Please share this blog with your friends and neighbors!!
Dr. Caroline Ramsey Musselwhite

Wednesday, May 15, 2024

Caution - Must Stop Over-Prompting During Writing!!

 What's the Problem?  Most educators who work with students with disabilities are aware that over-prompting can:

Limit growth in learning (having too much support means that students don't have to do the 'hard work'

Cause students to avoid risk-taking.  Many students just want to be 'right' and over-prompting feeds into that.  Students MUST take risks to learn.

Contribute to 'learned helplessness.;'  This is the situation where learners become passive and don't take any control over their learning.

Over-prompting is a problem in all areas, but this blogpost will focus on over-prompting during writing.

Over-Prompting in Writing?  Partners may over-prompt during writing for a variety of reasons:

For emergent writers, partners may 'help' so that it 'spells something.'  This is a problem because emergent writing can be a window into what students are thinking and what they have learned.  Errors can help educators figure out how to target instruction.  Partners often tell students what to write, even though the ideas may not belong to the student. 

For early conventional writers, over-prompting can be equally harmful.  We give hints and sound out words for them, coaching them to pick the 'right' letter.  Early writers need to be able to have an idea of what they want to write, then translate that idea into the written word – whether with typical pencils or with alternative pencils.  We often see very well-meaning aides telling students each letter that they should write in a word.  

What to Do?  Just stop!  And help everyone – parents, therapists, teachers, paras – understand that learners must take risks and try to 'figure it out.'  That gives us:

Data:  Unprompted writing samples across time provide very helpful data to show progress

 Formative Assessment:  We can look at writing samples and develop instruction that targets the needs of individual students.

Modeling, Minilessons, and Feedback.  Remember that the 'instruction' part of writing comes before they write independently, through modeling, short minilessons, and feedback!  So don't worry if 'it doesn't spell anything' (emergent learners) or 'He spelled most of the words wrong' (early conventional learners).  We can review this unprompted writing to determine :

What we should model .Examples include choosing a word to caption a picture, then showing how to sound it out, or using the student's alternative pencil to write a caption for your own photo.

 Minilessons.  These very brief lessons focus on one skill, such as  showing how to pick a topic from a photo album on a device, how to use an alternative pencil, or how to brainstorm ideas.

Feedback. Instructional feedback helps connect what emergent students have written to meaning.  It is far beyond reinforcement (good writing), and should be connected to the topic.