I once had a cheeky but endearing pupil called Kirk who would always enter my classroom loudly pleading, “Tell me we’re not doing any writing this lesson, Miss?!…”
I’m pretty sure that his aversion to the very idea of putting pen to paper was due to a deep-seated insecurity about his handwriting, spelling and the general terror of having to commit anything to paper that might define him as “wrong” or “right”, “clever” or “stupid”.
“What’s the point of writing?” he would beg. “Why can’t I just say it?!”
For some kids, I think the thought of committing words to paper to be evaluated by someone else feels a bit how I might feel if asked to attend a life-drawing session and then forced to show my amateur sketch to the model.
So this tricky situation has to be handled sensitively and patiently – that is, if we’re not going to have those reluctant writers leave school at the end of their time with us, with the same anxieties they came to us with…
With this in mind, here are 6 cross-curricular ways to support reluctant or struggling writers in your lessons!
- Use the “Ghost Writing” technique to model excellent form: give pupils a good example of this TYPE of writing (report, explanation, instructions, recount, persuasion, description, etc) and ask them to write “over” it – ie retaining the phraseology, structure and form but changing the core meaning by using the correct topic vocabulary. This technique can be hugely effective in helping less confident writers to write in an appropriate register.
- Before that seemingly overwhelming task of confronting a blank page in their exercise books, allow reluctant writers to physically explore the structure or “shape” of their piece of writing. They might do this by organizing post–it notes on their table, pegging ideas on a line of string or even writing key ideas on paper cups and building a physical “structure”.
- Knowing how to start and being able to envisage reaching the end of a piece of writing plays an important part in boosting learner confidence and productivity. Provide a simple writing frame to support pupils in structuring their work and to make the extended writing task seem less overwhelming.
- Struggling writers can feel intimidated when shown a great example of writing and asked to identify success criteria. Instead, boost their confidence by showing them a hilariously bad example of the type of writing they are being asked to produce. Pupils can then be encouraged to identify what’s wrong with it and so, by implication, understand what they will need to do in order to produce a successful piece of work.
- Understanding exactly what is expected of them can calm an anxious or confused writer. Provide a clear “√ or X” checklist that pupils must refer to and assess their work against before they submit it.
- Rather than just copying information, show pupils how to summarise it by modeling the process. Getting pupils to use plasticine to tangibly represent the main points, and then removing the original text and using only the models to make written notes, is one way of showing pupils the difference between copying and actually condensing and transforming information.
Now it’s your turn!…
What techniques have you discovered for supporting reluctant or struggling writers in your classroom? Please share your fab ideas in the comments below!
See you next month!