January 7, 2016 - Sara Holbrook

Engaging Reluctant Writers

Pensive child

The Reluctant One

What do you think?
I couldn’t say.
But if you could?
I just don’t know.
And if you did?
I’m not a writer.
But if you were?
I’d give it a go.

Last spring we were lucky enough to spend a month down under, visiting schools in Australia. This poem reflects real conversations with real students. While the phrase “give it a go,” may be an Aussie idiom, the sentiment expressed is representative of a worldwide phenomena: Fear of putting words on paper (cue the spooky music).

Will the writing be good enough? Will I look foolish? Is it what the teacher wants? What if it’s not right? The internal conversation of the blocked writer.

One strategy we find that helps kids get up and over the hurdle of the blank page is taking time to co-create with classes in order to model the writing process prior to kids writing on their own. All kids, all abilities, all grade levels.

Simply immersing kids in mentor text can leave many floundering. Imagine being offered an enticing stew, filled with healthy veggies, along with the encouragement to “eat up, it’s good for you.” So, you do, and by gum, it is good. Yum.

Next the server says, “Okay. Let’s see you make that.”

And you want to, you really do, it was good. But where to start? The server assures, “You should be able to recognize the ingredients and how to put them together, we learned about those last week.”

At this point many would be tempted to forget about healthy eating entirely, grab a Snickers bar and call it a meal.

Now imagine the server saying, “Let me take you in the kitchen and we’ll cook up a stew together.” After that, might you be more tempted to give it a go on your own?

Behold the benefits of co-creating!

Eat up. It’s good for you.

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“Sara and Michael bring infectious energy and joy leavened with deep knowledge of best practices in literacy to their work with children and teachers.” Ellin Keene – Author of Mosaic of Thought and The Teacher You Want to Be
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