Tutoring Students With Disabilities In Writing and Composition
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Tutoring Students With Disabilities In Writing and Composition

November 15, 2019


Jeff: Welcome to our video on how to work with students with disabilities specifically with composition here my panel consists of Lauren Litke, Ari Aromdee, and Laura Beliz and we will be looking at reimagined clips from a mock tutoring session in which I worked with another student and we will be getting their feedback and what they think and what they see that can either be worked upon or changed in order to best serve our students in order to best serve our students. Student: My Professor recommended that I made an appointment with the learning center to come see you. Because he says I have problems with basic structure for my essays. Jeff: So what do you think we need to work on, you know just overall? Student: Well, I think, I don’t understand what my professor is saying about developing a thesis and then the organization. Jeff: So, I guess that is where will start. Jeff: So as you all saw that is usually what we hear from students when they first come into us. A lot of times they are feeling dejected about their writing. They have been told some pretty negative stuff about their writing. So what in your experiences since you all work with students with disabilities what have you seen when your student first comes to you what have you seen when your student first comes to you? Lauren: Well the confidence is always a really big issue for a lot our students and a lot of times they are really good writers or they have the skills that they need they just don’t have, they are not sure of themselves and don’t have that sense of confidence. So a lot of times I just work on just really seeing their writing. Asking them what they feel about it. And explaining that people have different writing styles or different learning styles and that it is ok, to just develop that further. Jeff: So tell me a little about what you want to work on because you know, a lot of times you know, when I have a student come in you know I kind of lead the session but I feel like you kind of have a better idea of what you want to do. So tell me a little about what you want to do. Student: Well when it comes to writing essays I think I have a problem narrowing my focus. Like I try to tackle way too much. Jeff: Right, and a lot of students do that. Student: Yeah, exactly. So, I guess if you could help me figure out how to zero in on my thesis and really just have a strong first page of my paper. I think that could help me organize the rest of it. Jeff: So, what are some of the ways you go about that? I mean, what have you been taught in the past? Student: Well I am more of a visual learner. So, I like making you know sort of like a web of ideas that I had write them down before I start. So I have something that I can see visually see in front of me. Jeff: Like you have on your paper thats great. Student: Exactly, thats what I have generated in the past and that works for me. But my professor is more rigid in his style and I dont really understand where hes coming from. Jeff: So is it a situation where your thesis isnt maybe getting across what your professor feels it should be getting across? Student: I think thats the problem, yeah. Jeff: In that second portion of the session we saw more specifics of what students tend to struggle with. Thesis statements, organization you know just getting their ideas out. What are some of the ways that you all get students to get to kind of get their ideas out? How do you organize someones thoughts who may havent had a lot of experience with it? Laura: It depends on the student on how they like to learn. Some students like to do bubble mapping and others just like to do a straight outline. But either way thats usually where I would start working with them to get their ideas there. It also helps with the organization as far as making sure that everything relates to the topic they are talking about. Jeff: Julie Neff describes learning disabled students as students who need a different, more specific kind of collaboration than the average student who walks through the doors of the writing center. How true do you find that statement to be? Lauren: I feel that it is important to again assess what they feel. Like what level they feel they are at and see what they want to improve upon. Ari: Maybe its just a matter of breaking it down like what Laura mentioned earlier with working with the students. Breaking it down and so its like it helps build confidence too and seeing that, hey you know the assignment isnt that tough after all. Its just you have to sometimes you see so much on the paper its overwhelming. But, its about a matter of breaking it down and just you know making the steps a little bit easier. Sometimes if we overthink things you know we tend to even with writing if we overthink sometimes it makes it tougher for us and part of building confidence is letting the student know hey its doable. Tutor: So, I see that you are writing a paper on Alfred Hitchcocks movies and you know the beginnings really great. The only thing I see that you may have a problem with is that you are trying to tackle a lot. So maybe we can hone it down to only maybe just the aesthetics, I mean what do you think about that? Student: Yeah, I think that there is even a lot to talk about just in his aesthetics. That would probably really help me focus my paper. I never thought about it like that. Tutor: Yeah, so tell me some things about the aesthetics that it uses because I think maybe if we go off that instead of you know lets just talk about the paper. Jeff: So, again in the video I kind of discuss with the student that I like to talk about the paper more than I actually like to sit down and watch them pen out a sentence. Because a lot of times if the student can actually verbalize what they want to say they can often times put it into their own words or possibly get that paper going in the direction they actually really need to get it in a more organized and focused way. What do you use? Laura: If you are having them write the paper with you there sometimes it is difficult to not put words into their mouth and you dont want to, like, be a crutch for them. Sometimes its better to just get them thinking about it than it is to sit there and write with them. But some students you kind of do. Like I have a student where part of her process is literally just having me sit there while she writes stuff. Jeff: And how do you feel about that? Laura: I mean, its good for now just getting her started. But eventually I am going to start getting her away from needing be to be there. Jeff : Regina Richards states that though students may struggle with organizing their thoughts while writing. Consequently learning disabled students frequently submit work that is either brief or difficult to read. And I know from my personal experience I have seen some drafts that dont necessarily resemble the usual draft that most students turn in. And a lot of times invention seems to be a major problem with students. Especially students with disabilities coming up with things to say and so as Regina Richards puts it how do we get our students elaborate? Ari: I had introduced him to the idea of like using a digital recorder and for lecturers. And then you know we thought about you know why dont we use this for writing too? Because again going back to thinking that writing is a process. And sometimes its just a matter of like collecting your thoughts and getting your ideas out. And so sometimes you know my student would have their recorder on and they would start talking about whatever concepts they want to include in their paper and thats just the brainstorming process for a particular individual. Jeff: Lets take a look at the next clip. Tutor: How did you do on that paper? Student: I actually did really great on it. I got my first 95 in that class. Tutor: Awesome. High-five. Awesome. Thats really good! So tell me a little about like whats changed. You know, are you more confident when you write? You know, tell me a little about whats going on. Student: Im more focused when I write. Im definitely more confident now that Ive got my first 95. I think thats really going to at least let me know I can succeed in this class. Also I have been paying attention to focusing my ideas rather than trying to take on too much and having a paper that jumps around too much. I have realized that you really have to hone in one idea and go with that and find several examples of what Im trying to prove. Tutor: Awesome. Im really proud of you and you know keep brining in those papers and well keep working on them. Student: Great! Jeff: So when our students come into us and they actually did improve vastly it is you know very much like what was depicted there. But, you know its keep that momentum going. So how do we keep momentum and the confidence going with our students…is a lot of times really important especially for students with disabilities. As well know, one poor outing or one poor showing on a test or an essay can really you know bring them back to where they started. So how do you keep the momentum going? Laura: Ill talk with them about what they did that worked and like how that worked and we can talk about how to incorporate it into other things that they are doing. You know just making sure that they remember it sometimes like we will make a list of things they do that works for them. Lauren: I think its really important to recap what progress the student has made. So having them verbally express how theyve seen themselves develop seen their writing or whatever it is theyre working on kind of grow. And, them saying it themselves will greater increase their confidence because they are acknowledging what theyve done. Jeff: Heres another question. What allows you to form a bond with a student in a short amount of time? Because I know a lot of people just work in a writing center or theyre professors or they may not be aware that the student themselves has a disability but for one reason or another they may suspect it. And you know not always a student will reveal that they do have a disability. But, what advice would you give someone who suspects a student may have a disability and is lacking confidence in their writing. What kind of suggestions would you give to improve that students confidence? Laura: I like to pick out the things they are doing right. Even if its a bad paper theres something in there that that they are doing well. Even if its just getting an idea on to the page. Even any little amount of positive reinforcement will keep them from sort of seeing you as an enemy whos going to point out every little thing they do wrong versus a peer who is there to help. Ari: You know writing isnt easy. I mean, it is just; we are all at a different level, all at a different stage in the writing process. And so it is just a matter of like how much work you are going to put in to it. It just takes time and I think it is just letting the student know that and letting them know hey, its ok to make mistakes and just to figure out whats the next step how can you improve? Just go from there and its just a matter of going back to you know their strengths. Jeff: I want to thank you all for your time as I know it is very valuable. And everything that was said today, you know, I believe is going to help other people in the future especially who watch this video will have a better idea of how to work with students with disabilities. undefined

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