Creating a well-written, cohesive paragraph is difficult enough to do. It can be even more difficult for a teen with learning disabilities. If you have been assigned the task of teaching a teenager with a learning disability how to write a paragraph, remember that you need to employ special strategies and techniques to make your task enjoyable, both for you and your student. Be ready with fun and mentally-stimulating motivation activities to prep your student for the actual writing task. The key here is to reach out to your student so you could help unleash his inner potential.
- Establish rapport. Remember: to effectively teach a person with a learning disability, it’s important that he identifies you as somebody he could explicitly trust. Teach within an atmosphere of positivity, security and acceptance. Look for teaching strategies that are most effective for him. For example, find out if he is more comfortable learning through direct-instruction methods, or if he is very hands-on with his learning.
- Start with a topic that he is interested in. Find out your students’ specific interests. Does he like animals? Does he seem to light up at the mention of rock-and-roll? The point here is to find a topic to which he would be able to say a lot about. Initiate a conversation with him about this topic, and listen patiently to what he has to say. After your conversation, praise him for all the interesting insights that he contributed. Then, prompt him for the two of you to write down into paragraph form the ideas that he just said.
- Give him instructions on how paragraphs are commonly structured. Most of the time, students with learning disabilities learn best if they know of the parameters they need to work with, and if they also know the step-by-step instructions on how to do something. If this sounds a little inhibiting for you, don’t worry. You could use this technique merely as a springboard, and once he gets comfortable writing his own paragraphs he could begin to be more creative about the way he does it.
- Know what to teach your student. One simple yet effective formula for writing paragraphs is to start first with a sentence that has the main idea. In other words, what point does your student want to make? Then, he could write two sentences that support this main idea. Finally, he could write an ending sentence that will wrap up his paragraph.
- Organize sentences. Show examples of sentences, and let him organize these sentences into a cohesive paragraph. Before he begins writing, you could show him separate papers each containing a sentence. With him, identify what sentence should be placed at the start of the paragraph, which should be at the middle, and which should be at the end.
- Show him a picture of the topic. A student with learning disabilities is usually visually-oriented. Show him a picture of something that he could write about. Encourage him to think of a good sentence about this picture.
- Say you show him a picture of a cat. His opening sentence could be, “Cats are very nice pets to have.” Then, encourage him to give two reasons why cats are nice pets. These reasons could include the following: they are furry and it’s relaxing to touch them; they look funny whenever they yawn. Then, brainstorm with him so you could come up with a closing sentence to wrap up the paragraph.
Teaching a teenager with a learning disability how to write a paragraph is all about starting simple. After he’s grown comfortable with writing simple paragraphs, you could guide him towards constructing more complex ones.