Are you encountering resistance when you ask your students to write?
Is there crying involved?
It’s intimidating for students to stare down a blank piece of paper or a computer screen. Middle and high school students have revealed to me why they are negative about writing. Here’s what they have to say:
•My hand hurts when I write.
•I have sloppy handwriting or bad spelling.
•I don’t know how to write an introduction or a conclusion.
•I like writing stories; I don’t like guidelines (nonfiction writing).
•I can’t think of ideas.
•I can’t find enough information for the paragraphs.
•I can’t think of reasons.
•I don’t like to research.
•I don’t know how to get started: topics, points, how to start writing.
•I can’t come up with enough words if I’m not interested in the topic.
•I don’t like to write about stuff I have no interest in.
Do you recognize your student in any of those reasons?
Whether your student cries, is consistently late handing in writing homework, or has just given up, finding the reason for the resistance will be helpful to your student and to you.
Why is your student a reluctant writer?
Problem #1 Your student may have received an overabundance of negative feedback about his or her writing in the past and has become super sensitive to it. We teachers can tend to be like copyeditors, always looking for the mistakes and forgetting to praise students for the elements done well.
Solution If the research was stellar but the paper is an illogical mess, praise your student for the research and, in following classes, focus on teaching how to organize points in an order that best supports the thesis statement. Praise + guidance can be effective.
Problem #2 Perhaps resistance stems from “boring” assignments. Show your student how to look for the interesting topic within the original topic. Has that report on the American Revolution stopped her in her tracks?
Solution Her current interests can be her guide. If she’s interested in cooking, she could do a report on how women of this time period cooked, where they found their ingredients, and even which recipes they might have used. Is he interested in mechanics? How about a paper on the technology of the time period? You will be pleased with how much history they learn along the way.
Problem #3 Some teachers require all papers to be handwritten so the student can master handwriting skills. This, in my opinion, is a mistake. It is akin to teaching someone how to deliver newspapers while also teaching him how to ride his bike: too many complicated skills to juggle.
Solution My advice is to keep the handwriting portion of your classes separate from the composition portion. Guys complain more often than girls that their hands hurt from writing; I’ve heard it too often to ignore them. Students with poor handwriting skills (and even those with good handwriting skills) will benefit from a keyboarding class. They can type their rough drafts and final drafts on computers to print out and hand in, which is the way all professors and editors expect any submissions.
Problem #4 Resistance may also flair up because your student is confused about the writing process. They hear you say, “Write an essay,” and the room grows dark around them. They do not know how to break down the task of writing into its achievable parts.
Solution Try this: Teach a skill but don’t require an essay every time. For example, show your student how to brainstorm and then have her practice brainstorming a variety of topics for papers she will never write. You may be surprised at the weight this will lift from her shoulders—and at the cooperation you receive!
Your student did not become resistant to writing overnight. It will take time, your keen observations, encouragement, and some interesting assignments to get the words flowing again. It is very possible to find success. I’ve turned many a resistant writer into an eager one. You can, too.
By the way, what’s wrong with a little reward? Sometimes it helps if our students are working for more than just an elusive grade. What reward would your like to receive for handing in an essay by the deadline or for supporting their essay’s points well?
Would you and your students love a practical writing schedule that will make your life easier?
Ready for a fun way to motivate your writers?
Could you use a helpful guide to fair grading?
Identify five hurdles to writing. This article by me in The Old Schoolhouse magazine is also loaded with links to other helpful posts that will give you and your writers some welcome relief.
Yours for a more vibrant homeschool,
Copyright © 2015 by Sharon Watson
Original image courtesy of graphicstock.com
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Help your struggling writers—and you!—by identifying five hurdles to writing. Then learn practical actions you can take against those hurdles.
This article by me in The Old Schoolhouse magazine is also loaded with links to other helpful posts that will give you and your writers some welcome relief.
Click here to drain some of the tension from your writing class
Frustrated that your students don’t finish an essay or don’t know the steps to complete one? Worry no more! Click here for my latest article in The Informer about a super-practical writing schedule you WILL use!
Want daily writing prompts to tempt reluctant writers and delight eager ones? Find out more about Sharon’s daily writing prompts posted on SchoolhouseTeachers.com under “Dailies” or click here.
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