As our name indicates, there’s more to Reading Success Plus than just reading. We also offer a writing program that is true to our mission of providing personalized, multisensory instruction that teaches children in the way that they best learn. But unlike our reading program, which is primarily directed at students who have difficulty reading, our writing program has something to offer all students, regardless of age or ability.
Why learn to write?
Lawrence Kloth, co-founder of Reading Success Plus, stresses that the ability to write is crucial to an individual at all stages of life – building a foundation for high school studies, getting admitted to college or other post-secondary education, landing a job, and succeeding in the workplace.
“We hear a lot of people ask why writing is important,” Lawrence says. “‘Why learn grammar? Why talk about paragraphs? Who cares about this anymore?”
Well, teachers care. So do college admissions officers and professors. The human resource director who sorts through internship applications, resumes, and cover letters also cares.
“It’s about first impressions,” Lawrence says. “If you don’t make a good impression on a job application, you’re not going to get that dream job, no matter how smart you are. If you can’t write a simple sentence on a job application, they’re not going to hire you.
“You know that prestigious college you want to get into? You may have the ACT scores and the SAT scores to be considered. But they are going to ask you to write, and those essays could be what determines whether or not you get into that college.”
Technology no substitute
Those who question the value of writing skills often point to the many technological aids available to anyone with an internet connection or a word processing program. Spell checkers are universal; most word processors also have check grammar. (Both will be used to check this piece.) More recently, artificial intelligence programs have been in the spotlight. These programs take a few prompts and turn them into whatever kind of writing you want, in whatever style you want, in whatever number of words you need. So why learn to write?
All of these technologies have flaws. For example, spell checkers are vital to RSP’s reading and spelling students. They are integrated into our curriculum, and one of our goals is to teach our students to use spell checkers instead of simply guessing. But they have limits. A spell checker won’t work if the writer can’t come close to the correct spelling. Without the writer providing context, voice-to-text cannot discern the difference between “there/their/they’re” for “bear/bare.” And the internet is littered with auto-correct fails that range from mildly cute to grossly embarrassing. Likewise, artificial intelligence programs produce writing that can be stilted and often inaccurate.
Computer programs will never be able to accomplish what good writing does – express the writer’s knowledge, opinions, experiences, and personality. Our students are filled with ideas and creative visions. What a shame it would be for those thoughts to be lost behind AI’s robotic language. Our students need to be heard in their own voices.
“Technology can help you so much, can do so much for you,” Lawrence adds. “But you need to know the basics, how to express an idea, how to say something on your own.”
Neglecting your writing skills is a mistake that could haunt you for a long time.
“You might have the best resume possible,” Lawrence adds. “But if you’re missing that one key ingredient – writing – you’re going to miss out on what you want, and I would hate for that to happen to one of our students, because they’re so smart and capable of doing so much. But writing is a basic necessity. It’s a life skill.”
Multisensory, personalized instruction
Our writing program follows the same principles as our other programs: multisensory instruction, one-on-one tutoring and individualized lessons.
A highlight of RSP’s multisensory approach is its grammar instruction. Grammar usually is taught in a text-heavy style that relies on a lot of abstract concepts. This isn’t how most of our students best learn. They learn through visual imagery, and they think in pictures, not words. Traditional grammar lessons rely on words, not visual or physical cues.
Our grammar program is different. It uses multisensory, color-coded blocks to turn parts of speech into a visual learning experience. Concepts like nouns, adverbs, and prepositions become vivid, colorful objects. Additionally, students can move the blocks around, creating a tactile experience that makes a more lasting impression than looking at words on paper. By manipulating the pieces, students gain confidence by building simple, then more complex sentences.
Another key, Lawrence says, is that the program is one-on-one.
“We take more time with the student to figure out what’s really going on and how we can help them out on an individual level,” he says. “You have a chance to build a rapport with the tutor, who knows how you operate the best and who has the experience to teach the student in the area they are struggling with.
“So, we see where you are at and build you up from there.”
Matching the student’s needs
If the student is having major difficulties, the lessons may involve the color-coded blocks to teach parts of speech and phrase structure. Then, the student moves up to writing sentences, paragraphs, and short papers. The content of the lessons depends entirely on the student’s needs.
Dawn Henretty, who is the director of the Reading Success Plus office in Troy, helped put together the writing curriculum. She earned a master’s degree in linguistics and a doctorate in reading and language arts education from Oakland University. Dawn now is a lecturer at Oakland.
A writing evaluation and a conversation with their parents will determine a student’s path, she says.
“We find out from the parents the specifics of why a student is coming to us for writing,” Dawn says. “What kind of problems are they having that we can help with? Is it because they’re having trouble writing reports or research papers? If parents say their child can’t write a sentence or put thoughts together, then we go for that.
“We can cover everything from grammar up to research papers and college entrance essays.”
Dawn points out that the writing program, like other RSP programs, tries to build on a student’s strengths.
“Some students have the ability to be creative writers, but sometimes it’s tough for them to write papers and reports. So of course, we cover academic writing. But we also will stress creative writing, because we can use their strengths. We don’t want students to feel like we are pushing a square peg into a round hole. The broad picture is that we’re able to help them with their creative writing and their academic writing.”
Not just for struggling students
The Reading Success Plus writing program is different from its reading instruction in that the writing program can help every student. Our reading program, the Barton Reading and Spelling System, best serves struggling students, including those with dyslexia or other disabilities.
The writing program, however, has something to offer everyone, from the truly struggling student who can’t write a sentence to a successful student seeking to polish their college entrance essays or a soon-to-be college graduate hoping to impress potential employers.
“The writing program is really for everybody, not just struggling students,” Lawrence points out. “It’s for anybody who wants to be a better writer.”
Reading Success Plus has offices in Grand Rapids and Troy and offers one-on-one tutoring online or in person in reading, math and writing. You can get more information at readingsuccessplus.com. To contact us, call 833-229-1112 or go online to https://readingsuccessplus.com/#contact.