Strategies to Support Reluctant Writers

In this post, I’m sharing 3 simple strategies to support the reluctant writers in your classroom, as well as sharing a list of the most engaging literacy center activities for k-2 students.

Most classrooms have student or two who tries to avoid writing.  They may groan when you announce it’s time for writing. They find ways to avoid getting started or stare blankly at a page and tell you, “I have nothing to write about.”  These students are our reluctant writers. 

While their antics can be frustrating at times, it is our job as teachers to understand why they are resisting and find ways to support, encourage and help them get words on the page.  

Today I’m happy to share 3 strategies to support reluctant writers. These are strategies that I have used in my own classroom to help ALL of students find success and joy in writing!  

1. Provide More Models of Good Writing

I have talked a lot about the importance of modeling and for good reason!  Studies show that modeling can reduce student confusion and enhance understanding, as well as decrease student error, positively affect the perceived importance of a task and increase self-regulated learning. 

But often just having the teacher model a task is simply not enough.   Many students, especially those who are resistant to write, may need to be shown something numerous times before they feel comfortable getting started themselves.  For this reason, I try to model writing activities a few different ways.  

Different Ways to Model a Writing Activities

  • Have the strongest writers share first.   

When I assign students to centers, I am strategic about who I put where.  If there is a new writing activity in the center rotations, I place my strongest writers there first.  The next day, after they have completed the center, they get the chance to share their work with the class.  They explain their thinking and receive feedback from classmates. This gives my less proficient writers another opportunity to see the activity modeled. They get to hear the feedback which may help them as they work through the task.

  • Partner Sharing. 

A few times a week, I pair students and allow them to share their writing with each other.  I may provide them with some guiding questions or sentence starters to help ensure the feedback is specific and helpful.  

Knowing they will share their work with a partner helps keep students accountable and on-task. It also motivates and excites them!  

  • Be strategic about who you choose to share.  

As students work independently, I walk around the room to observe and hold mini conferences with them about their work.  This gives me the chance to identify a student who has applied the skill of my mini lesson well and choose them to share their work in the end.  It’s a simple way to give struggling writers another chance to see and hear what it looks like to successfully complete the writing objective.

2. Choose Engaging Writing Activities

You need to be very thoughtful when it comes to the centers you pick for your class.  Knowing you have writers of all levels you want to choose writing activities that are naturally differentiated.  If something is too hard or too easy, students will lose interest quickly and may even act out. You also want activities that give students some choice with regards to what they write about.  This helps to spark interest and keep them engaged!

When I think back to the writing centers my students found most engaging there are a few that come right to mind…

Seasonal Picture Writing Prompts I love these picture writing prompts because they are naturally differentiated and provide all the supports students need to complete their work independently.  

Story Sequence Writing Prompts  Students use four sequence picture cards to order events, then transition words and specific story vocabulary to write their piece.  All the supports are in place to ensure everyone is successful!

Decodable Sentence Building Students will love these engaging hands-on activities. Each sentence is a phonics-based controlled text sentence. It contains target phonics skill words, previously taught phonics skill words, and irregular high-frequency words. This ensures students get the cumulative review we know they need for mastery.  

Write the Room  This is an SoR-aligned, engaging literacy center activity that combines reading and writing!  Students practice reading decodable sentences with target phonics skills and writing complete sentences.

So what is it that makes these writing centers so engaging? Well, for one, they are all naturally differentiated. My higher students find them challenging and my most reluctant writers find them accessible. 

Each of these activities also include supports such as word lists, pictures, and checklists to help students gather and organize their ideas.  They can feel confident knowing the support is there for those times when they might feel stuck or unsure of what to do.

Finally, each one of these centers offers students some form of choice. Having the choice over what to write motivates students and helps to keep engagement high.

3. Publish Writing Pieces 

Two or three times a year, I take my students through the entire writing process.  We follow this chart and go through each step together.  

Special tools and resources such as stamps, colored pencils, editing checklists, and word banks help them to be successful each step of the way.  All students are excited to use these “special writing tools” and they help to keep motivation high!  

To make your students REALLY feel like an author, you can publish their writing in Microsoft Word using this editable template. The resource includes directions, pictures and suggestions on how I manage digital publishing!  

We don’t publish every piece we write because I don’t want them to have to edit and revise EVERY TIME they write something!  But when we do go through each step, it gives them a better understanding of why we write. 
To get a better idea about how to take a piece through the whole writing process, take a look at this post. In it I shared what publishing writing looks like in my classroom.

So when you wonder how to support your reluctant writers, consider providing more models of good writing, having highly engaging writing centers, and finding ways to celebrate your students’ writing While these strategies are not major changes to your instructional practice, I do believe they enough to transform a resistant writer into an eager one!

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