2003 Conference Proceedings

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Jeremy Palese
Don Johnston Incorporated
26799 W Commerce Drive
Volo, IL 60073
847-740-0749, ext 538
Fax: 847-740-7326
Email: jpalese@donjohnston.com

Writing is one of our most powerful tools for communicating. And in today's technological world there is an even stronger emphasis on writing as a form of communication. We communicate through email, we use "the web" to access information and we create documents with word processors faster than we ever have before. How do we make this method of communication and information-gathering available to our struggling writers? How do we open the floodgates to capture and record all the thoughts and ideas that are blocked by the mechanics of writing?

Proficient writers become proficient at communicating their message by having many meaningful writing opportunities. They write more complex sentences, use vocabulary that is specific to their subject and refine their message through the editing process. The more they write, the better they become at writing. Struggling writers, on the other hand, get stuck on many of the mechanics of writing, discouraging them from the very task that will help them become better writers! Struggling writers need to be provided with the same meaningful writing opportunities in order to help them perfect this craft of communicating their thoughts and ideas through the written word. If they are allowed to concentrate on those thoughts and ideas and not on their areas of weakness-such as forming letters, spelling, grammar, etc.-students will break through the roadblocks and get to the really important part of writing-communicating.

Using technology tools to break through these roadblocks and open the floodgates for a free flow of ideas is the basis for this hands-on lab with Write:OutLoud(r) and Co:Writer(r) 4000. Students who find the mechanics of writing to be a roadblock to communicating their thoughts and ideas can simply apply dictionaries containing topic-specific words to use vocabulary unique to the subject of their writing. They can use auditory feedback, talking dictionaries and spell-checkers to edit and refine the meaning of their writing to say just what they want to say. When students are given the tools to address their barriers to writing plus meaningful opportunities to practice this craft, they will see success and the gap between their ability to verbalize and their ability to write will shrink.

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