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1 Welcome and Good Morning!
(207) web:

2 From Brain to Pen to Paper . . .
The Neuropsychology of Writing & Best Practice Instructional Recommendations Day 1

3 Myths to be exploded across these two days . .
‘Writing is just a written extension of oral language.’ ‘If kids can speak well and use a pencil, they should be able to write well.’ ‘Most kids who fail to write up to their potential lack motivation – they’re lazy.’

4 What’s at stake . . We’d need only to try and imagine the enormous changes in the cultural development of children that occur as a result of mastery of written language and the ability to read – and thus becoming aware of everything that human genius has created in the realm of the written word. -- Lev Vygotsky

5 What’s at stake . . According to a 2006 survey, 81 percent of employers describe recent high school graduates as “deficient in written communications” such as memo, letters, and technical reports (Casner-Lotto & Barrington, 2006). As a result, private companies are spending an estimated $3.1 billion per year—and state governments are investing another $200 million—to provide writing instruction to their employees (National Commission on Writing, 2004; 2005).

6 What’s at stake . . The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP, or “the Nation’s Report Card”) writing exam was last given in 2002; it measured the writing skills of fourth, eighth, and twelfth graders and translated their scores into three levels of proficiency: basic, proficient, and advanced. Across the three grades, only 22–29 percent of students scored at the proficient level, and only 2 percent were found to write at the advanced level (Persky et al., 2003). In other words, 70–75 percent of students were found to be writing below grade level.

7 Two-Day Agenda Day 1 (March 21) Day 2 (March 22)
8:30 Welcome/Introduction 8:45 Why Writing Can Be So Bloody Difficult and the Skill Components of Writing 10:00 (Morning Break) 10:15 The Neuropsychology of Writing I (Attention/Executive Functioning & Memory Processing) 12:00 Lunch 1:00 Strategies & Implications for Instruction I 2:00 (Afternoon Break) 2:15 More Strategies 3:00 General Discussion/Q & A 8:30 Quick Review of Yesterday . . 8:45 The Neuropsychology of Writing II (Dyslexia/Dysgraphia) 10:00 (Morning Break) 10:15 The Linguistic and Grapho-Motor Elements of Writing 12:00 Lunch 1:00 Strategies & Implications for Instruction II 2:00 (Afternoon Break) 2:15 More Strategies 3:00 General Discussion/Q & A 3:30 Adjourn

8 Why writing can be so bloody difficult . .
Part 1 Why writing can be so bloody difficult . .

9 Although many students acknowledge that writing is important and directly related to success in school and life, the thought of writing often evokes feelings of stress, anxiety, dread, and avoidance. L. M. Cleary

10 Now try to remember . . .

11 The enemy . . .

12 “I love being a writer. What I can’t stand is the paperwork”
Peter De Vries My writing speed is akin to head stone carving . . . Gloria Steinham

13 And from Gene Fowler Writing easy – All you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead . . .

14 Writing . . From the early formation of letters to crafting an essay, writing involves perhaps more sub skills than any other academic task. To write well requires combining multiple physical and mental processes in one concerted effort to communicate information and ideas. For instance, we must be able to move a pen or press a key, precisely and fluidly to produce letters, remember the rules of grammar and syntax, place out thoughts in an order that makes sense, and think ahead to what we want to write next. This combination of tasks makes writing the highest form and more complex use of language. -- Mel Levine

15 Writing This combination of tasks makes writing the highest form and more complex use of language. -- Mel Levine

16 The simple truth: Writing, from a neurobehavioral perspective, is incredibly complex and hard!!
Involves the fluid and simultaneous (!!) coordination of the following core skill areas: word knowledge, retrieval, and sequencing working memory, sustained attention, planning, organization spelling, punctuation, and grammar visual/spatial functioning fine-motor/grapho-motor functioning higher order reasoning/cognition

17 Key Distinctions Between Spoken and Written Comprehension
Often more formal/structured Makes use of words and styles that are not common in the speech of children and teens Written language does not gauge the reader’s comprehension and fill in gaps/resolve confusion Comprehension of writing is often dependent on strategic processing. Thus, written language is not ‘speech written down.’ Spoken: Casual Makes use of common slang and colloquialisms Supported by the speaker (the speaker fills in any knowledge gaps the listener might have) Can be understood in the absence of strategies Oakhill & Cain, 2007

18 Activity 1 Please . . . . list all the skill elements (mechanical/conventional, spontaneous/ideational/executive) of the writing process.

19 To become competent writers, students must:
Become proficient in spelling, punctuation, and grammar; They must learn to write in various styles and formats (depending on the particular situation/audience); They must build strong vocabularies and deep reservoirs of background knowledge; They must learn to cope with writer’s block and develop the stamina needed to get through long and difficult assignments (writers’ resiliency); They must learn strategies (such as preparing outlines, soliciting feedback, and writing/revising multiple drafts that help them to organize their writing projects and complete them successfully.

20 The Five Stages of the Writing Process
Prewriting (brainstorming, planning, sequencing/organizing, etc.) Drafting (writing the initial draft) Revising (content-oriented revision/correction) Editing (proofreading and mechanical revision/correction) Publishing (preparation of the final draft in its final form)

21 Vicki Spandel’s 6 + 1 Traits
1. Ideas/Content 2. Organization 3. Voice (personal tone/flavor; personality) 4. Word Choice (specificity/exactness of language) 5. Sentence Fluency (rhythm/flow of language) 6. Conventions (mechanics; e.g., spelling, punctuation, capitalization) + 1 Presentation (the visual/verbal presentation of the final piece on paper)

22 Writing Ability & the Neurodevelopmental Functions:
Spatial-Motor Comprehending the spatial relationships involved in letter/word production; coordinating small muscles of the fingers needed to form letters Attention Maintaining concentration & self-monitor work quality Memory Fluid recall of letters, rules, and ideas; simultaneous holding of all of this in working memory WRITING Executive Functioning Generating ideas & taking a stepwise approach to planning, organizing, and revising work Language Production Using words and constructing sentences correctly

23 Attention Controls Neuromotor Functions Executive Skills Memory (LTM) Language

24 Breakdowns in one or more of these processes can lead to . .
Dysgraphia: A disorder of written expression – there are ‘language-based’ and ‘non-language-based’ types of dysgraphia (4 – 17% of the population, Hooper et al., 1994) A ‘shadow syndrome’ of a writing disorder: ‘Sub-clinical‘ elements of a writing disorder that make the writing process arduous/tedious (??% of the population – certainly LOTS of kids . .)

25 Activity 2 Please . . . . Pick a kid and complete the first part of the Personal Case Study Form.

26 Graham & Harris (2005) have found . .
Most elementary teachers advocate structure/routine in teaching the writing process (i.e., ‘Writer’s Workshop’ programs) BUT, many teachers rely on informal (or incidental) teaching methods to teach planning, drafting, editing, and publishing Bottom line: Many (most?) teachers fail to explicitly teach writing process strategies

27 Another instructional problem
Eclectic instructional methodologies from class to class and grade to grade Leads to a lack of continuity in writing process instruction Leads to kids getting mixed writing messages

28 Another key research finding
Younger kids and LD kids rely on ‘knowledge telling’ as a writing strategy. This approach is limited to content generation (‘This is what I know about this topic’) Involves little planning (kids are just ‘winging it’ or making it up as they go) I think kids should choose their own pets, because whatever pet they want their mother can just get it for them. Third grader with LD (Graham & Harris, 2005)



31 Brain Overview Executive Functions, Memory, and Writing
Neuropsychology of Writing I: Brain Overview Executive Functions, Memory, and Writing

32 DA’ BRAIN: Its two hemispheres
and four lobes

33 Left versus Right Hemispheres
Sequential Processing Factual Verbal Routine and ‘Over-Learned’ Info Processed Here! Simultaneous Processing Synthetic Emotional Content Novel Info Processed Here!

34 Input vs. Output Regions of the Cortex
& Sensory Processing & Storage Output & Self-Direction

35 Executive Functioning and Writing:
A basic fact well-known to teachers . . SO MANY KIDS WITH ATTENTION DEFICITS HATE TO WRITE!

36 Executive Functioning
Refers to the ability to regulate and direct one’s emotions/behavior and to plan, initiate, attend to, and organize tasks Impact on writing is huge

37 Pre-Frontal Cortex: Site of
Attention and Executive Function

38 Frontal Lobe Specifics (Adapted from Hale & Fiorello, 2004)
Motor Cortex Prefrontal Cortex (Dorsolateral) Planning Strategizing Sustained Attention Flexibility Self-Monitoring Orbital Prefrontal Impulse Control (behavioral inhibition) Emotional Modulation

39 Executive functioning and writing
No academic task requires more executive functioning efficiency than writing Writing, after all, is all about self-direction and self-regulation of the product on the page For younger children and older kids with limited grapho-motor skill, there are fewer cognitive resources left to the complex task of organizing and developing thoughts on paper.

40 Logical extrapolation
A Key Fact Kids with EF weakness tend to struggle with identifying text structure when they read. Logical extrapolation Difficulty identifying text structure (e.g,. somebody-wanted-but-so) also impacts the writing of kids with EF weakness!!!

41 Task Persistence and Frustration Tolerance
Two essential EF’s related to the writing process!!

42 Recursive Writing Cycle (With Developmentally Appropriate Levels of EF)
Pre-Writing Phase Adequate EF skill allows: Task Analysis Schema/Prior Knowledge Activation Brainstorming Thought Sequencing/Organization Adequate writing confidence and motivation to engage in writing Writing Phase Adequate EF (particularly WM) skill and mechanical automaticity allows: Fluent transfer of ideas to text Simultaneous processing of ideational and mechanical aspects of writing Revising and editing of text as it is produced (revising ‘on the fly’) Persistence and motivation to continue Revision/Editing Phase Adequate EF skill allows: Deep processing of one’s writing (such that content revision is possible) Awareness/recognition of one’s error patterns Careful scrutiny of written work and correction of all (or at least most) errors Persistence and motivation to continue

43 Recursive Writing Cycle (As Impacted by Executive Dysfunction)
Pre-Writing Phase EF weakness contributes to: Poor task analysis (‘What are we supposed to again?’) Little to know brainstorming or thought organization (just jumps into writing, using ‘knowledge telling’ approach) Minimal writing confidence (desire to avoid writing) Writing Phase EF weakness land a lack of mechanical skill Automaticity contribute to: WM easily overloaded by simultaneous ideational and mechanical writing demands Minimal writing Writing that includes numerous content and/or mechanical errors Very limited ability to revise/edit ‘on the fly’ Limited persistence and frustration tolerance (desire to be done as soon as possible) Revision/Editing Phase EF weakness contributes to: Superficial processing of one’s text Disregard of mechanical and content errors Very limited motivation to revise and extend writing Limited persistence/frustration tolerance (very limited willingness to revise/edit)

44 Activity 2 Please take a moment to consider and jot down one or a few of the key instructional implications of the impact of attention/EF weakness on the writing process. Briefly share/discuss your thoughts with those seated around you.

45 Memory and Writing

46 The Three Primary Levels of Memory:
Short-Term Memory (STM): The briefest of memories – information is held for a few seconds before being discarded Working Memory (WM): The ability to ‘hold’ several facts or thoughts in memory temporarily while solving a problem or task – in a sense, it’s STM put to work. Long-Term Memory (LTM): Information and experiences stored in the brain over longer periods of time (hours to forever)

47 The Brain’s Memory Systems

48 (‘Cognitive Workspace’)
Directed Attention Short-Term Memory Auditory/Verbal Visual/Nonverbal Working Memory (‘Cognitive Workspace’) LEARNING Long-Term Memory Declarative Procedural Retrieval Adapted from CMS Manual

49 Working Memory: Some kids have got ‘leaky buckets’
Levine: Some kids are blessed with large, ‘leak proof,’ working memories Others are born with small WM’s that leak out info before it can be processed

50 A Working Memory Brain Teaser!
Activity 3 A Working Memory Brain Teaser! I am a small parasite. Add one letter and I am a thin piece of wood. Change one letter and I am a vertical heap. Change another letter and I am a roughly built hut. Change one final letter and I am a large fish. What was I and what did I become?

51 Writing definitely requires . .
Memory of the future!!

52 How Large is the Child’s Working Memory Bucket?
Case 3: Frankie Forgetaboutit Case 1: Rachel Recallsitall Case 2: Nicky Normal

53 Large working memory capacity allows for lots of simultaneous processing!
Sequential Processing Simultaneous Processing ‘Cognitive Band Width’ Large WM Lots Little Small WM

54 Free Recall versus Cued Recall of Information
Free recall of previously learning information occurs in the absence of explicit cueing Cued recall occurs in the presence of explicit memory prompts

55 A Key Point: Many kids have a hard time searching their own memories for the language and other info they need when writing.

56 Is it any wonder so many kids meltdown in writing contexts?
Not understanding their memory and executive functioning deficits, kids come to view themselves as “stupid,” and to view writing tasks as horribly frightening and arduous. So the presentation of a writing prompt leads to ‘ka-boom!’



Best Practice Recommendations

60 Activity 4 On your own, or, if you’d prefer, with your neighbor or in a small group, brainstorm what you consider the essential instructional implications of working memory and executive functioning challenges for developing writers at the grade level(s) you teach.

61 Seeing molehills as mountains
Impossible! Annoying, but doable

62 Core Strategy Principle 1:

63 Explicit Teacher Modeling and Gradual Release of Responsibility
Teacher modeling of writing strategies in whole group settings makes the implicit explicit for all kids Best to also model likely problems/mistakes and ways to cope with them!! Gradual release (teacher models, small group practice, individual practice) can be very effective for kids with EF weakness

64 Core Strategy Principle 2:
Acknowledge with students that writing can be hard (and then show them ways to make it easier!)

65 Self-Regulated Writing Instruction (SRSD) (Graham & Harris)
Develop background knowledge (teacher) Discuss the strategy (teacher) Model the strategy (teacher) Memorize the strategy (students) Support the strategy (teacher) Independent performance (students) (Harris et al., 2008)

66 I always do the first line well, but have trouble with the others . .
-- Moliere.

67 So, the overall ‘best practice’ writing recommendation is . .
EXPLICITLY TEACH THE WRITING PROCESS Elaborate and build on this in a consistent manner from grade to grade Younger kids and LD kids won’t plan on their own: they need lots of explicit modeling and practice Kids should always be required to do some bit of structured planning before they write (‘gather your thoughts’)

68 Explicit Teacher Modeling and Gradual Release of Responsibility
Teacher modeling of writing strategies in whole group settings makes the implicit explicit for all kids Best to also model likely problems/mistakes and ways to cope with them!! Gradual release (teacher models, small group practice, individual practice) can be very effective for kids with EF weakness

69 A Core Recommendation: Build Writing Fluency with Power Writing
A daily fluency building technique Consists of brief timed writing events In each one-minute interval, students are told to write as much as they can about a specified topic The one-minute intervals are performed up to 3 times in a row Usually kids are told to include one or more key words in their writing Kids graph their progress (accuracy and length) Fisher & Frey, 2007

70 Recommendations for Students with Attention/Executive Functioning Needs

71 Key phrase to remember for ADHD/EFD Kids
‘Surrogate Frontal Lobe’

72 An essential EF-related writing fact:
Picking, deciding, choosing, and selecting are all executive skills!

73 And so . . Remove the picking challenge!
Decide for them (as practical) by limiting choices Help kids develop possible writing topics well in advance of the need to write (see attached ‘Like-Hate’ and ‘Usual-Unusual’ T Chart’ examples)

74 Helpful metaphor to teach pre-writing: Gather Your Thoughts
idea idea idea idea idea idea Then Write

75 Rubrics/Heuristics Rock!
P.O.W. C-S.P.A.C.E. Stop and L.I.S.T. B.O.T.E.C. Step Up To Writing Somebody Wanted . . But So . . .

76 Graphic Organizers: A double edged sword . . .
Great way to build previewing and planning skill (story webs, story maps, Venn diagrams, etc.) But, they are often perceived by ADHD kids as “MORE WORK” (“I have to do that and then write?!”) If these are used, consider allowing kids to hand them in as a completed product or give them lots of support in their use. Consider using the Peggy McPhee approach instead, which relies on giving kids a series of specific prompts/questions to answer (eliminates the blank page phenomenon)



79 P.O.W. (Graham & Harris) Pick my idea Organize my thoughts
1. ___________ 2. ___________ 3. ___________ Write and say more

80 C-SPACE (Harris et al., 2008) Characters Setting (time and place)
Purpose (What the main character tries to do . .) Action (What is done to achieve the goal) Conclusion (Results of the action) Emotions (The main characters’ reactions and feelings)

81 TREE (Harris et al., 2008) Topic (topic sentence) Reasons (at least 3)
Explain (each reason) Ending (wrap it up)

82 STOP & LIST (Graham & Harris, 2005) (Goal setting, brainstorming, organization)
Step 1: Stop (students should set goals for their writing; e.g., writing a funny story to share during circle time) Step 2: LIST (Brainstorm ideas and list them out) Step 3: Sequence (Organize the ideas into a logical sequence and then number them) Step 4: Write (‘By the number’s)

83 Bashir and Singer’s EmPower approach
Evaluate Make a Plan Organize Work Rework



86 B.O.T.E.C. Brainstorm Organize Topic Sentence Examples Conclusion 86

87 STAR Organizer Strategy (Kaufman’s adaptation . .)
How does story start? What happens next? Then what happens? How does story end? Who? 2. 1. Why? What? Main Idea When? How? Where? 87

88 Somebody . . Wanted . . But . . So (Jane Kennedy)
Heuristic for Story analysis Story writing Introduction ___ Title ___ Author ___ Character ___ Setting Problem: ___ Wanted ___ But ___ Detail Solution: ___ So ___ In the end


90 Consider Using the Step Up to Writing program (or something like it)
Developed by Maureen Auman Published by Sopris West Great way to help ADHD/EFD kids learn how to construct and organize paragraphs and essays Wonderfully concrete and explicit!

91 GO! Slow Down! Stop! Go Back! Write a topic sentence
Give a reason, detail, or fact Stop! Explain – give an example Go Back! Remind the reader of your topic

92 What Makes a Great Teacher?
A good teacher does two things. She makes the classroom nice. A good teacher has lots of books for us to look at and posters on the wall. A good teacher also teaches us new things. She lets us learn about other countries and experiments in science. Teachers are the most important part of school.

93 Reasons for Learning to Swim
Learning to swim is an essential skill for all children. One reason to learn to be a strong swimmer is safety. If you are in a dangerous situation, such as in a sinking raft or boat, you can swim to shore. If you are a good swimmer, you can also help save others who may be drowning. Being able to spend time with others is another reason for learning to swim. Birthday and school year-end parties are often located around the pool. Many people plan their vacations for warmer climates so that happy hours may be spent splashing in the ocean. The heat of summer makes us all want to cool off by enjoying water sports, such as waterskiing, diving, and surfing. Learning to be a great swimmer can clearly make your life safer and more enjoyable.


95 Defeating the dreaded ‘blank page’ phenomenon: Providing kids with specific prompts/sentence starters Original assignment: Pick your favorite fairy tale and develop a ‘fractured’ version of it. Make sure you also make at least three illustrations and show in your writing how the main characters resolve an essential conflict Modified assignment: List the five main characters in Cinderella Where does the story take place? What was Cinderella’s main problem? What was she doing to cope with it? What might be some funny ways to change the story? How would one of those changes change the ending? 95

96 Reading & Writing Sourcebooks (a strong, scaffolded,
literacy skill development curriculum) Wonderfully scaffolded (for both reading and writing) Clearly links the writing process to the reading comp process Focuses (concretely) on pre-writing (“Gathering Your Thoughts”) Keeps writing anxiety low (assignments are limited in length, but have a clear instructional intent) (Houghton Mifflin)

97 Reading & Writing Sourcebook in Action
GATHER YOUR THOUGHTS Directions: 1. Think about 4 special people who have had a positive impact on your life (write their names in the red boxes). 2. Then narrow your focus. Which one do you want to write about? Write that person’s name in the first green box. 3. Write three reasons why that person has been special to you (in the big green boxes).

98 GATHER YOUR THOUGHTS Person: Person: Person: Person:
Person I will write about: He/she is special because: He/she is special because: He/she is special because:

99 A Really Special Person in My Life . . .
Directions: 1. Write a paragraph of at least 5 sentences describing the special person mentioned in your organizer. Be sure to say the person’s name in the first sentence and how you know them. Also make sure to include the 3 (or more) details from your organizer (the reasons that this person is special to you), and include an ending sentence that sums up how you feel about this person today. 2. When you’ve finished, use the Writer’s Checklist (C.O.P.S.) to help you revise. Adapted from the Reading & Writing Sourcebook)

100 The acronym editing strategies: S.C.O.P.E. and C.O.P.S.
Capitalization Organization (or ‘order’ or ‘appearance’) Punctuation Spelling SCOPE S – Spelling ok? C – First words, proper names, and nouns capitalized? O – Syntax (word order) correct? P – Punctuation marks where needed? E – Do all the sentences express a complete thought? Concern: Are these rubrics too focused on surface features of text?

101 More Accommodations/By-Pass Strategies for EFD Kids
Let ‘em dictate first drafts of longer pieces Assist the student with organizing/ordering brain stormed ideas Break assignments down into smaller chunks Lots of check in’s an attentional prompts Allow the student to work on a keyboarding device                                          


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