How to Teach Struggling Writers – Peas in a Pod Lessons

Writing can be one of the harder subjects to teach, and some kids struggle. Here are a few simple ideas to help you teach writing to all of the students in your class – especially the struggling ones.

Foster a love of writing

Does your class moan, groan, and give minimal effort when asked to write? If kids don’t have a positive association with writing, it will be the last thing they want to do. The best way to deal with this is to start off with a few short and engaging writing activities. During these initial activities don’t focus on mechanics and grammar. I know that those mistakes can really stand out, but they are not the most important part of students’ writing. Instilling a love of writing & the content they generate is much more important.

The easiest way to do this is to use high interest topics and their personal interests. A few topics that I have found particularly engaging include Autobiographical/Biographical writing, “I Wish” topics, and poetry. People love to talk about themselves, their hopes & dreams, and poetry can be seen as lighthearted and fun.

Choices make people feel empowered. So, empower your writers by letting them choose a fun pencil, where they would like to write, and possibly the time frame for writing.

When you focus on creating a love of writing, students will write more. The more students write, the better they will get.

Focus on growth – not perfection

This is one of the most important ways to help struggling writers, especially if you are teaching whole group. Keep your lessons short. Only focus on one specific task. This is a great way to build skills and increase your students’ confidence.

Each skill they do learn will help them grow as a writer. They don’t have to master every skill or get an A+. All that matters is that they are showing growth and enjoying the process (at least somewhat).

Remember, your students will not grow at the same pace. But, in each case comparing their latest piece of writing to their very first writing sample of the year is a great way to bolster their confidence (and yours). Growth is the goal!

Writing is comprised of so many different skills. Some kids will master some skills, some will master others. Not all of your students will master every skill and that’s just part of the evolving journey of a writer.

Break your lessons into bite sized pieces

Look at each of your lessons and break it down into the smallest possible parts. For example, while teaching short multi paragraph essays we work together on one paragraph at a time. Depending on how advanced the group is, I like to have them write two of the body paragraphs after brainstorming. The next day, we look over what we have and write our introduction paragraph. The day after that, we examine our introduction and figure out a way to reiterate it in a similar way to form the conclusion.

If you’d like some ready-to-go lesson plans, anchor charts, and daily writing assignments, you should check out the writing plan. These lessons are geared toward grades 3-6 and come with lesson plans that include five different focuses: informational, narrative, descriptive, opinion/persuasive, and summary.

I’ve seen other writing programs that are comprised of nearly one thousand pages and sell for an upwards of $100! Who has the time and money for that?!

Unlike other curriculums available on the market, this one gets straight to the point. You won’t have to print and sift through 700 pages to find what you need. These units are short, sweet, and to-the-point so that you don’t have to spend hours reading and prepping for your day. Save time & money by clicking here for day-to-day lessons that teach your students HOW to write!

Use small groups

When students are coming in at all different levels sometimes it’s a good idea to break them up into leveled groups. Then take turns working with each group throughout the week during a writing workshop time. The other groups can work independently on peer editing, researching, illustrating, spelling activities, or any number of ELA related activities.

If you have students who are really struggling, don’t be afraid to make accommodations to make writing easier. Remember, you want to meet students where they are and to help them grow.

Reaching our lowest level students

When you have a student who is near a kindergarten level, allow them to write with pictures and use some inventive spelling when appropriate. This helps them participate, develop a love of writing, and provides them with a starting point.

This accommodation may not be appropriate for students who are just slightly below level, but it can be helpful for those who really need it. Start by having them draw their story in pictures. Then have them write one word for each picture. As they progress, you can shift to helping them write a very simple sentence for each picture. You might also consider using a highlighter and letting them trace the words or sentence if needed. The goal is to get them writing and progressing. Remember to focus on and celebrate this growth!

You may have a student or two with dyslexia, dysgraphia, or other learning disabilities who needs assistance getting their thoughts on paper in a legible way. Consider using a talk to text feature on a device. This can be a helpful resource for those students.

By allowing them to focus on content instead of getting stuck by mechanics and handwriting they can practice the skills they are learning. We want to remove the barriers that are holding our students back and aid them in telling a story. A talk to text feature is actually an effective tool that any writer can use get their words on paper.

Closing thoughts

Don’t be discouraged if it feels like you are starting from scratch. Every teacher has struggling writers. You will have some students at grade level, some above grade level, and some below grade level.  And, it is normal to have some low level writers. As long as your students are progressing, it’s completely fine that they are doing it at their own pace.

Happy Teaching!

~ Melissa

Looking for more? Click here to read about how I organize my writing instruction in a way that makes sense.

I hope you find these suggestions helpful! Click here to follow Peas in a Pod on Tpt for more classroom tips & freebies.

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