Reverse Engineering the Initial Steps of the Writing Process for Students with Learning Disabilities




Writing, paragraph, expository, learning disabilities


Writing is a recursive endeavor that includes multiple and often simultaneous steps (Graham & Harris, 2013; Harris et al., 2002; Rijlaarsdam et al., 2012) and is influenced by the task, environment, and learner characteristics (Flower & Hayes, 1981). These complexities within the writing process complicate the development and implementation of interventions because a breakdown in any of these areas can cause writing difficulties. This study examined an intervention designed to improve writing knowledge and skills by teaching students a strategy for creating a well-organized paragraph through a backward- then forward-sequencing of instruction. The strategy used a systematic coding method across the initial steps of the writing process (i.e., prewriting, drafting) using a graphic organizer and exemplar paragraphs. Ten elementary students in three resource classrooms at an urban school with a high English learner population in the southwestern United States participated in the four-week intervention program. Using non-parametric methods, the comparison of pre- and post-intervention measures indicate both statistically and practically significant improvements in sentence knowledge and expository paragraph writing skills; implications are discussed.

Author Biographies

Kathy B. Ewoldt, The University of Texas at San Antonio

Kathy B. Ewoldt, Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor of Special Education at the University of Texas at San Antonio. Her research focuses on interventions and accommodations to maximize learning in inclusive settings.  Her research includes teaching paragraph writing skills to students with Learning Disabilities and English learners, the integration and implementation of technology in inclusion classrooms, and service animal policy.


Joseph John Morgan, University of Nevada, Las Vegas

Joseph John Morgan, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor of Special Education at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. His research focuses on: the provision of equitable instructional and intervention opportunities to culturally, linguistically, and racially diverse students with disabilities; integrating community resources into urban public school environments; and teacher education to integrate these practices in diverse classrooms. Dr. Morgan is Chair of the Department of Early Childhood, Multilingual, and Special Education.