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Exploring Effective Pre-Writing Activities in Special Education


Writing can be a challenge for our students in special education. Writing skills are more than just a set of techniques. Writing is a path to self-expression, communication, personal growth and more. For our students with exceptional needs, establishing that foundation through pre-writing activities is essential to help them develop the skills they need for future writing experiences and opportunities. I’m going to talk about my pre-writing bundle and how it can support laying a foundation to help your students develop broader writing skills through leveled guidance and instruction. 


My pre-writing bundle includes 180 pages that are specifically designed for beginning writers. It includes 11 units that are scaffolded to help guide your students all year. Some students may spend a full year in levels 1 and 2 while others may work through all of the levels throughout the year. This set is perfect to allow you to customize based on individual student needs. Before we dive into specifics of this bundle, let's talk a little more about pre-writing and why its important. 



boy in classroom writing at his desk


Understanding Pre-Writing  


Pre-writing activities are foundational exercises designed to prepare students for the physical and cognitive aspects of writing. These activities focus on developing fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination, and spatial awareness—all critical elements that contribute to writing skills. In special education, we can adapt and tailor pre-writing activities to individual needs and abilities to support progress for each student. 


For students with special needs, engaging in purposeful pre-writing activities offers numerous benefits beyond acquiring writing skills. Some ways we can help foster this development include: 


  • Fine Motor Development: Pre-writing activities promote the development of fine motor skills, including hand strength and coordination, which are essential for holding writing tools and forming letters.

  • Spatial Awareness: Through activities like tracing lines and shapes, students enhance their understanding of spatial relationships and letter formation on a page.

  • Cognitive Preparation: Pre-writing exercises stimulate cognitive processes such as planning, sequencing, and visual-spatial organization, laying a strong foundation for future writing tasks.


Now that we have a better understanding of the why, lets dive into this amazing bundle that has been purchased over 2,000 times in my TeachersPayTeachers store. This pre-writing bundle is divided into 11 units. It is designed to meet the needs of all your learners. 


Unit 1: Lines


I recommend beginning writers start at unit 1. Unit 1 is simply lines. You have horizontal and diagonal lines to start. This is perfect for your learners who need that foundational starting point. Tracing lines will help them develop those very basic skills needed such as hand eye coordination, spatial awareness and following directional cues. Straight lines set up a simple path for them to follow. Your students can use any tool they need to such as a pencil, marker, crayon, adapted tools and more. You can accommodate with slant boards, clip boards, tape and you can also print as needed, laminate or place in sheet protectors for extended use. 



preview of level 1 writing


Unit 2: Curves


This is a perfect next step to line tracing. These curved pages begin with a slight curve and they progress into a more advance curve. Again, these will foster that hand eye coordination, increase dexterity and muscle strength by encouraging your students to begin to analyze what they are writing. Adapt for your students however you need in order to set them up for success. 



preview of level 2 writing


Unit 3: Pencil Control


Pencil control is where things definitely start to increase in difficulty. This level is designed to really hone in on targeted skills. Your learners will begin to really work on having control of their writing through following narrow paths to enhance their level of control over their marks. 



preview of level 3 writing


Unit 4: Trace inside line


This is similar to pencil control. This unit gives your students narrow passages to follow while keeping their marks inside of the lines. This skill is continuing to hone in on their dexterity skills while continuing to improvise their small hand muscles, coordination and more. 



preview of level 4 writing


Unit 5: Pencil Lift


Unit 5 gives your learners a little more freedom in their writing skills. Now that your students have fine tuned their ability to trace inside of lines, maintain a line, curve and more they can begin to explore other elements. This unit will have your students completing repetitive patterns through pencil lifts. Instead of keeping a consistent flow of their marks, your students will need to start to control their ability to trace, lift, and repeat. The lifting and repeating portion of this unit create more complexity for your learners. 



preview of level 5 writing


Units 6-11: Paths, shapes, letters, numbers and more


Units 6-11 will help broaden their flexibility with writing. These units will provide your students will predictable and unpredictable paths to follow. These units include mazes, shapes, letters, numbers, pictures and more. Once your students have successfully completed all of these units, they will be more prepared for next level writing activities. They should be able to trace simple words and sentences, follow directions for simple paths, shapes and more. 




Where can you get this amazing pre-writing bundle?

You can grab this set in a few different places. You can find it in my shop here on the website, you can find it here on teacherspayteachers, or you can find it here on Etsy!


Where do you go from here?


If you are looking for next step activities, I also have a full year guided writing set. This guided writing set will allow your students to complete daily writing activities by reading (with someone or independently), tracing, writing on their own and building a sentence. After they are able to trace and write, you can begin to move into sentence structure. This activity will foster those next step skills. You can check it out here


I hope this has helped you better understand the need for pre-writing activities in your special education classroom. Although I greatly discussed in detail about the set that I have created and used countless times, you can also use a variety of other methods to foster these skills for your students. Sometimes we need to leave the worksheets behind, get creative and have that hands-on approach. Some other things you can do with your students to promote pre-writing techniques include: 


Playdough and Clay Exploration: Manipulating playdough or clay helps strengthen hand muscles and improve dexterity. Students can roll, pinch, and shape dough to develop fine motor control.

Finger Painting and Drawing: Engage students in finger painting or drawing activities that encourage hand-eye coordination and creative expression.

Sensory Writing Trays: Create sensory writing trays filled with materials like sand, salt, or rice. Students can use their fingers to write letters and words, reinforcing letter formation and motor memory.

Interactive Apps and Games: Utilize interactive apps or games designed for pre-writing skills, offering visual and auditory feedback to reinforce learning.



If you need customized products or support, please feel free to always reach out to me at reachingexceptionallearners@gmail.com 


-LeCha


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