Read about how you can use the 4 square writing approach in your speech room and help your students with their written expression!
Why should we address written expression in speech?
According to ASHA’s practice portal, “The term ‘specific learning disability’ means a disorder in one of more of the psychological processes involved in understanding or in using language, spoken or written, which may manifest itself in an imperfect ability to listen, speak, read, write, spell, or do mathematical calculations.” – (Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act [IDEA], 2004)
In the school setting, we often find ourselves working with students with learning disabilities that also have difficulties comprehending and using language, verbally or in written expression. “Children need strong knowledge of both the spoken and the written word in order to be successful readers and writers. Children with spoken language problems frequently have difficulty learning to read and write, and children with reading and writing problems often have difficulty with spoken language” (Kamhi & Catts, 2012).
So why the 4 square writing approach?
I find that many classroom teachers use this approach to help their students with their writing. It uses a graphic organizer to help students create a four or five paragraph essay. They can also use it to develop a four or five sentence paragraph too. I am all about graphic organizers to help students organize their thoughts.
So why use this approach in speech if it is used in the classroom?
I realized that our students, with language difficulties, will struggle even with this approach if it is not broken down for them even further. I pulled apart all the necessary language skills they need to master in order to be successful with this awesome approach.
Topic vs. Supporting Detail
In speech, we often find ourselves working on categorization and main idea. If our students cannot identify categories and how things go together, they will struggle to come up with a topic sentence using the 4 square writing approach or any writing approach. I love using sorting activities to help them see the difference between a topic and supporting detail.
Once they understand what a topic is and how it relates to a category…can they guess the topic or category when all details are given? If I am using the 4 square approach, why not give them various topics in the format and have them guess it?!
Sequencing and Transition Words
Our students will struggle with writing if they cannot comprehend that events need to be in a certain order for it to make sense. They need this skill for telling personal narratives and story retell. Once they can put events in order so that it makes sense, can they add transitional words to help the reader/listener comprehend? You can totally work on these using sorting activities. When would “to start with” be used? How about “to summarize”?
I like using the concept of a traffic light to teach students beginning, middle, and end!
Can they produce a conclusion?
They know something goes at the end. But what?! If you are working at the paragraph level, I like to call it the “wrap up sentence.” It takes all of the details already mentioned and sums it up in one sentence to end the paragraph nicely. Our students benefits from a visual cue and framework. Can they practice by filling in the blanks to produce a complete sentence that incorporates all the necessary details? Can they then take this skill and strategy an use it when they are generating their own paragraphs!?
Putting it all together
If you give students a graphic organizer complete, can they transfer that into a written paragraph? Model it. Practice it. Take the generating of ideas piece out and just show them how to take the “notes” of the graphic organizer and turn it into a paragraph. Where does each sentence go? How do we produce complete sentences? How can we refer back to the graphic organizer and check our work?
Practice and visual aids!
Don’t be afraid to show your students visuals to remind them of the different aspects. Don’t ask them to memorize what to do.
Design the lessons so that they can be successful. Practice using motivating topics. Show them a before and after sample to show them how much they improved.
This approach and strategy really has helped my students generate written responses and show growth in this area. Don’t be afraid to share this strategy with teachers too! Show them how you break it down for the students so that they can be successful.
Want to learn more about this approach and how you can break it down for your speech and language students? CLICK HERE to check out my resource in my TPT store with all of the activities and worksheets ready to go for you!