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Collection: Word Prediction

purple arrow (1137 bytes)Motivating a Reluctant Writer

Patricia Corley, NCIP Staff

I am very interested in the use of word prediction with LD students, but know of no hard research in this area. During my clinical years at Children's Hospital in Boston I introduced word prediction software to a number of LD clients who responded very positively and feel that I have a sense of for whom this feature is appropriate and why.

Basically I found that word prediction was a powerful tool for the most reluctant writers--those kids for whom the thought of writing a paragraph (even on a computer) is terrifying. Many of these students have no keyboarding skills (and no motivation to learn keyboarding) and low frustration tolerance for the "hunt and peck approach." Oftentimes their spelling skills are so poor that spell checking is dysfunctional. They often (not always) have difficulty expressing themselves orally. Many of these kids' reading skills far outstrip their expressive writing skills so that they can recognize the intended words in the predictive word list (obviously, this capability is important but can be mitigated to some degree with speech support).

I think word prediction can be so empowering for these kids because it gives them confidence that they can have access to the words they need and want to use. The ability to create personalized predictive word lists is key here. In pre-writing brainstorming activities, kids can enter the words they use in speech and know that they can use them liberally in their writing without ever having to spell them. The writing process becomes personalized by way of the personalized vocabularies. Kids love this.

Beyond spelling, many of these kids have word finding problems. They can't quite get at the word they want, but they know what letter it begins with. They can cruise the lists looking for the word. Again this is very confidence inspiring.

My favorite clinical story relating to this involves a 13 year old boy named Brian. Brian is a handsome athletic kid who severe learning disabilities. His greatest area of difficulty is expressive writing. He has poor fine-motor skills, non-existent spelling skills, oral formulation difficulties, the works. Brian was dragged into my office by his mother who was interested in exploring ways the computer could help her son. Brian was not interested in the least. He told me that he hated school, he hated to write, he hated computers and he most especially hated coming to see me on a summer day when he could be at the beach with his friends. I took a deep breath and grabbed my glitziest interactive software (as an icebreaker before approaching word processing). Well, he hated Carmen San Diego, Explore-A-Science and everything else I had to offer.

Finally, I said, "OK Brian what is it that you don't hate?" He muttered "motorcycles." I loaded up Write Away, a word processing program with word prediction, personalized word lists and speech feedback. As I interviewed him about motorcycles I created a personalized word list from the vocabulary he was using (e.g. motocross, wheelies, Kawasaki, etc.) Then I showed him how to use the program and asked him to simply write down what he had told me. With minimal prompting he wrote three coherent paragraphs. One about different types of motorcycles, one about motocross stunts and one about places he liked to ride. After we printed out his work, Brian muttered under his breath "I gotta have this."

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This material was developed by the National Center to Improve Practice (NCIP), located at Education Development Center, Inc. in Newton, Massachusetts.  NCIP was funded by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs from October 1, 1992 - September 30, 1998, Grant #H180N20013.  Permission is granted to copy and disseminate this information.  If you do so, please cite NCIP.   Contents do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Department of Education, nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by NCIP, EDC, or the U.S. Government.  This site was last updated in September 1998. 

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