5 Types of Reluctant Writer and How to Encourage Them | KS1 Literacy
“Okay, everyone… It’s time to pick up our pencils and….”
“CAN I GO TO THE TOILET, MISS!”
As teachers, we know that emergent writers are brimming with potential. Naturally, we want them to be as keen to learn as we are to teach – but it’s not always that easy.
At an age where children have only just grasped that you must go to school every week day, forever (sometimes it feels that way…), it can be difficult to fathom that you must also do things that you don’t like, for no apparent reason.
Of course, we adults know how it all pans out; nobody ever became zookeeper of Bug World at Bristol Zoo without first being au fait with The Very Hungry Caterpillar.
However, for your EYFS and KS1 classes, linking literacy with an exciting future is a bit of a leap – especially when you consider that even leaving crusts on a sandwich can cause an existential crisis.
At this age, the physical writing skills of children often don’t match their incredible creative ideas; and this can, unfortunately, result in a reluctance to put pencil to paper. However, once you’ve established why a child is unwilling to write, there are some subtle ways to bring that enthusiasm back.
So… which reluctant writers are you dealing with, and how can you light the spark?
1. “I hate writing, it’s boring!”
As tempting as it is to declare “that’s life, kid”, we need to acknowledge that the attention spans of young children are being constantly tested; and that isn’t their fault.
Endless digital entertainment has no bedtime. iPhone games, Surprise Egg unwrapping videos and unrelenting advertising are constantly vying for the attention of children and, by comparison, day-to-day normality can seem mundane.
Asking young children to write about a topic they have no interest in, for no apparent reason other than because you told them to, can be a losing battle.
Try creating a ‘story box’, filled with items and cues around hobbies and interests. When children spot something they’re genuinely interested in, their creativity can flow; will it be a football, a dinosaur or a picture of wellington boots in an enticingly muddy puddle?
2. “I don’t know what to write about.”
So, they’ve got plenty of enthusiasm for the topic, but no idea how to start – or perhaps lack the confidence to commit. Writer’s block has no age constraints, it seems.
Try setting the task of “taking your pencil for a walk”.
The children must write about absolutely anything they like, for 10 minutes. It won’t be marked, and they won’t need to read it aloud.
They just need to keep writing.
The result? Ideas make it to paper, without hesitation.
3. “My hand is tired.”
Remember when you sat your A-Level exams? Urgently writing the most important essay of your life, before the time was up?
How about the horrendous wrist cramp that you had to fight through before you could provide adequate detail in your answer?
This is essentially a large-scale equivalent of your emergent writer’s experience. Their muscles are still only just getting used to gripping a pencil and sitting comfortably to write; like any repetitive movement, they need time to strengthen them.
Giving children a choice of appropriate writing tools (such as triangular pencils or rubber grips) and even a choice of where to sit (chair… floor… beanbag, anyone?) can make all the difference to their comfort and enthusiasm.
In addition, some children (particularly boys) feel more relaxed when they can stand up and write. Offering the use of easels, as well desks, can be incredibly helpful.
4. “My ideas are silly.”
Classroom writing tasks can, unfortunately, be a source of anxiety.
Will I finish my writing before playtime? Will people laugh at my story? Will I be teased for my handwriting?
Worries about performance are valid, and it’s a good opportunity to discuss being kind when classmates share ideas.
The book ‘How Kind!’ by Mary Murphy tells the tale of how a pig is kind to a rabbit, who is kind to a cow, and thus kindness is contagious. It’s a fun place to start an important conversation.
5. “Angielski jest moim drugim językiem!”
Or… “English is my second language!”
Firstly, bravo – these children are incredible! When considered a skill, and not a problem which needs resolving, learning English as a second language can be a powerful tool.
‘Copying’ games are a good way to encourage the interaction of children who are just learning English.
Try the jumping game, for example. By holding up pre-written sentences, such as ‘jump if you’re wearing blue socks’ or ‘jump if your hair is in a ponytail’, you can ask the class to attempt to read aloud and then complete the action – together.
The other children will be a point of reference, to help those less confident along; meanwhile, the exercise can be completed with some transcribing, with context which is now understood.
Mighty Writer can revolutionise literacy in your classroom, by encouraging the involvement of even the most reluctant children and turning them into skilled storytellers, almost overnight.
Ready to learn more about how Mighty Writer can transform your classroom?
Click the link below to watch our FREE recorded webinar by our co-founder, David Ralph!