As a former high school English teacher in a traditional New England classroom, a current online elementary and middle school teacher for Time4Writing
, and a stay-at-home mommy of two “after-schoolers,” ages 5 and 8, I’ve met my fair share of reluctant writers. I’ve witnessed the struggle and the tears (and even shared them). I may have even been the unintended target of a few misdirected, projectile pencils launched in frustration.
Well, aside from learning to be very quick on my toes in real-time (I often feel like the Muppet, Swedish Chef), dodging pencils (or chickens), I’ve tried out some simple recipes for the reluctant writer in my own test-kitchens (at home and online)—and fun ones! In turn, I’ve seen the resulting smiles from pride in one’s work and new-found creativity. Now not every tip will be a hole in one (er, um chickie in the pot
), but many of them WILL work. For my students—and my children—the short term goal may be just finding and assembling ingredients onto the dish (moving meaningful words onto the page—or screen), but the long term goal, and reward, is becoming a tried and true celebrated chef (a truly confident writer).
My menu of recipes below will illustrate ways to get from here to there:
Appetizers are up! Dig in to these pre-writing favorites!
1. Fish Soup
(Let’s go Fishing for Ideas!)
Set up a small bowl or box on a table. Cut out paper fish templates
. The idea is that writers will fish for ideas for any kind of writing activity. You can include rules, such as only being allowed to throw the fish back twice. On the fish, you can include words/ideas or actual topic sentences (depending on your skill/writing goals). For the most reluctant writer, you might choose words or ideas to encourage free-writing in a writing journal. Words on the fish might include: my pet, the beach, the summer, favorite movie, etc. For a more focused writing project, you might choose “the park,” “my friend’s house,” “the kitchen, or “the car ride” as possible settings for a narrative paragraph or essay on the writing prompt, “An important life lesson I learned was….” Alternatively, the fish can include topic sentences for an expository how-to paragraph, such as: “Writing a song is fun and easy to do,” “Minecraft is a challenging game that requires skill,” or “Making loom bracelets is a fun and easy way to pass the time.” The ideas are endless. You can even craft your own fishing poles out of branches collected during a nature walk, using letter magnets as bait and coins taped to the back of each fish.
2. TED Tartare
(Reflect and Respond!)
If your student is having a hard time brain-storming ideas, how about showing them how screen time can be productive? There are lots of TED talks available on a variety of topics that will interest your less than eager writer. Some of these talks are even given by kids—how inspiring! With just a couple of clicks, you can search for topics that specifically interest your child. Here are a few talks to view together: TED Talks for Kids
. Afterwards, have your learner respond by writing about what they learned, reflecting on how they felt inspired, or better yet, writing about what they would say in their own TED talk. Ask, “What are you an expert on?” Have them write that script! Their confidence will soar.
3. Deep-Fried Debate
(Exert your Inner Expert!)
Don’t even tell your children that this is a pre-writing activity. Many kids just love to talk and have an opinion on EVERYTHING, so hand over the reins and man the spotlight! Here are some topics: where to go on vacation, the best toy, the best book series, the best sea creature, the coolest dinosaur, or what to