If you teach writing, chances are you've had more than a few kids who are reluctant writers. I always have a handful every single year. You know... the kids who go to the bathroom, get a drink, get a tissue, sharpen their pencils, and try to share personal stories with you... all during that short writing period! Working with reluctant writers is one of my favorite challenges of teaching. This tip changed everything for my writers and me.

1 Amazing, Easy Trick To Quickly Help Your Reluctant Writers

All you need to do is use a timer to break the writing process into small, more manageable chunks. Check in with each child when you set the timer and make a plan for what he or she will do during the allotted time. When the timer goes off, come back and check in with the child. Repeat the process.

Start with small increments of time and work your way up. Once this is in place for a week or so, it will be easy to check in with your other writers who don't need this support. When I start doing this with my classes, I set the timer and immediately call a strategy group to the carpet. Then two things might happen:

  1. I finish the strategy group and check back in with the writer when I'm done, or more realistically... 
  2. I check back in with that writer when my strategy group kids are doing their active engagement/independent practice.
Yes, it's a bit of a balancing act, but so is everything else about teaching!

The kind of timer you use is really important. I like to use Time Timers because the amount of time left until the buzzer goes off is NOT being displayed by the second. That is really distracting and overwhelming for someone who is already a reluctant writer. However, kids can still budget their time appropriately because they have a rough idea of how much time is left.

I always have at least 4 or 5 of these timers for my students to use. If you want a Time Timer, you can click the picture above to check one out on Amazon. (This is not an affiliate link or sponsored post, by the way. I just really like Time Timers.) Ask your guidance counselor or school psychologist if they have one you can borrow. I guarantee after a week, you'll see a difference if you're consistent.

Here's what the breakdown of what a writer's independent writing portion of a lesson might look like in your classroom during a narrative writing unit.

  • 10 minutes - Revise all pages by adding dialogue and using words other than "said"
  • 10 minutes - Revise all pages by adding actions
  • 10 minutes - Revise all pages by using the "Show, Don't Tell" strategy
Usually my reluctant writers get pulled for strategy groups often, so we'll incorporate those strategies into each chunk of time. Sometimes writers will finish before the timer goes off, and other times they will need a little more time. If they're on task the whole time, that's perfectly OK.

The important thing to do is to involve your writer in the decision making process. Don't make all the choices for them. Ask them what they think they need to accomplish in the designated amount of time. If you don't agree with the amount they should get done, you can adjust, but it's awesome if you can stick with the writing strategy they choose to work on.

If you want to try this tomorrow but you know you don't have a Time Timer, try using this online stopwatch and projecting it or setting it up on any devices your students can use. I just make the window small and hide the numbers counting the seconds. You will love how independent this makes your students while still holding them accountable!

If you want to create a buzz around writing, you might want to also check out this writing activity that I do in my class every week. Kids write a class news report to share what they are learning in class with their families. This can be as fancy or simple as you want it to be: editing is not a necessity! This has everything you need to film from start to finish. You can do it during lunch or pull kids to work on this during writing.

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