Friday, 1 May 2009

I can... read and write

This month we turn our attention to writing.  The Center for Literacy & Disability Studies in North Carolina suggests that children should have the opportunity to write for real purposes, everyday.  It is important for students who use AAC to experience writing activities and have exposure to written text throughout the day. Here are some ideas to help make this happen….

Here are some phrase suggestions for writing a journal entry:

My journal for (date)
My favourite thing today was
Playing on the computer.
I had the best day ever.
I really didn’t like
Going outside.
Today was the worst!
Tomorrow I will be
Singing songs with my friends.
News report for (date)
I’m excited about
Writing my math test.

Creating Meaningful Opportunities for Story Writing

 For older students who are learning to write, it can be challenging to find age appropriate and fun projects that will catch their imagination and inspire them to create stories. Musselwhite, Wagner, Richardson, & Odom (2008) describe a brilliant idea to encourage these students to practise their writing skills, through creating “Beginning Books for Young Readers”. The idea is to create a genuine need for the students to be writing (i.e. creating stories for a kindergarten class) at their current writing level. The authors give lots of ideas for types of books, communication opportunities and the process for creating books. If you work with a group of students, try it out – you might have some emerging authors on your hands!

Writing Opportunities

There are many different ways that you can set up writing activities for children who use AAC for their writing.  An errorless writing activity can be set up in some software such that the writer can select an opening phrase/word from a pre-programmed set. This selection can then link to a set of words/phrases that would all appropriately follow the first selection. These activities are nice because they are low-risk and high success.

Caroline Musselwhite has contributed to the development of R.A.P.S. – Reading Activities Project for older Students.  This is software that includes a range of writing activity ideas.  See link below for more details.

No-Tech Ideas

·         Predictable chart writing is a 5-day process for a fun, easy, shared writing activity that supports emergent and conventional writers and readers. The end result is a book that has been written collaboratively by the students. For children who use AAC, this process engages them in the writing process and supports them to use the vocabulary on their communication system.  See the link below for more details.

Light Tech Ideas

·         A student’s written piece (e.g. story, poem) can be recorded into a single or sequential message device and presented to classmates, friends or family.

High Tech Ideas

·         Many high tech devices have writing capabilities built in (e.g. text entry, file management, editing) and can send messages from the device to a computer. See the link below and talk to your ACS clinicians for more information.

Your help needed!

As the school year ends, it brings with it the final issue of the 2008/2009“I Can …” newsletter. We need your feedback! We’d love to hear what has been helpful, what you’ve enjoyed reading, topics that you’d like to see covered and your ideas for future issues. We’d even like to hear about anything that you did not like, so that we can try to improve the newsletters. Please take a few minutes to complete the online survey at Your input is truly appreciated.

Many Methods, One Goal: To Communicate is a writing contest sponsored by ISAAC for people who use AAC to write.  Submission deadline: August 15/09. More details and stories from last year’s contest at: Check it out soon so that you can start writing!!! 


Resources and Thoughts:

The following websites have preprogrammed writing activities that can be downloaded.
·      Learning Grids by Clicker
·      Activity Exchange by Intellitools 
·      Widgit - Writing with Symbols

Wait! Don’t delete that! For someone who is using an alternative access method to write on the computer, the task can be a time consuming and effortful process. As facilitators, it is often tempting to help a student by deleting what appears to be an obvious mistake in their written work. However, deleting errors may take away the learning opportunity that all writers need to develop their skills and achieve success. Print the work, and use the errors as learning opportunities as suggested by Gretchen Hanser, an expert in assistive and instructional technologies.