Reaching Struggling Writers By: M. Colleen Cruz Lucy Calkins Series Editor
About the Author: Colleen Cruz •Has a passion for teaching & writing •Majored in creative writing in Bradford College •Assists in the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project, providing professional development for educators with Lucy
Three Main Topics Concerning Struggling Writers 1) “I’m not a good writer.” 2) “I never get to write anything I want to write.” 3) “My hand hurts.”
“I’m not a good writer.”•Understanding our students’ writing identities•Notice your students’ behavior, posture, focus on thepaper, where they are looking in the classroom.•Know your students’ strengths, both writing and non-writing.•Determine writers confidence.•How does the student feel about writing?
“I’m not a good writer.”Strategies for helping students develop stronger writingidentities•Create a community of writers who struggle & succeedtogether.•Think Vygotsky: Teach into the Zone of ProximalDevelopment.•Consider a Student’s Affinities.•Partner the students with a younger writing buddy.
“My hand hurts.”Understanding students who are struggling with themanual work of writing• Does their hand truly hurt or are they digging forexcuses? • Observe students posture, pencil grip, and text for pressure. • Does the student sit relaxed and upright? Or does the student slouch, huddle, or seem to be exceedingly tense? • Does the student’s wrist extend across the paper in a natural and relaxed way? Or does it bend like a hook? • Can you feel the texture of the writing through the other side of the paper?
“My hand hurts.”Strategies for those who struggle with the physical workof writing Strategies for those who struggle with the writing stamina Strategies for those who struggle with pencil grip and posture Strategies for those who apply a lot of pressure to the pencilWhen the student still seems to be struggling…
“I never get to write anything Iwant to write.”Understanding why students are not feeling drawn togenres we are teaching•Uninspired by curriculum•Writing in genres we have never taught•Questions to reach students • What is your favorite or least favorite unit we studied this year? Why? • When you write in your free time, what sorts of things do you write? • If you had all the time and paper you needed, what would you write?
“I never get to write anything Iwant to write.”Strategies for helping students develop a sense ofagency and independence•Create an atmosphere of independence•Develop structures for writers who need support•Cultivate writing partners and clubs•Offer opportunities to publish independently
Connections• Teachers engage in conversations with students abouttheir writing. (Calkins)•Teaching students about a variety of genres• Student choice (Atwell and Calkins)•Teacher/student and peer conferring•Other thoughts?
Quick WriteWhich struggle do you relate to?1) “I’m not a good writer.”2) “My hand hurts.”3) I never get to write about anything I want.”
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