Paths to Literacy

for students who are blind or visually impaired

Overview of the Writing Process

Photo of draft of journal entry being copied onto computer.
 

What is the writing process?

Teaching the writing process focuses on the organization of ideas and expressing them in a format that others can understand.  It differs from the mechanics of writing described above, as it is about the content of what is written, rather than the format.  Both content and format are essential to being a successful writer, but they are not always taught concurrently.  Some students may experience tremendous frustration using specific tools, such as a braille writer, a slate and stylus, or special pens and paper with bold lines.   It is important for all children, whether they are blind or sighted, to be able to express their ideas freely and easily, without struggling with the mechanics or tools.

 

Why do we write?

We all write various things in various formats throughout the day.  From quick notes and lists, to carefully composed letters or documents, writing is a form of communication that many of us depend on in all parts of our daily routine.  We write to keep track of things (appointments, things we must do, schedules), to stay in touch with others (email, letters, cards, quick notes), and to convey our ideas (stories, journals, compositions, scholarly papers).  Writing checks, making lists, and filling out job applications are all important independent living skills.  Regardless of the form we use, writing is one of the main ways that many of us communicate and stay connected.
 

How can we model writing for children who are blind and demonstrate that it is a part of daily life?

It is important to let children know when we are writing things, if they are unable to see us doing so.  For example, we might say, "Before we go to the grocery store, let's make a list of all the things we need to remember to buy."  Or, "I need to let Stewart know that I won't be back in time for dinner.  I think I'll write him a note to tell him."  We can also read aloud email messages or letters that we write to friends and family members, and share the responses so that they get some sense of how the exchange of written communication works.

 

Where can I get additional information about the writing process for students who are blind or visually impaired?

A Process Approach to Teaching Braille Writing at the Primary Level
by Anna Swenson; Journal of Visual Impairment and Blindness, Vol. 85, No. 5 (1991)

This article describes the "process approach" to writing instruction as it has been modified and used effectively for teaching braille writing to young children who are blind. This approach to teaching language arts includes "immersing students in print, giving students greater responsibility for learning, and integrating literacy skills with all areas of the curriculum (p.217)." Referred to as "reading-writing" classrooms, the ideas and teaching strategies utilized in a process approach are also proving to be highly effective in teaching braille writing.

"Write" Tools for Students Who Are Visually Impaired
National Center to Improve Practice (Fall 1994)
This 4-page document includes the following:

  • Why sensory feedback is critical to the writing process
  • How technology meets the individual and changing needs of students who are visually impaired
  • Ways schools and families can support the process
  • Case studies of two students who are visually impaired using technology in mainstream classes
  • A glossary of assistive technology features for students who are visually impaired
  • A list of additional resources about assistive technology for students who are visually impaired

Technology and the Writing Process

The Role of Computers in Writing Process
by Mustafa Ulusoy, University of Illinois at Urbana – Champaign
The Turkish Online Journal of Educational Technology, vol. 5, Issue 4, Article 8 (October 2006)

In this paper, the role of computers in writing process was investigated. Last 25 years of journals were searched to find related articles. Articles and books were classified under prewriting, composing, and revising and editing headings. The review results showed that computers can make writers’ job easy in the writing process. In addition, literature results revealed that teachers, peers, instructional strategies, and computer software all together have some important roles to develop students’ writing ability. Simplifying the revising process is the biggest expectation from computers.

Exploratree
http://www.exploratree.org.uk/

Exploratree is a free web resource where you can access a library of ready-made interactive thinking guides, print them, edit them or make your own. You can share them and work on them in groups too.  This site includes information on how to adapt graphic organizers to make them accessible for screen reader. http://www.exploratree.org.uk/accessibility/