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Do you work with your students with special needs in the summer and struggle to figure out what it’s best to teach them? If so I have been there! When you’re working with students with autism and dysgraphia in the summer it can be hard to come up with all that curriculum on your own, which is why I always recommend doing a summer writing boot camp! It’s great for special education teachers who want to do intensive work with their students on writing!
If you’re a SEIT, SETSS Teacher, or provider of any kind of 12 months of services the summer can be challenging.
The students want to go on vacation. A lot of their friends and siblings are out of school, and let’s be real, the same can be said of us!
I once went to brunch with a good friend who is also a classroom teacher. School had ended the day before, and she asked me when I had to start providing summer services. I told her next week, and she gagged.
“I can’t imagine already having to go back.”
In truth, I don’t mind it, because it’s a good chance to focus on basic skills that get swept aside during the school year because of the constant need to keep pace with the academic curriculum.
In this post, I’m going to cover the summer writing boot camp I put together to help my students with dysgraphia and autism learn to be better writers!
Not sure what dysgraphia is? Click here!
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What is Summer Writing Boot Camp?
Full disclosure this is for your more advanced students who are learning the general education curriculum. It works well with students of any age, but I tend to use it with my fourth or fifth graders.
Summer Writing Boot Camp is a six-week intensive in which students write three different kinds of five-paragraph essays.
If that sounds like a lot it’s because it is. It’s a lot of planning and a lot of work for the kids, but I have seen kids flourish and reach new goals and benchmarks with this intensive system.
The key is to structure it correctly and provide adequate one-on-one or small group support. The essays proceed in the following order.
- Informational Essay
- Research-Based Opinion
- Literary Analysis
It’s important to stick to this order because it proceeds from easiest to hardest and lets students warm up.
If this is sounding like something you want to teach, but you don’t have the time to prep, don’t worry! You can purchase my Summer Writing Boot Camp Bundle by going here!
How does the progression work?
The progression asks students to do the easiest essay first, which is just the informational essay. Students are not expected to take a hard opinion on an informational essay and can have simple claims or thesis.
One of my students once wrote a claim for an informational essay that was just “Marie Curie was a great scientist.”
The claim should be easy to prove with facts and most of the emphasis goes into researching and presenting the facts to the reader in an interesting way.
Next in the progression comes Researched Based Opinion. This essay also comes with a large research component, but students are expected to take a stand that can be argued. Then they have to present the facts they found in their research that support their claim.
Common topics for Research-Based Opinion Essays include
- Chocolate Milk: good or bad?
- Is it cruel to make animals perform?
- Are school uniforms good for students?
- Should we get rid of daylight savings time?
Your chosen topic should be something with layers and a lot of different things students can stumble across.
For example, with daylight savings time the answer can go beyond yes or no. If students say yes, then there comes a whole host of follow-up questions. Should we spring forward or fall back? Are there health concerns to either option?
Last is the literary analysis essay, which is the hardest of all three. Students do not have to research but have to read a book and write a claim about the book, using evidence from the text.
A common one I like to use is Artemis Fowl, and I ask students to consider if he’s a good or bad person. Again, you want something layered and difficult to answer.
How Do you Teach that?
You have to break down the essay by each component. When writing informational essays we review the different basic parts of a five-paragraph essay.
These include, hook, claim, topics sentences, and so on.
Make sure your student is clear on what each one sounds like and can identify them.
I also strongly recommend having students read and critique example essays before doing any of their own writing. For some students, you can do it when introducing the concept, but for others, you have to do it piece by piece before they write each component.
This can look like reading an intro paragraph only on the day you have to write an intro paragraph and so on.
Decide on what method works best for your students. You know them better than I do!
Is this sounding like a lot of prep work and planning?
It definitely is a lot of prep work, but it’s so worth it trust me.
If however, you want to save time and skip the prep work, you can purchase my premade Summer Writing Boot Camp Bundle by clicking here!
It comes with unit plans, lessons, grading rubrics, and example essays, and will save you hours of time!
What about Motivation?
Chances are if your students are receiving summer services then they have a hard time with writing, and it’s probably not one of their favorite subjects.
It’s common for these students to want to avoid writing or to try to gloss through the early phases of the research and planning.
I tell my kids to NEVER do this.
If you phone it in on the topic selection, research, and planning then the writing is not going to come out well.
In fact, I tell my students the most important thing they can do for their writing is pick a topic they are excited about.
I allow my kids to always pick their topic for the Informational Essay and give suggestions for the Research-Based Opinion.
Allowing this makes my kids much more engaged than any other time in the school year when they simply don’t seem to care about the topics their teacher preselected for them.
What about the Literary Analysis Essay?
This one I’ll admit you can’t give free rein to your students because there are only so many books you’re equipped to do this with.
However, I do try to give my students at least three options to choose from.
Aside from Artemis Fowl, I also recommend
- The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle
- The Adventures of Edward Tulane
- Drita my Homegirl
- The One and Only Ivan
Pick a book that is layered and complex enough to make students have to infer what is happening.
Also, make sure the prompt for the literary analysis essay is an either-or prompt. This makes their claim easier to write and evidence easier to collect, and provides a nice scaffold since this is the hardest of the essays.
If you are feeling overwhelmed, that is so normal! It’s a lot of work and planning and coordination!
But remember, if your district is anything like mine then this is your whole summer session! And hopefully, it will work for multiple students.
If you plan this all out in advance that will save you loads of prep and planning time down the road, freeing up precious summer hours, allowing you to relax more during this warm wonderful season!
And if you want to save even more time, you can purchase my pretested Summer Writing Boot Camp by clicking here!