Masterful Writing Strategies

Jul 09, 2018

Recently we mourned the loss of Diana Hanbury King who passed away at the age of 90. A pioneer in the field of dyslexia intervention, Mrs. King was initially mentored by Anna Gillingham (of Orton Gillingham). After working with family members who were dyslexic, she started a camp, much like our beloved summer reading program, and then transformed the instructional framework from the camp into the Kildonan School in New York State.  

She taught until she was 85 years old, and several years ago I had the good fortune to see her receive the Lifetime Achievement Award at the International Dyslexia Association. Student after student provided testimony as to the impact of her instruction on their reading, achievement, and overall emotional well-being. It was incredibly inspiring to bear witness to the scope and depth of her work.

Ms. King provided instruction beyond reading however, and one of our favorite supplemental writing tools is her series of Writing Skills Workbooks.  

Book 1 systematically builds students' basic writing skills. The book begins with a series of activities that review parts of speech (for example, distinguishing between nouns & proper nouns), practicing with the critical elements of a sentence (subject & predicate), and slowly building to the development of topic sentences, and paragraphs. Although the book does not contain mini-lessons the activities are designed to be explicit and offer a continual review.

Each skill is practiced through both analysis (i.e. read these sentences and select the best main idea sentence), and expression (i.e. after reading a main idea sentence write 3 supporting detail sentences). Knowledge of parts of speech, elements of a sentence and the basic components of a paragraph are the essential building block tools that many students with language-based learning disabilities are missing. Mrs. King's workbook serves as a wonderful supplemental tool to a typical writing program.  

The second workbook is also incremental in nature, and focuses almost exclusively on expository writing. It begins with a review of different types of sentences (declarative, interrogative, imperative and exclamatory), and moves to exercises for writing topic sentences and concluding sentences. Then the workbook turns its attention to the body of an essay - the paragraph. There are activities for expanding sentences, combining sentences and avoiding fragments. The final section builds to writing different types of expository pieces including process, compare/contract, descriptive, and classification.

Two great tools from a master of explicit language instruction.

The books do not have an age range, but in our opinion Book 1 is aligned with content from the 3rd - 4th grade level, and Book 2 is aligned with 5th grade + .

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