The school year is coming to a close and even more than ever I find myself facing the challenge of inspiring reluctant writers to fulfill their potential. With light nights, World Cup fever and the never-ending lure of the games console, some children find it increasing difficult to be motivated with their learning especially when it comes to writing. The fear of a blank page, the mind drawing a blank and not knowing how to spell the word you think of, all serve to compound a child’s unwillingness to put pen to paper.
During my own struggles to support these children I have found the following resources and methods useful. I do not suggest that they will lead a reluctant writer to produce apiece of Level 6 writing but at least they could inspire some good writing and provide opportunities to develop skills.
1. Make it relevant. Nothing engages children more than the feeling that their writing is valued or reflects their own passions. Creatively structuring a lesson on promotional texts so that it can be written about Nerf guns, for example, will often lead to a higher standard and quantity of writing than would normally be expected. A child that is reluctant to start may end up unwilling to stop when they are fully engaged with the topic and are keen to demonstrate their own level of knowledge and expertise. Choose from current trends such as football, loom bands, the latest gaming sensation or children’s own particular interests.
2. Use http://www.literacyshed.com/ as a stimulus or ideas for a writing activity. I return to this site time and time again, not only does it offer a range of starting points, including images, film trailers and advertisements but also provides examples of suitable writing activities. New ideas are constantly being added and the content is usefully organised into different ‘sheds’ such as ‘The World Cup’, ‘The Video Games’ and ‘The Myths and Legends’ sheds.
3. Not all writing has to use pen and paper. Frequently struggles with handwriting and difficulties with spelling restrict children’s creativity and flow. Allowing children to use a simple word processing programme, a specific computer programme or tablet app such as ‘Clicker‘ often helps. The spell check and ability to edit work easily is appealing to children and some programmes even narrate what has been written to assist with checking for errors and sense. Other options include using Powerpoint, photostories, post it notes and comic strips as alternative approaches to writing.
4. Talking and collaborating. Writing can be a lonely task, especially if you are struggling for ideas or motivation. Starting a lesson with opportunities to talk through ideas and share thoughts with others can assist children to become inspired. It also allows time for ideas to become more organised and developed. In addition the writing task itself can be shared if children are able to work collaboratively and each contribute ideas either taking it in turns or allowing one to scribe their agreed sentences.
5. Change the environment. We often think that writing cannot be done properly unless we are sat at a desk with pen and paper. However, especially with current technology and the introduction of tablets, writing can be done almost anywhere. Experiment with different locations: writing outside in the playgrounds, eco-garden, even lying on the floor or sitting on cushions to write. This often allows children to relax and feel more comfortable as well as taking inspiration from what is around them.
This list is not exhaustive and since all children have their own learning styles, what suits one, may not inspire another. However, even if one or two reluctant writers are engaged or find themselves caught up in the joy of writing itself, then it has been a worthwhile activity.
If anyone else has any tried and tested methods for inspiring young writers please add your comments.