genre · ideas for the future · inspiration · strategy charts · student engagement · writer's notebook · writing workshop

Got Stuck?


We’ve all been there. Stuck in a piece. Stuck in our head. Stuck on a revision or problem. Sometimes it’s important to step away and do something different. I have found this happening more and more with my third-grade students. We are in a unit of study and they just need a break from their piece or the genre we are currently in knee deep. Here are some ideas for students to try in their notebook that could break the writer’s block cycle and elicit some new thinking or inspiration.

Write a Letter

This is a nice way to deviate from any genre. Students can write a letter about their current topic or anything on their mind. A letter can be just the ticket to take our mind off a problem we are currently having with a piece and give us a new purpose for writing.

Make a List

Listing is always a great break! Make a list of new topic ideas. Make a list of what you want for dinner this week. Sometimes a list of anything can re-inspire us.

Point of View Switch-a-roo

When conferring with students who are stuck I often ask them to think about their story or piece in a different way. Can the point of view be changed? This also opens up the idea of explaining the difference between perspective and point of view.

Steal a Line

I have a tub full of poetry books that are always available. Students are able to take a break from their writing to read a poem. I encourage them to steal a line and try out a poem using the line as inspiration for their own poem.

10 Things I know

Kids love this one! Tell me ten things about yourself or ten things about me, anyone, anything, the sky is the limit!

Pick a Spot

When kids need a break sometimes daydreaming a bit can help. Daydream about a place and describe it in detail in your notebook. These pieces can be used to show detail and elaboration later.

Dear Diary

Kids love the Diary of a Worm, Fly, etc., series. These books are great mentor texts when talking about how to write a diary entry. Teaching kids to do this in their notebook can be fun too!

Bucket List

This is ongoing. Kids can save a few pages in their notebook to add things they want to do in their life. It’s always fun to see the different personalities in different lists.

Weather Report Summary

Can’t think of anything to write about? Pretend you are the meteorologist for the day and give a weather report!

Read Your Writer’s Notebook

It is ALWAYS interesting and inspiring to see how far we have come and what we were writing about in September as opposed to now. Reading through old entries is often a nice break from the norm and we can put fresh eyes on old material.

Giving kids the option to step away from their work can be necessary. It can breathe new life into their piece just by taking a break. Try brainstorming a list with your students of things they might like to write about if they just need a break.

5 thoughts on “Got Stuck?

  1. Having a list of options like this is so much better than just telling a kid to go to his/her writer’s notebook and “just write.”

    Thanks for the suggestions of the ways each of these items can be implemented in the classroom, Betsy.


  2. For my stuck first graders, sometimes they just pick a letter of the alphabet and find as many words as they can that start with that letter to fill a page. The words often trigger an idea.


  3. Oh, Betsy, I love this post. Sometimes teachers are afraid to let their kids “out” of the unit genre they’re in for fear it will all run amuck, when actually the break can bring writers back renewed. I will occasionally suggest to a stuck student that they go peruse our centrum’s writing boards to see what other writers in our school are writing about– it gives them new ideas to try and allows for a movement break, as well. I give them two or three post-it notes to write down new ideas. The post-its help keep them focused in their hunt and then are kept in their notebooks to refer to later. I’m always interested to hear what piques their interest, too. I’ve Pinned your list and will use it!. Thanks.


  4. This is the perfect post for me today! I run a blogging club for 4th and 5th graders on Thursdays and find they are sometimes stuck for ideas! I will share these great ideas! Thanks Betsy!


Comments are closed.