5 Easy Steps for Motivating Reluctant Writers

Writing is not my forte. I know, I know, I'm a blogger I should love writing, right? But I have always dreaded putting pencil to paper to get my ideas out. Things always sound great in my head but never seem to come out right.  Although I muster up all the enthusiasm in the world for my students, I just know that many of them feel the same way every time I flip the schedule card to Writing Workshop.  So how do I reach these little sweeties that just aren't motivated to make progress in writing? I'll show you in 5 easy steps.
If you teach kindergarten and maybe even first grade, eek, you are no stranger to a page full of random scribbles.  You may be pulling your hair out wondering how on Earth you are ever going to get this kid to some level of proficiency by the end of the year, trust me, I've been there.  Here are my 5 easy steps to push those kiddos to find their inner author.
 Yup that's right, step one has nothing to do with actually writing words...(yet!) Because seriously, "tell me about your picture" only works if there is something to actually talk about.  That's why before ever pushing students to write words I focus a TON on adding detail to the picture.  I stress that someone should be able to look at their picture and know mostly what is happening. They should never have to guess who are those people, where are they, and what are they doing. Of course during this time I ask them to dictate their story afterwards while I write.  They watch as I write the words slowly, modeling (painfully slow...) how I sound of the words and write each one.  I also make sure students are working on letter sounds throughout the day so that they have these skills down when they are ready to try writing.
 Now that their pictures are so full of detail and popping with excitement, I encourage students to label at least a few parts. Maybe they label the characters one day, the setting the next, you get the idea. Sometimes students jump right in to adding many consonant sounds for their words, while other sweet little friends need more structure. If they are still reluctant I start by asking them to at least write the first sound they hear in each word. Then we move on to beginning and ending, then all consonants, then vowel sounds (maybe...)
 Next up, patterned language books! Anyone who's read Brown Bear, Brown Bear aloud 1,867 times knows the power in repeated language.  Well repeated language is so helpful in writing as well. It really builds student confidence and gives them a chance to try out their growing sight word vocabulary. I usually write the first part of the sentence on a card or white board for students to reference while making their book and their job is to write it on each page and add a word or words to complete the sentence. I try to switch up the sight words often so they see how much they know and can try out on their own when they are ready.
 Here's the big jump into independent writing. I start with students telling me one sentence about their picture. I draw a line for each word and they must write something for each word on each line. Our mini goals again start out with just writing beginning sounds, then beginning & ending, then all consonants, and finally trying out vowel sounds. To move students towards independence with this I have them begin to help me count how many words are in their sentence, then they draw their own lines, then slowly they realize they don't need the lines at all.
So finally when my reluctant writers are writing, but still not going beyond 1-2 sentences, I break out the first, next, then, last stories. I have a million prompts for these, but I also try to leave it open ended and tell students to write about something that happened. 

Writing is such a huge process for the youngest students when you think about all the skills they are combining. I hope trying out some of these steps will help you see progress in your most stubborn challenging little writers!

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