An Easy, Step by Step Way to Teach a Reluctant Writer to Write

Are you dealing with a reluctant writer? A child who will sit at the table for hours, pencil in hand, staring at a blank piece of paper rather than write a single paragraph? As difficult as it may seem, it is possible to teach these children to write.

Start Small

Children who don’t like to write are easily intimidated by writing assignments. You may think you’re assigning a manageable and short assignment of only a paragraph. Your kid believes you’ve just assigned the next American novel. 

Tears will emerge. Your child will wail, “I can’t do it!” You may want to tear out your hair in frustration. Don’t do that.

Simply start small. Not your idea of small, your child’s idea of small. We’re talking a miniscule writing assignment of a single word.

Why do I suggest taking your child down to a single word? We need to change your child’s habit of wailing over writing assignments. Instead your child needs to grab a pencil, write that word, and move on to other assignments.

The trick is to have your child writing every day. Each day, write or dictate a single word to your child and ask them to write it on a piece of paper. Build the new habit slowly.

Once your child is writing a single word eagerly, move up to two word sentences. Instead of writing Mat, write Mat sat. Over the next several weeks work up to longer sentences.

As you increase the length of the writing assignments, watch out for signs of resistance. The moment you see your child beginning to dawdle or groan, back off slightly. Give your child time to strengthen his hand and become accustomed to writing a sentence every day.

Writing Paragraphs

After a few months, your child should be used to writing a single sentence every day of the week. It’s time to move up to paragraphs!

Start with a short 5-8 sentence paragraph on a topic your child loves. Spend Monday talking about the choice of topics and ideas of what could be included in the paragraph. For instance you could write about the family dog. Take notes, create an outline, or use a graphic organizer to organize thoughts for the paragraph. At this point you can act as a scribe for your child if needed so that handwriting doesn't become the issue.

On Tuesday, talk to your child about topic sentences and have your child compose a single topic sentence at the top of the page. It should be easy since your child is used to writing a sentence every day.

Each day have your child write the next sentence in the paragraph. That’s it, no more. There shouldn’t be any resistance because your child has been writing a sentence a day for several months. Start by discussing what the next sentence should say instead of actually writing it.That way when it's time to pick up the pencil, the fear is gone.

An Easy, Step by Step Way to Teach a Reluctant Writer to WriteIf needed, continue writing the paragraph the following week, one sentence at a time. As you reach the end of the paragraph, spend a day chatting about concluding sentences. Once you settle on a good sounding sentence, have your child write the conclusion on the end of the paragraph.

Guess what, your child has now written a paragraph without fussing and complaining!

Keep writing at this pace for a few months before encouraging your child to write two sentences a day. The goal is to be able to complete a paragraph in a week rather than in two weeks.

Short Reports

Once your child is comfortable writing a paragraph in a week, you can introduce your child to writing short reports. These reports will take four to six week for your child to write.

Again start with a topic your child adores chatting about. Spend time chatting about three subtopics. Choose one subtopic and write the paragraph this week.

Over the next two weeks write two more paragraphs about the other two subtopics. This will give you the body of the report. Again your child should be used to writing a paragraph a week, so writing a single paragraph each week should not be an issue.

Now that you have the three paragraphs written for the body of the report, it’s time to write the introduction. Sit down and chat with your child about how reports need a longer introduction than a single sentence. Write the introductory paragraph this week together.

It’s time to write the concluding paragraph for your short report. Again spend a week talking and writing about concluding paragraphs together.

A short report on your child’s favorite topic is now written. You’ve taught your reluctant writer to write!

Use BookShark Language Arts

Take a look at BookShark's natural approach to Language Arts. It fits perfectly into this incremental approach to writing and uses many of these same techniques.

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About the Author


Sara Dennis is a homeschooling mother of 6 children ages 4 through 18. After much research into homeschooling in 2000, she and her husband fell in love with classical education and used it as the foundation for their homeschool.  Sara Dennis blogs at Classically Homeschooling.