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Thoughts About Working with a REALLY Reluctant Writer

Ro asked:

I have a student in my class who is on the spectrum and is extremely reluctant to writing. He doesn’t think anything is important or worth writing about. It’s extremely difficult even getting him to write a few sentences because he is so defiant. My next step is getting him to try writing on the computer. Maybe posting a picture or sentence starter? I’m opposed to prompts & sentence starters to begin with, but I feel like I should try- however, I’m not sure that it will help.

I’m sure you can tell that I’m not sure where to turn next. Do you have any suggestions as to what I can try? Have you ever encountered a situation like this?

I’ve been thinking about this over night to see what I could come up with. Here are three suggestions:

  • Sit with the student to create some lists. Some examples of lists that go beyond a “Things I Can Write About List” are: “Places I Want to Visit,” “My Concerns About the World,” “My Favorite Foods,” “The Best Days and the Worst Days of My Life,” etc. For each list, which you should model first by doing your own lists like this, can be developed in the child’s writer’s notebook. However, they must be enhanced lists. For instance, instead of just listing places he wants to visit, he needs to add one – two sentences as to why he wants to visit each. Then, have him use these lists to generate writing.
  • Have a writing lunch with the child. Sit down and talk for awhile, keeping your notebooks alongside of you. When you have a conversation, perhaps things will come out that he can write about. Further, getting to know the child a bit better, away from his peers, might yield more insight into why he’s avoiding writing.
  • Get him a special idea notebook (could be a smaller memo pad) so he can write at home when strange or unusual things happen. Remind him that no one lives a life like the one he lives. Therefore, it’s his duty to capture the small moments of his life down on paper. (To that end, perhaps a smaller sized notebook would help him for in-class writing since he’d have a smaller amount of space to fill per page. Hence, he might fill more pages in-class.)
  • I have more suggestions, but these are the ones I think will produce immediate results (especially if you do them in this order). LMK if you want me to do a greater public brainstorm in a week or two.

    Stacey Shubitz View All

    Literacy Consultant. Author. Former 4th and 5th Grade Classroom Teacher.

    2 thoughts on “Thoughts About Working with a REALLY Reluctant Writer Leave a comment

    1. Hi Stacey,

      Thanks for your great advice. I’m going to try these out next week and I’ll definitely update you on how everything works out. I’m determined to break through because I know that he’s capable.

      I truly appreciate your time & for getting back to me. I know I say this a lot , but you and Ruth are two amazing people that truly inspire me. Please don’t stop posting and continue to do what you both do best! 🙂

      Thanks for giving me the power to plow through!

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    2. if you’ve already tried the following or know it won’t work with this kid, of course DISREGARD. I’ve had to make writing, sometimes, with a handful of kids, into more of a behavior issue than most of us passionate writing teachers prefer. That looks like me kindly giving choices, like, “you can choose to write a half page entry, now, during writing time, or you can choose to write your half page entry during recess or friday fun or after school” (w/ parental support). When you’re out of carrots and “authentic” reasons, i don’t think that “because school is for learning” or “because this is what students do are bad reasons to force the issue and deal with it as a poor choice. It sometimes only takes a few weeks of firm nudging before kids realize it’s actually enjoyable and that they have stories inside them that they want to tell.

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