A few years ago, I was teaching a 2nd-grade class. As the weeks went by, it became evident that I had quite a few children who hated writing! Their eyes would roll, and I would hear a harmonious groan as I uttered the words…’ get out your writing journals.’
After this negative response, I researched and changed how I approached writing in the classroom. It became evident that the strategies I began to use helped not only reluctant children improve their writing but also the rest of the class.
This blog article will outline a few different ideas and strategies that worked for me. Of course, each class is different; however, I feel obliged to share these ideas with my fellow teaching companions.
1. Talk About Writing
I found having an open discussion about what they disliked about writing to be a huge eye-opener.
Most of them said they found it hard to think of ideas and often felt anxious about getting the task done in time. Anxiety before a writing task is entirely normal – it’s the writer’s block that even the best authors talk about. On top of this, they have the added time constraints that teachers place on their students.
I wanted to encourage daily writing and help move them past their writer’s fear. Also, I explained that it is ‘normal’ to feel anxious about writing, and we began to work out strategies, find templates, and slowly created the right level of support needed for each student in the class. Including the children in this process gave them a greater drive to want to improve their writing.
2. Is Writing Comfortable?
I found the children with great ideas but only ended up with one sentence at the end of a one-hour writing block, struggled with handwriting, and had a poor pencil grip. We experimented with different pencil grips, triangular-shaped pencils, and practiced handwriting daily to improve this. Check out our 10 Handy Handwriting Tips Blog for more ideas.
Creating a comfortable writing environment was also beneficial to some children in my class. Some preferred to sit on a beanbag chair to write, while others felt more comfortable sitting at a round table with a teacher or teacher aide for support. It didn’t bother me how they were seated, just that they were comfortable and writing!
3. Comic Strips
The boys in my class were into comic books at the time. The class was working on narrative writing, and they were struggling to come up with ideas. So, I decided to use comic strips to begin the writing process. The children loved it! They planned out a comic strip and then used it to write their full narrative. The results were terrific!
Here are some of our resources that may work in your classroom:
4. Writing Prompts
The initial fear of knowing what to write can be a big hurdle for children to overcome. Some children need a little push in the right direction. Providing them with some writing ideas, or prompts, can help them to get creative.
Here are some of our resources that are great for providing that extra support:
5. Create Story Boxes
I created ‘story boxes’ using items I knew the children were interested in. Superheroes were a favorite at the time! Using our classroom theme packs, you can print and cut out pictures and word wall cards to inspire your students’ writing ideas.
Other topics that worked for me were cars, dinosaurs, sports, and action movies. I also encouraged children to create their own story boxes that they filled with things from home that were special to them.
5. Are They Bored?
A couple of the children in my class hated writing because they found it boring. They were being asked to write about things that did not interest them, so they didn’t feel compelled to write.
Providing a variety of options and topics allowed the students to pick a topic that interested them. This is where the story boxes from home allowed the children to write about hobbies and interests they enjoyed.
The students were proud of their work and a lot more willing to share the ideas and writing with the rest of the class.
6. 10-Minute Daily Quick Write
One strategy I found that helped my students overcome writer’s block was the ’10-minute quick write’.
I would set a timer, give my students a topic, and ask them to write about the topic for 10 minutes without editing, deleting, crossing out, or stopping. If they got stuck, they just wrote about what they were thinking.
I never looked at their quick-writes. It was merely an exercise to help students intentionally move past that fear of coming up with ideas. Check out our online Random Sentence Starter widget for a great activity to get your students writing daily.
7. Use Technology In the Classroom
Another hurdle that became evident was the number of things they had to think about while writing. What the story was going to be about, what characters were going to be in the story, who was the main character, the problem and the solution, spelling, handwriting, punctuation, don’t forget your adjectives – so many things for their little minds to handle.
I found that allowing them to record their ideas on recording devices or iPads, type their ideas, and plan their stories on a computer, eliminated the handwriting concern from the scenario. It allowed them to focus on the quality of the story and content, rather than their handwriting.
For more hints and ideas on using technology in the classroom, read our blog 11 Easy Ideas for Teaching with Technology.
I hope this blog has inspired some of you to get creative when encouraging those reluctant writers in the classroom. It’s easy to say ‘Jonny just doesn’t like writing’ and leave it at that.
There are so many strategies, resources, and ideas out there…we just have to find the ones that work for each child.
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