Tips for Getting “Nonwriters” to Write

written by: Eagle Hill School
What is a “nonwriter?” When we use the term, we typically mean a student who can write, but who detests it and avoids it at all costs. Why are some students such big fans of writing while others aren’t, and how can we encourage “nonwriters” to write? We’ll cover that below.

What Makes a “Nonwriter?”

People aren’t born to be novelists (despite what some novelists may tell you). Instead, there are generally a sequence and variety of life factors and circumstances that lead someone to love writing so much they become incredibly talented, and in turn pursue it as a profession. Conversely, there are those who feel like they were born not to write, and the above logic still applies.
Typically, these individuals have had trouble with reading and writing in the past, and these experiences turn them off, sometimes for good, from writing.

The trick then isn’t forcing these students to write more, thereby continuing the very type of exposure that causes them to shrink away from writing, but to find ways to get them writing that don’t feel like mandatory exercises.

Find a Topic They Love

This is likely the first thing that comes to mind when parents and teachers begin considering how to encourage their children and students to write, and for good reason. People are generally more prone to being engaged with something they care about…writing is no different. You can help get the “juices flowing” by having your student make a list of their top five favorite things. Then, have them develop a headline and write a “news report” on whichever topic they’d like.

Change the Context

Forcing someone to sit down in front of Microsoft Word to type out a five-hundred-word essay isn’t necessarily going to return the best results. In today’s world, much of our writing is now done in short snippets over social media and online. Get creative and have your students write a series of “tweets” or Facebook statuses (pretend ones…not actually online) that amount to a larger narrative.
Another creative way to get students engaged and involved is to have each student in a classroom write a “chapter” of a short book. Supply your students with a theme, general story guidelines, and some ground rules, but leave the rest up to them. They will likely feel excited by the freedom to contribute to something in their own unique way. This is also an interesting way to better understand how students think and what they are truly interested in.

The Art of the Outline

Sitting down in front of a blank page can be overwhelming. Though it sounds elementary, often the power of a good outline is overlooked. Teaching our students how to construct a useful outline can go a long way in making them feel better prepared when it comes time to do the “real” writing.

Outlines can be written in many ways, but the basics require:
  • Identifying and sticking to a central topic
  • Detailing important points and arranging them in logical order
  • Discovering supporting details for each “main point”
  • Determining a powerful conclusion
No matter which techniques you employ, it’s important to remember that it can’t feel forced. Pushing “nonwriters” to write will likely only turn them off from it even more, so be thoughtful about applying individual attention to each child when considering how to best get them to put pen to paper.

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Learning Diversity is a blog hosted by Eagle Hill School where educators, students, and other members of the LD community regularly contribute posts and critical essays about learning and living in spaces that privilege the inevitability of human diversity.

The contributors of Learning Diversity come together to engage our readers from a variety of disciplines, including the humanities, social sciences, biological sciences and mathematics, athletics, and residential life. Embracing learning diversity means understanding and respecting our students as whole persons.

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