Questions About Writing Instruction

Find answers to frequently asked questions about writing instruction.

How can I support my students' writing?

The process of learning to write begins in very early for many children. The oral and written language experiences children have at home, day care, preschool, and kindergarten contribute to the developing ability to communicate in writing. Let's look at ways in which you can support your students' writing.


Adults in daycare settings and preschools can promote the development of writing skills by offering informal opportunities for children to observe, explore, and experiment with writing. When children observe adults writing in order to accomplish real tasks, they learn the value and function of writing. Caregivers can involve the children in writing brief notes to parents or listing the foods that are to be purchased for the next day's snack time. It's a good idea to have a box of writing tools and materials available for children to use when they want to engage in independent writing. The materials can be arranged on a special table that is set aside just for writing.

Although informal writing opportunities should continue at the kindergarten level, teachers should begin to provide slightly more formal and organized opportunities for students to engage in writing. For example, educators can create an "office center" in the classroom and set aside a special time when children are allowed to work in the center. The office center should contain everything students need to scribble, design signs, send notes, record telephone numbers, or write stories.


Although many kindergartners can recognize some letters, words, and phrases, they may revert to drawing or scribbling when encouraged to write a story. Educators should accept this as a valuable attempt at writing. "Invented" or "phonetic" spelling is when a young child writes a word the way that it sounds without concern for spelling the word correctly. In the course of the school year, some kindergartners will experiment with invented spelling and begin to move closer to "standard" spelling. Teachers should treat such development as part of the natural process of emerging literacy. Attempts to use emerging skills should be warmly supported, not forced or scrutinized for errors.

First Grade

Throughout first grade students will still experiment between invented and standard spelling. Their attempts should be encouraged, supported and then followed by instruction. Instruction should consist of creating stories with beginning, middles and endings. It should also feature information on how to use capitalization rules and punctuation tools in appropriate ways. As a student's writing ability develops, further emphasis may include instruction on the different areas within a written piece of work. For example, a student's word choice may not be powerful or interesting enough to grab the reader's interest or attention to continue reading the piece.

What do I do with struggling writers?

Encourage listening and responding to read aloud

Allow students who have difficulty with writing to first respond by art (drawing their favorite part or character) or drama (rehearsing the story). This extra time allows writers to rehearse their ideas before putting them on paper.

Provide time to talk about their writing

Sitting down with a child and discussing their ideas, helps them to organize their thought and details. This also gives them an idea of how to begin their written piece.

Teach strategies in small groups or one-on-one

Spend the majority of your teaching time with small groups or one-on-one to guide a student through their writing. Strategies such as sounding out a word to hear its sounds, reviewing a spelling a pattern or teaching students to circle words that they need help spelling, are essential for children in feeling confident in their writing process.

Most importantly CELEBRATE writing

All students need to feel that their work is valued. After a student has gone through the process of brainstorming, rough draft, editing, revising and final draft; celebrate their written work! Celebrations could include inviting another class to hear stories written, hanging papers in the hallway or allowing the struggling student to read their work to a special staff person in the building of their choice.

Adapted from: Put Reading First: The Research Building Blocks for Teaching Children to Read, 2001, a publication of The Partnership for Reading.


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I work with teachers at the 5th and 6th grade level. Many of their students stuggle when it comes to writing. I believe these students lack the confidence to begin a piece of writing. Do have any suggestions that would help these struggling writers?

I would like specific ideas on how to work with a student with ADHD that struggles with reading and spelling. I have so much difficulty getting the student to focus on writing because she gets so worked up on her spelling. I can't seem to get her mind off of stressing about spelling and on getting ideas and thoughts on paper.

I work with students that are severely handicapped that have problems reading and writing do you have any ideas that might help them?

I work in a high school and also find my students to have troubles with expressive language when writing. Do you have any suggestions for strategies that might encourage writing for high school students?

I teach k-3 Special Education students, my students struggle with writing, they can not write a complete sentence without me writing it first then them copying it. They have trouble expressing themselves and writing or even drawing how they feel what a story is about. They struggle with the reading comprehension also. How can you teach writing skills to students who have disability.

Teaching writing to students with a learning disability can be challenging but also rewarding. Within my classroom, I find that most of my students have difficulties with their expressive language skills. These students struggle with putting their thoughts and/or ideas on paper. This article was very informative and gave great strategies to use when teaching students with learning disabilities to write. However, I have used most of these strategies and still find that my students continue to struggle when writing. When the strategies listed in this article aren’t effective what strategies do you recommend teachers implement to enhance their students writing skills?

My students really enjoy computer applications to practice reading. Are there any websites you can suggests for writing activities and practice?

I teach 2nd and 3rd graders and they have a difficult time writing. Are there any strategies or activities to help my students want to write and learn at the same time how to put their thoughts onto paper?

I work with profoundly disabled students. How can I best help those that although can "speak" cannot write? I look for suggestions on this, but help in this area is extremely limited. However, we are encouraged to help them in the writing process. I would like to hear some advice in this area.

I teach Elementary Special Education. My students have a difficult time being able to put to paper what they are thinking and wanting to write. They also have a hard time spelling words that I know they already know. Do you have any assistance that could help us in achieving good writing?

Through RTI, I ofter hear that struggling readers can't get their thoughts down on paper. What is a strategy that could be used with that type of learner?

This article is very informative and I enjoyed the tips. One of my questions is, I would like to have more information on getting students interested in reading. How can I keep interested readers challenged and excited about reading. I think as all teachers, I need help with teaching reading comprehension. Right know I have my students keep at journal in my History classes. This journal is on of my comprehension tools in my classroom. After each lesson I have the studnet write a paragraph about what they have learn.

The tips were very helpful. I teach special ed 4th-6th grade do you have any tips for students that have problems with reading comprehension? They all love to write, just getting them to be able to retell the story they just read is what we are working on.

I work with struggling learners at the high school level. I have 2 questions: 1. Can you give me any specific writing strategies and/or activities that can be used with high school aged students? 2. I was thinking of using peer editing with high school aged students, any suggestions on the format for this strategy? Any suggestion for setting up a rubric for this process?

I work with struggling learners at the middle school level.Can you give me any specific writing strategies and/or activities that can be used with struggling learners?

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"A poem begins in delight and ends in wisdom" —

Robert Frost