2003 Conference Proceedings

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Brenda Bender
Don Johnston Incorporated
26799 W Commerce Drive
Volo, IL 60073
Phone: 847-740-0749, ext 555
Fax: 847-740-7326
Email: bbender@donjohnston.com

In today's information age it is critical that people can make sense of the vast amount of information available to them. Students entering the middle grades often begin to grapple with this problem in the form of the research project. Educational standards in English language arts, social studies, and other disciplines require that students do the following:

Conducting research requires the application and integration of a constellation of cognitive and physical skills, many of which prove challenging for students with disabilities. For example, students with learning disabilities frequently struggle with skills needed to conduct investigative research, such as extracting relevant ideas, predicting outcomes, and seeing cause and effect relationships (Corley, 1988; Deshler, Ellis, & Lenz, 1996; Algozzine, OšShea, Shoddard & Crews, 1988; Keating, 1988; Loranger, 1994).

Hasselbring (1992) names three specific challenges that students with disabilities confront in their attempts to construct knowledge. First, the learned information remains inert; many students can acquire facts or procedures, but not recognize that this information may be useful for solving problems. Second, students have difficulty constructing mental models or images from written text and spoken language, i.e., they may have trouble discerning the logical structures for organizing and integrating the information theyšve collected. Further, students with learning disabilities often lack fully developed metacognitive skills‹the ability to reflect on, evaluate, or analyze their own learning process. Without such skills, students may need support in sorting potentially relevant resources from irrelevant ones, and in charting their activities in a logical manner (Palincsar & Brown, 1987). Similarly, students with attentional problems may have difficulty organizing their materials and managing their time effectively (Lerner & Lerner, 1991; Stone & Michaels, 1986; Swing, Stoiber, & Peterson, 1988).

This hands-on lab demonstrates how educators can use Draft:Builder(r), an organizational writing tool, co-developed by Educational Development Center and Don Johnston Incorporated, to focus explicitly on each task required to complete a first draft and help students shift their focus from the mechanics of creating an outline to understanding how their thoughts, ideas and information are connected.

Draft:Builder breaks draft-writing into three skill-building steps so students stay focused and on task. In the Outline View students learn in both a linear and abstract fashion how their ideas are connected. As students generate ideas, each added idea or action is reflected in both the outline and concept map view simultaneously. Modeling and frequent opportunities for practice using familiar topics is key in facilitating student skill acquisition. As students become proficient in their ability to create a solid framework or outline, they will remain more focused as they move into reading and researching their topic further.

Students often need help and support learning how to take short and discrete notes. They will often take long notes that include multiple pieces of information. This becomes complicated as they begin to categorize their notes to a specific topic. In the Notes View, as students begin to record and attach notes to their correlating subtopics, the notes fields are limited which helps students self-monitor the amount of information they record. The bibliographer models formats for citing resources taken from most any medium, e.g. the internet, magazines, electronic encyclopedias, etc.

In the final step-Draft View, students see their outline and all of their notes. Concurrently they are presented with a blank screen in which they begin composing their draft. They can summarize and paraphrase as they look at their notes or they may pull their notes into the draft simply by dragging them. All of the supports that guarantee success for struggling students has been built into every view- speech feedback is available for students who need to hear the text as they write and the Franklin(r) Spellchecker can be activated in each view or upon completion of their first draft.

Educators can choose from a vast selection of templates, all are included. These templates provide prompts and questions that get students writing and guarantee "Phenomenal First Drafts"!


Algozzine, B., O'Shea, D.J., Stoddard, K., & Crews, W.B. (1988). Reading and writing competencies of adolescents with learning disabilities. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 21(3), 154-160.

Corley, P.J. (1988). The development of sentence comprehension abilities in good and poor readers. The Educational Psychologist, 23, 57-75.

Deshler, D., Ellis, E.S., & Lenz, B.K. (1996). Teaching Adolescents with Learning Disabilities: Strategies and Methods. (2nd edition). Denver, CO: Love.

Hasselbring, T.S. (1992). Using integrated media to accelerate development of mental models in at-risk students. Paper presented at SRI Conference on Technology and Education Reform, Dallas, TX.

Keating, D.P. (1988). Adolescents' ability to engage in critical thinking. Madison, WI: National Center on Effective Secondary Schools, University of Wisconsin, Madison.

Lerner, J.W. & Lerner, S.R. (1991). Attention deficit disorder: Issues and questions. Focus on Exceptional Children, 24(3), 1-17.

Loranger, L.A. (1994). The study strategies of successful and unsuccessful high school students. Journal of Reading Behavior, 26(4), 347-360.

Palincsar, A.S. & Brown, A.L. (1987). Enhancing instructional time through attention to metacognition. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 20(2), 66-75.

Stone, A. & Michaels, D. (1986). Problem-solving skills in learning disabled children. In S.J. Ceci (Ed.), Handbook of cognitive, social and neuropsycholological aspects of learning disabilities: Vol. I. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Swing, S.R., Stoiber, K.C., & Peterson, P.L. (1988). Thinking skills versus learning time effects of alternative classroom-based interventions on students' mathematical problem solving. Cognition and Instruction, 5(2), 123-191.

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