conventions · volume

More Barriers Along a Writer’s Pathway… And More Ways Around

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about barriers. I started with the watery ones that took the form of roads flooding and then related those to the roadblocks that writers face. My initial post addressed some work-arounds when writers can’t think of ideas, can’t get started, or can’t maintain writing. Please know that I’m resisting the urge to put can’t in parentheses since that word implies a fixed mindset, as well as a willingness. I’m not a subscriber to can’t when it relates to writing. Maybe when paired with yet, as in can’t yet. Or maybe won’t. When writers appear to be unable to do something, then the work of teachers gets going! So here come more roadblocks and ideas for dealing with them.

Producing Enough Writing in a Given Amount of Time

If a writer is working to:Then you might try:
Produce an appropriate amount of writingChanging paper choices. Sometimes paper with too many lines is overwhelming for writers. Beth Moore has written a great post about this, linked here.

Using a date stamp. Sometimes that process creates a sense of accountability.

Using Flair pens and changing the color on a daily basis so there’s a visual of how much is being produced.

Making sure the energy is not going into erasing or deleting. Teach how to cross off and keep going.

Creating goals within the process of writing such as:
A really great sentence
A certain number of lines or word count
A paragraph
The first set of revisions
Whatever else motivates the student and feels within reach

Using Conventions as Part of the Drafting Process

If a writer is working to:Then you might try:
Punctuate their writing as they draftPracticing speaking with punctuation so that students begin to hear it. The more they internalize it, the more they are likely to incorporate it into their writing. 

Using and creating convention centers that offer intentional practice without the added cognitive demand of drafting or revising. 

Leaning into transition word lessons; almost every time writers use transition words, they are beginning a new sentence. Therapi’s post on Monday has great ways to nudge students to use transitions more effectively. As you nudge, you can also tuck in a few words about end punctuation and capital letters.

Knowing and emphasizing conventions as a progression. Maybe students aren’t ready to demonstrate all the rules for capitalization, but they can show some. Here is a set of charts with grade-specific expectations for conventions.

In the spirit of less is more, I’m sticking with only these two additional barriers in this post, even though any experienced writing teacher will agree there are plenty more! Maybe the best way to think about barriers is to concentrate on how great it feels to get through, over, or around them– and on to the other side!

7 thoughts on “More Barriers Along a Writer’s Pathway… And More Ways Around

  1. I always look forward to reading your blog posts! I love these ideas. They are so practical to have in your back pocket when trying to help writers develop their writing skills. Did you forget to link the charts with grade-specific expectations for conventions? I couldn’t find what to click on to see those? I remember you did have a post about some convention charts several years ago. Are those what you were referring to in this post? Thanks for the great ideas!

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  2. Love these solutions for the potential roadblocks, Melanie.

    I know Isabelle and I have talked a lot about using better conventions when she’s drafting. She’s really focused on starting sentences with capital letters and ending with punctuation. Her spelling gets fixed up later since trying to get the write spelling every time truly slows her down.

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