for the first time, the instructor can prompt students to choose an anchor term that connects with a personal interest, as a means to engage them and ensure next June’s bull had a sufficient store off prior knowledge upon which to draw.   Subsequently, after students are more proficient in the process’ usage, the instructor can assign tasks that are thematic, that are driven by audience or that are driven by purpose.

Learning-disabled writers can be guided to acquire at the successful use of several brainstorming strategies, including: riffing off connecting words that appear in common conversation, identifying abstract phrases that contained the anchor term, looking for and identifying unusual juxtapositions that can be constructed with the anchor term, considering the anchor term’s homophones and homonyms and capitalizing on the other knowledge that a specific student knows about the anchor term or what personal connotation in the student has of the anchor term. To enhance students’ understanding, the instructor models the process of the selecting the anchor term, first, and, then, he or she will demonstrate the act of generating the palleted list. To reinforce and scaffold this process, the educator and class create a collective palette, together.

 The small group setting enables the instructor to pace instruction to meet the needs of individual students, in that each learner is provided one-on-one explanations and assistants, until every writer is able to master the act of generating ideas in pallet form, using the different strategies. When he disabled students also should be supported with printed handouts of the Word Paletting process’ steps, a list of idea-generation strategies and a copy of the instructor’s class-generated word pallets.  Due to learning disabled students hampered note-taking abilities, all information needs to be made available to students, allowing them to focus and engage in class activities.

Word Choice and Usage

Overall, Word Paletting unveils multiple opportunities for writers to meditate upon word choice and usage and, as a writing process, it promotes students’ abilities to amass and generate significant amount of the wording, images and phrases, from which to draw when crafting their poems. By virtue of their cognitive disabilities, learning disabled students often experienced difficulty while attempting to access prior knowledge. The method can promote students’ extension all but word choice, by emphasizing the need to create a more diverse and varied palette from which to draw. Students can experience greater ease, while drafting, if they have spent time sufficiently when they have developed their pallets.

 During rock tumbling, as students move into the revision process, they focus on smoothing the cadence of their writing and improving gates sounding comprehensibility, simultaneously. Experimenting with alternative diction is vital. The instructor provides models of specific strategies that enable students to accomplish generation and evaluation of word choice and usage. This could include determining synonymous words to those in a poem drawing attention to words and Howell may provide any right to her the means to ameliorate the meaning and sound of the poem, simultaneously. Is, at first, students experience difficulty, they can be prompted to utilize a thesaurus or a computer’s thesaurus application, as this will assist students’ in locating usable synonyms and new vocabulary.

Audience awareness

  After students have mastered the independent usage of the Word Paletting process, they can be presented specific method-specific tasks to be completed, individually, better structured around the students’ personal strengths and weaknesses, as writers.

One skill that is requisite for students to acquire is the ability to establish and maintain audience awareness; students and the tutor can discuss aspects of audience, such as: what does a hypothetically-perceived audience know?, what is the author’s intent?, how do the rhetorical/dialogic conventions affect the poem’s comprehensibility?, is the poem’s vocabulary appropriate for its audience?, as well as concerns of tone, voice and point of view.

Discussions on audience awareness need to be in view this, threw out the writing lab proceedings; however, individual educators can utilize Word Paletting to construct a diverse number of assignments to ac-accomplish this goal. One proposed assignment that could be effective for facilitating students’ reflection on audience would be to have them write a poem that takes the form of an argument.

In doing this, students would select a word that best represents a specific argument and would use it as their anchor term. Students would then brainstorm their pallets, from there. Next, learners would write two poems, using this palette; only, one poem would be written to one audience and the other poem would be written to a distinctly different audience.

A student could choose to reflect on opposing views of global warming, utilizing “survival” as the anchor term.  In this writing exercise, the instructor could ask students to write the argument as it would be directed to business-minded people, and, for the next poem, the writing could be addressing a child. 

Guided discussions could be asked to challenge students to respond appropriately to the requirements of their specific audience and could cause writers to acquire the ability to respond in accordance-specific points of view; then, the tutor or teacher could engage with students in discussions and prompt students’ independent writing that could cause students to realize how existent considerations have the ability to shape individuals thoughts and writing choices.

Connotation and Denotation

Creative writing, specifically poetry, offers writers different methods for communicating concepts.  The mixed exploration of denotative and connotative language presents students opportunities to communicate in new ways. Discussion and practice of effective use of metaphors, implied and inferred meanings and puns provide disabled students with practical strategies for strengthening their language use as a communicative vehicle. Word Paletting under-girds and supports experimentation, as it provides writers, easily, the ability to access raw language, from which to write.

After the tutor or instructor introduces students to model homes that utilize connotative it and denotative devices, students can work independently or in groups, discovering different possibilities for denotative or connotative applications of their word palettes. Students, by looking at language, as poets, learned to own their words and vocabularies, to engage with them, transform them and altered their personal concepts of a their own communicative funds of knowledge.

By prompting students to look for opportunities to use these communicative devices in the pre-writing, drafting and revision stages, educators cause students to learn and embrace the reached cursive habits of effective writers.

Found Language

Another exercise is utilized by poets is the act of generating language from “found language”. This is language that is found in everyday life, in written monologues, in magazines as well as in many other sources. Sample poems will be utilized introduced the topic—for instance, Richard Brautigan’s poem, “All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace”; then, students are required to bring examples of common language to class, such as to spur discussions.

Sources of found language are: graffiti on buildings, language that appears all on-line,  published in a graphic novel, et cetera. Students, having been provided the choice and chance to bring objects in could be a more engaged in the writing process as they have more control over that which they are writing about.

For many learning disabled individuals, this potentially represents the first time they have been asked to look for words in this way and, accordingly, the tutor or instructor needs to model and establish a defined sequence of steps and criteria to guide students’ discovery of language and incorporation of it into their work. Guide questions to help students reflect upon and respond to the objects they have brought in can be provided.

As well, guidance can be provided to assist students’ discovery and inclusion of language into their written work. A rubric or set of questions could be presented to LD students, guiding them to reflect and respond to the objects they have selected. This can be useful in preparing students to discuss creative choices they have made, as well.

Fluidity, Flow and Rhythm

Differentiating and experimenting with validity, flow and rhythm represent components of writing that affect both the drafting and revision stages of the writing process. Effective, established poets routinely consider these aspects of writing poetry and attempt to maintain awareness of them as they consider other important elements, such as word choice and meaning.

These components of the writing process impact a poem’s sound when it is spoken. During instruction to communicate and be his skills, an opportunity exists for students to be introduced to oration of their own poems and the role that speaking poetry, aloud, and sharing them with an audience play in the poetry writing process.

Fluidity and flow impact the sound all of the poem’s wording, rhythm and pacing. The instructor will introduce each concept, in conjunction with illustrative sample poems that are distributed to each student and bad are read aloud. Strategies for comprehension and eventual mastery of fluidity and flow can be used, including coverage of usage of assonance (repetition of a specific vowel sound), consonance (repetition of a specific consonant sound) and alliteration (the repetition of the initial consonant sound of a word in successive words).

Here, rhythm can be divided into specific components, to utilize syllabification, stress and phrasing, such to differentiate a poem’s or line’s pace and rhythm. Finally, the role of rhyme in changing the sound of a poem can be addressed. The tutor models each strategy, using a communally-shared word palette. The class engages in collective practice and, finally, students are assigned the task of writing a poem that requires the usage of each strategy.

In the lessons, pertaining to word choice, connotation/denotation, found language and flow, instructors need to maintain the class atmosphere as light and focused all on experimentation and fun.  These notions of poetry are among the most engaging for writers and this is where students can truly surprise themselves.


Techniques for revising need to be taught, using individual class lessons to capitalize upon students’ individual conferences they have with the instructor. Together, student and tutor need to survey each palm, using a checklist although potential revision strategies to assist students as they monitor their own progress.

The tutor or teacher scaffolds students’ understanding of reservation processes. For example, the instructor could ask the student questions, pertaining to the writing process that the student used in creating a particular poem or the student could be questioned as to specific aspect-contingent portions of a poem that could be revised. The student could be asked questions, concerning how the order for the inclusion of the palleted terms was determined.

For example, the tutor could ask the student questions, pertaining to the writing process that was used in creating a particular poem or the student could be asked to consider specific aspects of a poem to be revised.

01. A student can be asked questions concerning how the order for the inclusion of the paletted terms was determined.

02. The student could be questioned, by the educator, as to the re-organization process, how he or she went about controlling the flow and rhythm of his or her poem.

The instructor could ask the student to read his or her poem out loud, to enable the student to hear the echoic nature of the work, while focusing on word choice.

Student and educator would work together, until the student is comfortable with the revision process. The goal is to provide recursive practice, allowing students to grasp the understanding of what is expected for him or her in the revision process; students use techniques for revising recursively, throughout the development of their writing.

Compensatory Strategies

The intended mission for this laboratory is to fuel motivation and action in an environment where the LD student can metamorphosize into a poet and student who has the proficient writing and thinking skills of a poet who happens to have a learning disability.

While the alternative writing lab that is outlined here is constructed around instructional practices that have proven to be most effective for use by learning disabled students, individual compensatory strategies may be necessary to support all writers and helping them overcome the obstacles that are presented by their specific disabilities.

Disabilities that students face are varied: both, in effect and severity. Contingent upon when a student is diagnosed, already, he or she could have a highly-developed set of compensatory strategies that he or she uses; or, in learning disabled student could have been no previously-established set of compensation skills, at all.

It is likely that students to become engaged in the learning-disabled writing lab will already be assigned a school-administered learning-disabled specialist who works with the students to identify best strategies for compensating for students’ disabilities.

However, it is important that the instructor who administers the Word Paletting curriculum to students in the lab is familiar with those strategies, as well as how the curriculum can be utilized to facilitate students’ acquisition of skills that are inherent in the LD writing lab and school.

The usage of audio or video recordings is beneficial for learning disabled students, as they struggle to master successful note-taking, causing them to process data more slowly than their non-disabled peers. These recordings could be disseminated to learning disabled students, by way of e-mail or posted to a class-specific website, such as Blackboard.

Because of students utilizing the lab potential for lack of experience in accessing class materials and information through these means, the instructor would need to model the usage of the site, explicitly, discussing potential ways the recordings could be used to support learning.

For example, students would be able to use the recordings to stipend their note-taking processes, as a means to assist them in reviewing what has been communicated during a lecture or as a resource for LD students to become more independently enabled to accomplish sub-tasks and sub–processes, such as becoming enabled, unsupervised, to use the Word Palleting process.

To further assist students who have learning disabilities, it might be useful for instructors be to segment the recordings of specific lectures into smaller components that would be organized, by topic, to the web. This would allow all students to find the specific information they need to focus upon, with greater ease and expedience.

Learning disabled students sometimes need extended time to process, remember, synthesize and apply what they have learned. Thereby, it is important that instructors work with each student and provide extended time to him or her, as is necessary, such to allow learning disabled writers to progress at a manageable pace.

Truly, negotiating extra time is frequently necessary for learning disabled students; however, this can be regarded as the opportunity for a professor to impart better strategies to all students.  Other types of compensation techniques that learning disabled writing students could use to augment learning and skills-acquisition include the provision of graphic organizers, the ability to utilize voice recognition software, access to spell checking applications and dictionary and thesaurus applications and the usage of mnemonic devices to compensate for memory issues.

The intended mission for this laboratory is to fuel motivation and action, in an environment in which the LD student can change into a poet and student who has proficient writing and thinking skills, who, as well, happens to have a learning disability.

While the Alternate Writing Lab that is outlined here is constructed around instructional practices that have proven to be most effective for use by learning disabled students, individual compensatory strategies may be necessary to support every student in helping him or her overcome the obstacles that are presented by a specific disability.

Accordingly, a skilled learning disabilities specialist would be most beneficial as, the disabilities that students face are varied, both, in effect and severity. Contingent upon when a student is diagnosed, he or she could have a highly developed set of compensatory strategies, already that he or she uses; or, a learning-disabled student could have no previously-established set of compensation skills, at all.

Likely, students who become engaged in the Learning Disabled Writing Lab will already be assigned a school-employed LD specialist who might work with students to find the best strategies for compensating for specific students’ disabilities.

Yet, it is most important that the instructor who administers the Word Paletting curriculum to students in the lab is familiar with several potential means and methods for instruction of the curriculum, as well as how the curriculum can be utilized to facilitate  acquisition of skills that are existent in the curricula of the LD Writing Lab and school.

Next Steps

 As a means to monitor students’ abilities to engage in meaningful and profound discussions around the writing process and about their own written capabilities, educators from the learning-disabled alternate writing laboratory and the teachers of a specifically-tailored entry-level composition class could monitor and assess learning disabled students, several times, during both semesters that students would be experiencing the LD Writing Lab’s curriculum and in the following semester, when the students would be engaged in a learning-disabled-specific freshman composition class. Students would be monitored, recursively, throughout each semester. 

The monitoring process would utilize a rubric that would be commonly-agreed upon, constructed, developed and agreed upon by LDWL personnel and administrators of the school’s freshman composition program.

This rubric would be devised, such to determine and assess students’ comprehension and communication skills concerning the curriculum, including: competency in identification and explanation of processes students intend to use in completing a specific writing task, competency in discussing and applying writing strategies, goal setting capabilities for the act of writing, and ability to effectively monitor the accomplishment of established writing goals and proficiency’s acquisition, in responding to suggestions in question form or in acquisition of effective revision skills.

 The written capabilities of students in the Learning Disabled Alternative Writing Lab and in the control group must be considered, together, as a means to determine if students who are utilizing the Lab, the following semester, during their entrance into and through their completion of English 101, are equipped with a higher level of written proficiency and writing-contingent cognitive awareness than students who do not receive explicit instruction.

Due to the usage of self-regulated strategies has been determined to have a positive effect on learning disabled students, discovering the best practices for communication of these strategies’ usage and their valuable to students is an additional important goal of the Alternative LD Writing Lab. Assessing rates of the lab’s success encompasses monitoring student awareness of the techniques and gauging how often students utilize the strategies.

A third goal exists that extends from the experience in the Alternative Writing Lab, is to encourage students to become invested in solving writing problems and being pro-active when seeking out their instructors’ assistance to identify strategies that would be able to be used to accomplish future writing tasks.          

Assessing the impact in achieving both of these goals would necessitate surveying students, to gather information as to their knowledge all the self-regulated strategies, before and after students progress through the alternative writing lab. Acquiring a distinct awareness of students’ levels of awareness, potentially, could be achieved through the usage of the survey that was developed to have students divulge their personal viewpoints on the act of writing.

In order to collect data to determine students’ actual usage, both classes could be designed to allow for tracking the usage of strategies through a particular assignment, emphasizing process, rather than students’ end-products. Educators could ask to review all student work, at each step of the writing process and require all drafts to be remitted, for analysis. Instructors’ would need to meet with students, frequently, to work together on each assignment, and could monitor and track students’ applications of self-regulated strategies.

Contingent upon the effects of the Alternate Writing Lab model, it could be expanded to support LD students’ realization of other, specific writing-contingent goals. If learning disabled students are able, not only, to build skills but, also, to embrace poetry and creative writing, an advanced version of the Learning Disabilities Alternative Writing Lab could be made available to teach and scaffold students to acquire creative writing strategies as a means to supplement collegiate creative writing classes; as, often, professors of creative writing are not coincidentally familiar with effective LD instruction.

Another extension of the Alternative Writing Lab concept could be to make similar labs available; for example, a content-area writing lab, a literary analysis lab, a scientific writing lab or a business writing lab, to connect with learning disabled students’  specific aims and interests.

Suggestions for Future Research

 Several opportunities exist for research to be conducted and utilized to expand peoples’ comprehensive knowledge-sets pertinent to instructional strategies and compensatory techniques. More evidence-based long-term studies on accommodations for learning disabled writing students and compensatory instructional strategies that are used would provide LD writing students’ teachers a better understanding of when the specific circumstances would potentially be most effective.  Current discourse is anecdotal and/or overly-generalized.

Data that are organized around a student’s specific type of disability, the length of time between the disability’s acquisition and diagnosis and instruction’s provision, and the severity the  of student’s disability, potentially, would enable  instructors to better determine strategies to be used that would have more profound beneficial effects on students’ successful acquisition and ability to be calm highly skilled at setting writing goals and expectations.

One other potential research opportunity exists in the area of writing instruction in the content areas, to advance students’ goals and aspirations.  Often, learning disabled students’ interests, when they are learning at the college level, have exceeded students’ writing proficiency.  Thereby, interviewing them and basing instruction on goals that students communicate during the interview process can be used to foster the will for students to improve as writers. It is imperative that LD students are able to conduct personally-motivated inquiries and explorations, without being thwarted by a slower rate of acquisition of academic abilities, like writing.

Alternative methods for scaffolding writing instruction into university-level environments, could provide learning disabled students skills that are necessary for them to succeed, to remain in school, to complete their degree program and to transfer the knowledge they acquire, in school, to workplace-contingent communication and thought processes.

 Options could include targeted-writing labs, similar to the aforementioned learning-disabled writing lab and the addition of strategic tutors to work with students on mastering specific writing tasks in the content-areas.

Providing alternative assessments to help students progress in their content-area subjects, until such time they’re writing capabilities all our able to be sufficiently enhanced may be effective for students whose content-area aptitude is high, yet whose communications skills are hampered.

Tracking the effect of assessment and following the long-term impact of the proposed tutoring system has on student success could facilitate learning disabled students' and their advocates' ability to make the case for the interventions.

In Conclusion
At present, a there is an exciting era in which to be a learning disabled student and writing instructor who works to assist learning disabled students, coincidentally. 

Emergent technologies continue to advance and offer enhanced supports which increasingly makes learning disabled students more easily enabled to cope with the negative effects that their disabilities imposed upon their learning and communication processes.

New research, inspired by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, has provided teachers increased information on better methods through which students with disabilities learn. Education reform as lead to earlier diagnoses and provision of procedural support that addresses the needs of learning disabled students; however, there is still a profound need for focused attention, for understanding and action.

Highly engaged, knowledgeable teachers that help students acquire, amass and customize strategies that build learners’ levels of skills and confidence, play a vital role. The Alternative Writing Lab that is suggested, here, was developed, utilizing my passion for poetry and my desire to provide Learning Disabled students intense instruction, composed of proactive experiences for learning and skills’ acquisition.

It is my hope that other teachers, professors and educational support personnel will build upon this concept and searched creatively for solutions as they go about assisting students of all backgrounds to be common able to broaden their cognitive, expressive and written abilities.

What do you think? Matt R.


Matt R.

Matt, Experienced Tutor of Higher Education Writing

50+ hours
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