Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Writing the Five Paragraph Essay for students with ADHD

Have you ever been on the Disneyland teacups? Swirling around and around, faster and faster, loosing sight of the stationary fixtures so that they become a mass of colors, textures, sights, and sounds. That is what it is like when you are a student with ADHD. Sometimes, their brains go faster than they should and instead of being able to see the stationary objects in front of them, they can't focus on anything.

This makes it challenging to teach them how to write because they can't focus on the paper in front of them long enough to understand what should go where. ESPECIALLY when it is a graphic organizer. For some reason, this format does not work with ADHD kids. I can only speak from my experiences as a student with ADHD and then a teacher to kids with ADHD. When you have bubbles around a page, it looks like complete chaos. I can't seem to focus on what goes where and instead, wonder what I should draw in the bubbles. A cartoon? Maybe a landscape? No, it has to be a bunch of squiggles in different colors, directions, maybe a flower in the corner...See where I am going with this??

I couldn't get any of my students to actually pay attention to my directions or notes on how to write an essay. I had to go over and over the reasoning, the small nuances depending on the topic, the placement of specific points and quotes. I finally got so fed up with re-teaching the same thing over and over again, I decided to create a worksheet that gives them the same formula for basic 5 paragraph essays. If they have a formula to follow, a basic "How to" guide, they could follow it.

The specific requirements for each sentences was easier to follow than creating a paragraph with specific requirements. It wasn't as overwhelming. Then I realized that I had to go a step further and identify what each sentence did- "Analysis of evidence" is such a different sentence than a "Transition Sentence." I also had to separate the paragraphs onto different pages because thinking about creating the essay as a whole was more difficult to get rather than separating it into one paragraph at a time.

So this pretty much did away with the need for outlines. This worksheet takes the place of constant reminders about the paragraph details without taking away from the content. It also refocuses them by providing specific requirements for each sentence and separating the paragraphs onto separate pages.

This worksheet has been a lifesaver for my students. I start them on it in their Sophomore year and I still have previous students download it from my website from their respective colleges. They will email me telling me grateful they are that I broke it down and eliminated the mystery that had always surrounded writing the five paragraph essay. But I think it is more than that- I think that they were able to finally see the stationary points of view through the chaos.

5 Paragraph Essay Worksheet
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