Simone

Simone is a sixth grader who hates to write. When she does write something, her stories and essays are short and lack any type of description. Her teachers are puzzled because there is a significant difference between the quality of Simone's ideas during class discussions and what she is able to put on paper. When her class was talking about the Great Gatsby, Simone was the first to point out some of the symbolism in the novel. But as soon as they had to write an essay about the book, Simone froze. She couldn't think of the words she wanted to use and had trouble organizing her thoughts.

The same thing happens in history and science class. As soon as Simone has to write her ideas down, they seem to disappear. Her work is filled with spelling mistakes and has few transitional words. Sometimes she is so embarrassed by what she has produced that she doesn't hand it in.

Simone loves two classes-P.E. and math. In P.E. class she gets to talk to her friends and she is also becoming quite good at volleyball. The P.E. teacher even told her she should consider going out for the middle school volleyball team. Simone has been doing well in math class, especially with computations and word problems, and never gets nervous for a math test-unlike any of her other class exams.

Simone helps out in her parents' convenience store after school. She loves to talk to people who come into the store and helps her mother count the money and organize the sales receipts at the end of the day. Simone would much rather be helping in the store than doing anything else-especially homework. 

Lately, Simone has become very inconsistent about turning in any of her writing assignments. She has been telling her parents that she doesn't have any homework, so her parents were quite surprised when her teacher called to say Simone had not been handing in her assignments.

Strengths:

  • Math computations
  • Math word problems
  • Talking to people (peers and adults)
  • Class discussions
  • Understanding symbolism in reading

Affinities:

  • Volleyball
  • Meeting and talking to people

Areas in need of improvement:

  • Generating ideas for writing
  • Organizing ideas for writing

Possible Management Plan:

Simone needs to understand that she has great ideas, she just needs to work on getting what is in her mind onto paper. Managing Simone's difficulties in writing may begin with a discussion in which Simone is made aware of her great strengths and that these are going to help her throughout school and in a career. 

Writing needs to become less of a stressful event for Simone. She needs to be more relaxed when faced with a writing task so that her anxiety doesn't make it even harder for her to focus on putting her ideas into words. Give Simone an opportunity to discuss the frustration and anxiety she feels when writing. Provide Simone with a sense of belief in her abilities, and optimism for improving her skills in writing. Specific strategies in a management plan might include a balance of accommodations and interventions, as well as an integration of Simone's strengths and affinities.

Leveraging Strengths and Affinities:

  • Simone could keep an Idea Journal. While she is working at the store with her parents, she could keep the journal with her to write down interesting things she hears, sees, or talks about with other people. She could also add headlines she reads in the paper or pictures she sees in magazines that interest her 
  • Use Simone's great people skills to have her work with classmates on writing projects and peer editing.

Possible Accommodations and Interventions:

  • Simone needs the writing process broken into steps so each writing task doesn't seem so overwhelming. Simone could first brainstorm her ideas, then organize the ideas, next put the ideas into sentences, and not think about spelling and punctuation until the end. Each step of the process could be handed in separately.
  • To ease the memory demands of having to remember and synchronize the multiple skills of generating ideas and remembering spelling, punctuation, grammar, Simone should first think just about her ideas. She could use a semantic map or graphic organizer to put her ideas down. 
  • To work on adding transition words to her sentences, Simone could be given a list of sentences from a book or written by the teacher and a list of transition words (unfortunately, while, however, then, finally). She could then practice rewriting the sentences using these words. Simone could also add these words to her own personal dictionary as a reference for when she is revising her own writing.
  • Have Simone practice identifying the parts of an essay or report in terms of the beginning, middle or ending. Have her complete an essay or report when given a specified beginning or ending.
  • Have Simone keep a journal where she can write her ideas about the day. Have Simone first write a short list of any big events that happened and then use complete sentences to elaborate about these events.
  • Make sure Simone has enough time for any in class writing assignments to ease her anxiety. Allow Simone more time for written responses on essay tests, or reports, when staging is encouraged. When applicable, use a multiple-choice, matching, or short answer format rather than essay.
  • Have Simone and the rest of her class identify books that have great beginnings or endings. Make a class list of these examples and then have students generate their own great beginnings or endings. This list can be kept posted for students to use as inspiration for when they are "stuck."
  • Provide Simone with a computer program that guides outlining and graphic organizing. Computer programs with templates that allow Simone to move back and forth between an outline form and a concept map will build her organizational skills.
  • Offer structure and guidance to help Simone learn to successfully monitor her written work. Provide a list of questions to start the self-monitoring process, such as "Am I clear on the point of the essay question? Have I connected each point to what I've already written?" Require a 24-48 hour delay between the completion of written products and proofreading/editing. A chart may be helpful to get Simone started (see below). With experience, she can move from teacher guidance toward independent self-monitoring.