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Writing Workshops with Special Needs Students

The question that began all the research was, How should a teacher create a writing
workshop in a resource room?. Through enquiry, the questions changed to, How to have
writing workshops with special need students?. Research has demonstrated that writing
workshops are great for students in all levels and do not single out students. Writing workshops
create an environment that promotes success for all students. Furthermore, Nielson contents that
students who work together in small group create an accommodating environment, offering more
praise, encouragement, and support than in other work environments. When students work
together, the groups goal is for everyone to succeed, and this allows for social and emotional
growth for everyone involved. (Fu, D., & Shelton, N. R., 2007) Therefore it is important to have
inclusion during writing workshops because it is the least restrictive environment for most
special needs students.
Nancy R. Shelton is co-author of an article that was essential to this research. In the
article, she took risk in her classroom and documented it. She decided to change the ways she
included students with disabilities, especially in writing workshops. Teaching special needs
students to write in step-by- step process was outdated. Shelton was done with using worksheets
that were teacher prompt for brainstorming, providing narrative or essay frames for transfer of
planned writing, editing and making corrections that the teacher made for final copy. Instead she
took the time to prepare her students for a writing workshop classroom. Expectations were set to
prepare them for success in the workshops like daily writing, choice of their own topics,
choosing appropriate genre to present their message, confer with peers and teachers and
publishing their work. (Fu, D., & Shelton, N. R., 2007) Nancy R Shelton is not the only one who
believes that the students to need to have input. Constructivist Steve Graham and Karen R.
Harris say, Educators with a constructivist orientation contented that when learners construct
their knowledge, they understand it and can apply it. This leads to ownership. (Harris & Pressley,
1991 and 1992) Another way to ease students into inclusion during writing workshops is to
write a letter to their regular classroom teacher. They tell the regular education teacher
about their interest, their talents, and whatever family news is important to them. Then students
describe to their new teachers the ways they learn best, insider tips. (Mimi, B. C., & Venina, C.
H. 2005) When students create this letter it is important for them to edited and corrected it for
mistakes, this will stress the importance of them. These letters give students confidence and
motivation to get involved in their education.
Accommodating to all the different type of learners in one class not an easy task, it
requires patience and planning. Some ways to provided choice in Language Arts is by using
technology. Technology can be useful for all student, especially special needs and English
language learners. Technology can include media, books on tape, personal computer spell
checkers, talking word processors, word prediction software, and personal dictionaries. Spell
checkers may help to identify misspelled words and provide suggestions for the target word.
Taking word processors translates text into speech and gives students the opportunity to hear the
words spoken as they are typed. Word prediction software programs create a personalized word

bank for each user. Words that are frequently typed by the user appear on the list of possible
spellings. (Cullen, J., Richards, S. s., & Frank, C. L. 2008) Providing technology and showing
students how to use it is a tool that can make a difference in their writing. These tools can be
used in writing workshops for all students to have the option of using them. Giving students
options does not single special needs students that need to use them and can even help the
struggling students. Venina Carr Haley highlighted the usefulness of books on tape. In her article,
When a Word Is Hard, she writes about treating all students equally and not pointing out
difference between the resource kids. Haley says, Extend all options to every student. (Mimi,
B. C., & Venina, C. H. 2005) This quote was used as the answer on how she was going to
cooperate with another teacher to include all students. When providing tools, such as books on
tape, they must be available for all students to use. Allowing the opportunity for all to use the
same tools, avoids teachers pointing out students differences. While working alongside a general
education teacher Haley saw firsthand how students, who were not struggling, preferred books
on tape. These students improved their essays and spelling. Most important by doing this
students felt like part of a classroom and began to participate more, while still meeting
individuals needs.
In conclusion, special needs students can be included in writing workshops and there are
different ways to approach it. Ways to include them is getting them prepared slowly by daily
writings, the use of technology, or by having them create a letter to their new teachers. All ways
are correct. Knowing your students and working in conjunction with your colleagues makes the
difference in your students success.