Strategies for Supporting Struggling Writers

Getting kids to love writing can be difficult sometimes, especially if they are struggling writers. It’s normal to dislike something you’re not good at (or think you’re not good at). I dislike bowling because I have terrible aim and usually end up in the gutter. But, I’m sure if I had the patience took the time to learn some tips, I’d enjoy it more!

Similarly, your students can learn to like writing, with a few little motivating tweaks. Try some of these tips for supporting struggling writers and get your students excited about your writing block!

Struggling writers need strategies to help them with writing. These strategies will help you support your kindergarten and first grade students during your writing workshop. Read more strategies for helping struggling writers in this post.

1. Oral Practice

Sometimes telling a story helps the transition from thought to paper. Have kids share their writing plans with a friend before starting. Have students work with the same writing partner throughout a unit, so they become familiar with their peer’s story and can offer suggestions for adding details.

Struggling writers need to tell their stories orally before writing them. Have kids practice telling their stories multiple times to a friend, adding details each time. Read more strategies for helping struggling writers in this post.

2. Choice: Too much or not enough!

This is a big one. Choice can be a help or an obstacle to kids. Having freedom while working within a genre may work well for some kids who have no problem coming up with ideas, but some kids get overwhelmed and need more guidance. Brainstorm ideas as a class and make a poster for kids to refer to when they have writer’s block (see sample chart below for our How-to writing unit). Offer writing prompts if kids are really stuck. Wordless books may also be great for kids to write a story about.

Brainstorming a list of ideas can really help your struggling writers. During writing workshop, refer them to the list if they don't have anything ti write about!

3. Special Tools

Who doesn’t love a fancy gel or flair pen?! I know I love to write when I have my smooth, comfy gel pen and this can be very motivating to kids. Consider allowing special pens/ thin markers for writing. In my class, we used flair pens for revising, to help motivate kids to add more. Suddenly, EVERYONE had something to revise when shown my colorful “revising tools”! Also consider different writing paper, including special paper for covers, post-it notes for revision, etc.

Special writing tools help motivate struggling writers! Use flair pens, colored markers, staplers, post-it notes to help your students get excited about writing!

4. Praise

Praise effort over product. You’ll have students at all different writing stages and what comes easy to some may be extremely difficult for others. Look for small bites of progress and let kids know you notice they are trying harder. Celebrate a detail, stretched-out word, label, capital, punctuation- heck, even holding the pencil the right way! Tell them you just can’t wait to read what they write!

5. Address Writing Challenges and Brainstorm Solutions

Most of your students will encounter a writing challenge at some point! Address things that can be difficult about writing and make an If/Then chart with your students. When they encounter a problem, refer them to the chart to troubleshoot! Read my post on getting your kids to become independent writers for some tips on making this chart with your class (and get a freebie)!

When kids can't work independently during writing workshop, you can't meet to conference with your students! This strategy of addressing challenges and brainstorming solutions for an anchor chart will help your students become independent writers. So useful for kindergarten and first grade classrooms.

6. Sharing

Who wants to share? Meeeeeeee! Most kids LOVE to share their writing. Some get frustrated when they don’t get to, but of course there’s just not enough time for all to share. But, there’s always time for a partner share! Ask kids to turn to their writing partner OR to find a new partner to share their writing with.

7. Drawing mini-lesson

In kindergarten, drawing is a big part of writing! But, some kids have poor fine motor skills or not enough experience with drawing, and this can also hinder motivation. You may hear, “I don’t know how to draw that,” or “I can’t draw it.” Teach children to draw starting with basic shapes. They can learn to turn a circle and triangle into a person and a circle and long rectangle into an animal!

Have kids who get frustrated because "they don't know how to draw" something during writing workshop? Teach kids to draw using simple shapes! They can turn circles, squares, and triangles into people, animals, and more. Help your struggling writers become more confident with their illustrations so they can get on with their writing! Great for kindergarten and first grade students.

This YouTube channel has great art tutorials that go step-by-step, making it easy for kids to follow. We enjoyed doing these during indoor recess or Fun Fridays!

8. Inventive Spelling

Some kids may take an extra long time drawing because they’re avoiding writing words. Besides not knowing what to write about, they may be hesitant to take risks when spelling. Encourage simple labeling with stretching out words, using inventive spelling (recording sounds you hear if not sure of the conventional spelling). My Labeling for Emergent Writers is perfect for this because kids get to pick what they want to label. Read how I teach emergent writers to stretch out words here, including ideas for different activities you can use to get them more confident with labeling.

Labeling is such an important stage in writing. These writing activities provide differentiation so students at all stages of writing can feel successful and confident with spelling and writing. Great for centers and writing workshop and kindergarten and first grade.

Get a free sample when you sign up for my email below:

9. Scaffold

Revising can be tough for kids. I’m sure you’ve heard some kids say their story is great the way it is and they don’t need to add anything to it! ? Buuuut, if you break some revisions down into smaller steps, they may actually find it fun! I like to have my kids add dialogue and onomatopoeia in pictures before inserting into their stories. They just love coming up with conversations for the pictures in my Adding Dialogue pack and adding “sound words” in my Onomatopoeia pack. Once they practice this way, the transition to including these in their own stories is much easier!

Help kids revise their writing by adding dialogue and onomatopoeias! These pages are perfect for motivating reluctant or struggling writers in kindergarten, first and second grade. Great for centers or writing workshop!
Help kids revise their writing by adding dialogue and onomatopoeias! These pages are perfect for motivating reluctant or struggling writers in kindergarten, first and second grade. Great for centers or writing workshop!

10. Use mentor texts!

My students enjoy “writing like Julie Brinckloe” or “drawing like “Mo Willems.” When they love a particular author, they can be motivated to take tips to emulate their writing. Julie Brinckloe’s Fireflies is one of my favorite mentor texts for narrative writing!

Julie Brinckloe's Fireflies is such a great mentor text for writing workshop. The story is relatable to kindergarten and first grade students and the book provides solid examples of good writing to emulate.

11. Try a variety of writing genres and activities.

I love Writing Workshop because it allows for freedom and built-in differentiation. In addition to our writing workshop time, I also enjoy incorporating different types of writing activities throughout the week: during centers, in response to a read-aloud, or in between Writing Workshop genres! Build it and Write is a student favorite! Even the most reluctant writers can’t resist building a scene, then writing about it.

This writing activity is sure to motivate and engage your struggling writer! Kids love to build the scene before writing. The picture word bank helps with spelling and story ideas! Perfect for centers in kindergarten and first grade.

12. Work on stamina

If writing is hard, writing for an extended time is super hard for some. Start with 5 minutes of independent writing and gradually add a few minutes daily. Make it a challenge to beat their previous time!


We all know every child is different and this applies to their writing skills. Some strategies will work well with some kids and not with others. Try to find the root of the trouble in order to find the right solution- is it poor fine motor skills? Fear of misspelling? Lack of ideas? Hopefully, the strategies included in this post will be helpful in reaching all the different types of writers in your class!


If you’re looking for more support for your struggling writers, here are some helpful posts:

Stretching Out Words

Writing How-to Books in Kindergarten

Motivating reluctant Learners

Getting Students Writing Independently During Writer’s Workshop

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