10 Hacks for Reluctant Writers

I recently put some thought into how I motivate reluctant writers. Sometimes a pencil and a blank page is overwhelming for students.

Introduce a collaborative element

Teach students how to collaborate on writing projects. This can happen on paper or it might happen through collaborative writing platforms like Google. Sometime students just need to know that the work they create will get outside of the notebook and be read to get things started.

Use a frame

Sometime students need a starter to get their creative juices flowing. It’s less intimidating to know what the writing expectation is.

Don’t use a frame

That being said, don’t use a frame for every single writing activity. Writing is creative and I think it should remain so. Wile students sometimes need a framework they also sometimes need to run without a fence.

Use inspirational books and short films

One of my favourite sources of inspiration is wordless books, which we talk about to to build vocabulary before sitting down to write. Lately, I have discovered that short, wordless films are fun to write from, too. Don’t be afraid to stop the film often to shake loose vocabulary like a PWIM-type activity but also watch the film as it’s intended to be watched to catch the artistry of the film making. Generally shorts are only a few minutes long.


Students need models of what good writing looks like. It’s hard to reach for exemplary writing without knowing the elements of good writing. I think this is also an important place to let tudents have another go. I have found that discussing a draft with a student and comparing it to exemplars and then inviting them to revise and edit has improved the quality of their work.

Model writing behaviour

Students need to see what writers look like when they do their work. There are times during Daily 5 literacy activities where I also sit down and write. When I do, though, I work with pen and paper because I want students to know I’m writing and not checking email or surfing for lesson plans.

Be a writer

Similar to model writing behaviour, but I think we need to discuss purposes for writing with students. As adults where do we write? Shopping lists, blogs, emails, book reviews for Goodreads? Share! Students need to see that we are lifelong learners.

Write like a Pirate! Use a hook!

(To borrow a phrase from Paul Solarz’ book Learn Like a Pirate.) Students need a reason to write! Help them find one! A teaching colleague recently shared his hook: the classroom mascot had gone missing! Students wrote wanted posters and morning announcements that for the entire school talking!

Journals, blogs, scripts, lists! Change the mode!

What did you do on the weekend?” Worst. Prompt. Ever. I think students need to be exposed to different formats to find the joy in writing. What about instead of a narrative recount of the weekend students wrote a script about the funniest moment? What about a blog with hyperlinks? How about a visual journal? Or ditch the weekend in review and seek a more interesting topic! Ask what questions they have asked lately! This one takes habit to cultivate. We get so in the habit of ignoring curiosity or resorting to Google. What if we just “wondered” and then wrote about where that took our imaginations?

Provide alternatives

Talk to text can be a powerful tool. I witnessed a student this week who got frustrated by not being able to tell his story in print. He gabbed an iPad, used Pages to dictate the story, edited for errors, and exported the text to Google to share. That child knew what he needed and was able to fully express his idea (and you should have seen the pride on his face)!

I’m always on the lookout for more ideas! Let me know how you encourage writing in your classroom!

2 thoughts on “10 Hacks for Reluctant Writers”

  1. I’m not really a writing teacher, but writing is one of those things that comes up in many subjects. Anyway, I agree with you that being a writer yourself and letting the students see you write is very helpful. I often take it a step further and ask students to give me constructive criticism on the work I write, just as I give them constructive criticism on what they write. Some students seem to find this quite helpful – I think it illustrates that all writers have room for improvement and benefit from advice so it helps reduce the “I can’t do this because I’m bad at it” feeling.

    Liked by 1 person

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