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Wednesday 15 January 2014

Reluctant Writers

Earlier this week I posted about how we have helped my son become a better reader, you can read about that here.

Today I thought I would talk about how to encourage those writers that seem to need a cattle prod to put pencil to paper.  Make sure you read all the way to the end to get your tips and tricks sheet!

I have found that reluctant readers and reluctant writers usually go hand in hand, this makes it somewhat easier to have a target group.  So to help you out I thought I would write down 5 things you could do in your classroom today to help out those kiddos that make you want to tear your hair out when you hear those deathly words "I don't know what to write".

1. Talk the Talk!
The very first thing I make sure I allow reluctant writers to do is to TALK about their writing PRIOR to writing. I have found particularly with boys that talking about what they want to write seems to help them put their thoughts in order, you could take this a step further and encourage them to draw while they are talking.
The way I would set this up in my room is to ask students to pair up or have them in small groups, then set a timer (usually around a minute and a half to 2 minutes) and tell them to take turns telling each other what they are going to write about.  I would do this after the introductory lesson.  You may need to practice this a couple of times and take a little wander around to make sure your target kiddos are on task, but once they have gotten used to it I have found it really helps.
PS be prepared for it to be a bit noisy :)

2. Visualise the story!
We all know that kiddos learn in different ways, some are aural learners, some are kinaesthetic, some are visual.  As I mentioned above this technique can be used in tandem with talking.  Essentially you let the kiddos draw the story BEFORE they write it, this can be done in a variety of ways.  Kiddos can make a story map, a simple line drawing, a comic strip, anything!  Again, you may need to put a time limit on this as it can become very involved for some kiddos :)  Remind them that the focus of the lesson is the writing and the drawing is just to remind them of their ideas.  This can work for all types of writing including drawing the steps of an opinion piece, information report or procedure.  I also encourage students to write a few words around their pictures to give them that extra reminder and that extra practice!

3. Stop! know the rest
Sometimes our kiddos have AMAZING ideas but just get overwhelmed at the thought of writing so much. It is ok for kiddos to work together to produce one piece of writing and it is also good practice for co-operating.  Pair the kiddos up keeping in mind their abilities, you can choose to either assign one of them as the scribe or let them choose.  You could even ensure they share the writing if you really need to.  Again if it is a physical thing that is the blocker for some of your kiddos, get them to record their story using an ipad or similar device then transcribe the story for them.

4. Picture this!
Providing some writing prompts can sometimes give those kiddos a little nudge in the right direction.  I have a file of interesting pictures that I have cut out of magazines and newspapers (yes, that is old school) I make this available for kiddos to have a look through and then glue the picture into their writing journal or book. I love to use this for Free Choice Writing activities so that there is less pressure on kiddos for producing a written piece that has expectations attached to it.  You could also have a whole class writing prompt by displaying it on an IWB if you have one or a series of large poster pictures displayed around the room.

5. Write Every Day!
It is important to make writing an everyday activity, so that it becomes something that is a normal and routine part of a child's day. I know that sounds like it is easy but it can be trickier than you think, especially with all the technology in our schools and homes.  It is important to set a small amount of time (10-15 minutes) of each day and make sure the kiddos know this is writing time, quiet, individual writing time.  By all means use the previous tips to get them writing but I cannot stress enough how important it is to get kiddos to see that writing is something we do everyday.

Finally I want to leave you with a little trick I use for those Kinder/Prep kiddos on their very first day of writing.  I have a small basket that is filled with glitter, I do a quick modelling lesson on the board of writing a sentence, some of the words are correct, some misspelled and some just a squiggle.  Then I ask the students if they can read it, generally they shake their heads no, then I try to read some of it unsuccessfully.  At this point I pull out my basket and I tell them that it is Magic Writing Fairy Dust (as the sign on the basket would say) and if I sprinkle it on my head I will be able to read my writing because it will say anything I want it to say, that was the magic part!  (Yes I am a drama queen!)  I demonstrate the sprinkling and then magically I am able to read my writing!!!!  AH.MAZING!  Then I tell the kiddos that if I sprinkle them with the fairy dust they will also be able to read their own writing no matter what it looks like or if nobody else can read it.  I am telling you they eat this up!  Then I send them off to draw and write and without fail every single one of those littles will write something.

So as a reward for you today for reading ALLLLL the way through this long post I am giving you 2 Freebies, the first is a sign for your Magic Writing Fairy Dust and the second is a tips and tricks for reluctant writers sheet to print and keep!  Yay!

Just right click on the pic and save as a picture.

You can download this FREE Tips and Tricks Sheet by clicking on the pic!

I hope you have found something useful in this post.


  1. What a great post! I just love the fairy dust idea for the first day. Will definitely be using that with my new grade ones in a few weeks time! Thank you for the freebies.

  2. So glad you can use it Jess! Thank you for your kind comment! Good luck with your Grade ones and the new school year.

  3. Tania I'm going to try it!! Love reading your post (when I get a chance). Hope you get a prep class this year so you can give me more inspiration :) I'm going back this year doing prep part-time.

  4. Oh wow!! Marcelle, so great to see you here! Congrats on going back to Prep this year, you are a fantastic Prep teacher. I have Year 2's again (part time) this year but I like to put up lots of things the range from Prep to Year 3, there will always be a place for Prep here! Thanks so much for following it means a lot to me :)