What’s up with reluctant writers?

It’s no secret that teaching is a tough gig. And teaching writing can be really tough.

We’ve all been there and struggled through an excruciatingly difficult writing lesson, where getting some students to put pen to paper feels like an epic battle that will never be won.

Reluctant writers often feel they don’t know what or how to write. They’ll do anything to keep talking and deflecting rather than getting started.

They might believe that they’re ‘bad’ at writing or that they’re not creative. They struggle to come up with ideas for writing stories and don’t know where to begin with a persuasive or informative piece.

Meanwhile, the dreaded blank page looms … making it even harder to start writing.

But a student who is disengaged in writing is not necessarily disengaged in all curriculum areas. So, it’s important to explore the reasons for the disengagement.

And the best way to do this is to talk to them about it.

Identifying why students are reluctant to write

Consider these questions when talking to students who are disengaged in writing:

  1. Do they have a learning need that impacts their writing?
  2. Is it a lack of interest in writing?
  3. Is there a real audience and purpose beyond the teacher?
  4. Is writing interesting and rewarding?
  5. Is it something that can be tackled with a group of students in the classroom?
  6. Do they think writing is irrelevant? (i.e. When am I ever going to need to use this?)
  7. Do they have any say in the kind of writing they do or the topics they write about?
  8. Do they believe they’re ‘bad’ at writing? Is it actually to do with self-perceived competency?
  9. What do their peers or friends think and believe about writing?
  10. Do they just focus on the negatives, seeing only what they can’t do?

If we can understand where students are coming from in regard to writing, we can challenge these mindsets. And if we can make writing less scary and more fun, then we’re on the road to writing recovery with our reluctant writers.

But how can we make it fun?

Making writing more enjoyable

A simple shift in approach can make a huge difference. The first step is to stop asking students to write a whole text – it’s setting them up to fail and turning writing into a chore.

The Seven Steps approach favours breaking writing down into manageable chunks, which:

  • teaches students the individual skills in isolation
  • gives students time to understand, practise and master those skills before they tackle a whole text
  • builds students’ confidence and makes writing fun and achievable for all ability levels.

Seven Steps knocks over the fear factor from the get-go, which helps to kickstart engagement. It’s a program that’s been designed to:

  • provide scaffolds and chunked activities to support those who need it
  • foster student engagement by making writing doable and fun
  • set students up for writing success.

The bottom line is – if writing is fun you want to do it and you want to do it often. If you do it often then you get better at it. If you’re better at it, it’s more fun. Simple!

For a practical guide to making writing fun in your classroom, check out 10 ways to increase student engagement in the writing classroom.