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How to Motivate Reluctant Writers

Do you hear a collective groan in your classroom when you ask kids to write?

They may read without complaining, and love it, but when asked to write, well . . .

Or maybe you hear complaints from just a few--the kids who have learning disabilities.

Regardless, use the 10 Tips to Motivate Reluctant Writers and you'll engage your entire class in the writing process.

1. Memory Pictures

Draw and colour (paint) a detailed picture of your neighbourhood or backyard while thinking of a favourite memory in this setting.

List words associated with the picture and memory (begin with nouns/adjectives and verbs/adverbs; progress to words of emotion). Organize your memory to describe beginning, middle and end.

2. Television Journal

Watch a 30-minute television show. During commercials, jot down what is happening in the storyline. Afterwards, sequence and organize notes to show beginning, middle, and end blocks. In Google doc's, write the story using the tools provided. Read over your work using the text-to-voice tool, as this will help with clarity.

* Provide proofreading/editing checklist to help students polish their final drafts

* Since students do not need to create plots, they are more likely to focus on organization, sentence structure, spelling and punctuation, which are problematic areas for reluctant writers.

3. Dialogue Journal Without purposely snooping, listen to conversations heard on the bus, in the supermarket, at the mall, in school halls, at the library, at the gym etc. and jot down in a dialogue journal. After changing the names and details, use conversations to generate stories or to explore dialogue. (In a washroom stall at the mall, I overheard a story about a teen who got dumped by her boyfriend and how she got even, which I later developed into a Young Adult novel.) * Often students with Learning Disabilities (Written Output) have good Listening Comprehension Skills, and this task draws on their strength.

4. ABC Stories

Rewrite a fairy-tale or legend. Beginning each sentence with a different letter of the alphabet, in order, write twenty-six sentences.

*Prior to this task, review nouns, verbs and basic sentence components and build sentences with phrases. (A long time ago, there lived a miller with his daughter in a humble cottage. Rumpelstiltskin)

5. Storytelling

Tell a story to your writing buddy. Your buddy will write down your thoughts. Read the story aloud to help with editing. Use your checklist to ensure your writing follows proper conventions. Now it is your turn to write down your buddy’s thoughts.

* Ensure proper pairing of students with behaviour and abilities in mind. Students who are really struggling with story ideas can read a simple fairytale while their partners scribe. Students can change the ending to make it their own. In this way, they are exposed to good sentence and story structure.

6. Character Development and Plot

Build a story from a well-rounded character created from real kids. First develop a composite character (combining traits and mannerisms from two or three students in your class). To develop the storyline, ask yourself the question: What would my character do if . . . ? (i.e., My character likes to play hockey until he is bullied by a teammate who is jealous of his top scoring abilities. The actions taken to solve the problem will generate plot.

7. Inspiration from Contemporary issues

Develop a storyline using contemporary issues involving:

peer pressure, parental rules, relationships, sibling rivalry, social problems (i.e. gambling, divorce, blended families, mental health), money, separation, body image, values, trust, justice, fairness, independence, bullying.

8. Develop and Expand Vocabulary Using the Senses

Think about taste, touch, smell, hearing and sight when you picture a scene in your story.

* Provide items to taste, touch, smell, hear and see. Blindfold students and ask them to identify objects using senses other than sight while others write down the vocabulary used.

* Fry bacon in an electric pan and ask students to describe the process using all their senses (fire code permitting, of course!)

*Put Jell-O in a clear glass pie plate and ask students to describe what they see, let them touch, smell and taste (i.e., some great similes develop from this activity, such as “When Santa laughed his belly jiggled like


9. Develop and Expand Vocabulary Using Everyday Activities

Use simple everyday activities to expand detail in a story.

Picture yourself doing the following activities and describe in detail what you see: shopping at the mall, washing the dishes, cleaning a bedroom, fighting with friend over a boy, taking the bus to school, nursing a cold, making excuses to your teacher, babysitting a neighbour’s child, walking into a dance wearing the same clothes as the “cool” girl, being sent to the principal’s office, playing hockey.

Use the tools in Google doc's for this writing task. Not only does this text-to-voice/prediction software help build your vocabulary and spelling skills, it will also help to improve your writing fluency, punctuation and grammar.

* Encourage students to use the most insignificant details to support the scene that they have pictured. Initially, have students role-play an action, such as taking out the garbage, so they can see all the steps and details.

10. Develop and Expand Vocabulary Using Visuals.

To add details to your stories, use a picture wall as a resource, with pictures of landscapes, nature, animals, furniture, houses, sports, clothing, vehicles, movies, people of all ages, interesting faces.

* Include visual cues as an instructional accommodation on an Individual Education Plan (IEP) to support Expressive Language development.

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