When you think about the struggling writers in your classroom, how do you feel? Do you feel confident in how to support them? Do you feel a little at a loss? One thing I have always noticed about writing curriculums is that they are great about laying out a road map for writing instruction. However, they rarely give clear instructions on how to remediate if students do not grasp a concept right away. It’s up to teachers to figure out how to move students through all of the writing standards, without leaving anyone behind. Today, I have three tips for you on how to support your struggling writers.
Guide the Words You want them to use
One area where some young writers get stuck is knowing what words to even use! Giving students a topic can flood their brains with several ideas, all requiring words that they don’t know how to write. This is overwhelming and can prevent some students from getting started. Support those who struggle with a small word bank of content-related words, or even high frequency words. Instruct students to use as many of those words as they can in their writing.
You may have to provide the words for them, or you may be able to guide them through brainstorming their own words. Removing the added mental work of sounding words out as they are writing can help free up a student’s brain. They can write more than they would if they stressed about retrieving the words from memory.
Have Struggling Writers check their own spelling
Rather than always helping when a student asks how to spell a word (especially if it is a high frequency word, or a sight word), keep scrap paper handy. Students can try writing one word multiple ways, until they see one that looks the most familiar. For example, a student asks how to spell the word ‘buy’. Ask them to try it three different ways on scrap paper, writing the sounds that they hear. After writing three versions, they can cross out the ones that look wrong, and choose the one that looks the most familiar.
They won’t get it right 100% of the time, but this helps them to think critically about the sounds they are putting together. This will boost their literacy skills, overall, as well as creating a self-reliance when it comes to their writing.
Allow Struggling Writers to Draw Pictures First
I have shared the power of allowing students to sketch thoughts first in posts about my Think-Draw-Write resource! If part of a student’s writing struggle is that they can not pull thoughts from their mind into a logical order in writing, drawing is a great first step!
Allow students to sketch the parts of their story, and ask them to orally retell it to you. If necessary, take notes and create an outline, based on what they say. Then, have them fill in the outline with their own writing.
Using these tips, you can better support your struggling writers and help them grow this year! Happy teaching, everyone!