Writing is one of the most complex activities in which a student is asked to engage. Proficient writers are able to recruit a multitude of functions and abilities to interact on paper. These functions include:
  • Language Production
  • Motor Skill
  • Memory Function
  • Attention
  • Problem Solving
  • Organization
  • Ideation
  • Reading Ability
  • Writing Affinity and Comfort
  • Perspective Taking
  • Adaptation to Varied Formats
  • Revision Skills

Because of the complexity of written expression, students may have difficulty in one or more of the following areas:

Gaps In
Graphomotor Dysfunctions
The connections between the brain and the fingers. These dysfunctions sometimes take the form of generalized fine motor deficiencies. Therefore some students have motor problems which impair the precise coordination of the small muscles needed for fluent letter formation on paper.

Organizational Problems
Organizational Schema: Some students do not know where and how to begin or what to do next when they write. They seem unable to prepare a written product in a stepwise fashion. Because of this difficulty, many times they just feel overwhelmed.

Expressive Language Problems
Word usage or semantics, Proper sentence construction, Verbal sophistication: Students who have weak language production are apt to show deficiencies in their written expression. They may make syntactic or semantic errors. In other cases, what they write may be relatively free of language flaws, but the content is overly simplistic. These students write brief sentences and over use very common words.

Unsophisticated Ideation
Difficulties at one or more of the following levels: Topic Selection, Research, Brainstorming, Analytic/Critical Thinking, Use of Prior Knowledge: In thinking about a student whose writing reflects poor ideation, it is important to determine whether that student's other academic activities also are indicative of this pattern or whether the weak ideation is confined to his or her writing. If it is the latter, ti si possible that the multiple demands required for writing are impeding the ability to generate ideas.

Exceeded Memory Capacity
Exceeded memory in:
Long-term memory capacity - During writing one must simultaneously and rapidly retrieve from long-term memory correct spellings, rules of grammar, punctuation and capitalization, vocabulary, prior knowledge, and letter formations. The student may be able to perform any of the these functions in isolation, but have difficulty retrieving all of these critical resources at the same time.
Active working memory capacity - During writing, students need to remember what they are currently doing while also remembering what they intend to express. Some children with insufficient active working memory have a problem with mentally maintaining both intentions and task components.
Short-term memory capacity - Two writing activities are especially strenuous for short-term memory: copying and note taking. In both operations a student must hold a chunk of information in short-term memory long enough to be able to transcribe it on paper.

Guide to assist with making a hypothesis and identifying areas for assessment