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Avery Smith

Traci Pettet
EDRE 4860-S007
4 December 2016
Strategies for Teaching Struggling Writers
Teaching is a career that has lots of thought, time, energy, research, theory, and practice
that goes into its profession before teachers even begin their first day. As a current student
teacher preparing to graduate and find a job in elementary education, I am learning about the
complexity of education as a profession. I often find myself feeling overwhelmed or confused
about the expectations I will need to meet for my students, campus, and district. Therefore, it is
vital I spend time examining aspects of the profession I am less certain of or comfortable with in
order to learn as much as I can before looking for and gaining a job as a teacher. I must ask
myself the questions that I am not sure how to answer so I can research them or ask other
knowledgeable educators so I can understand and implement that knowledge into my theory and
practice. One area I was uncertain in approaching was teaching writing to students in early
grades. I wondered how I might help students that feel unmotivated or struggle with writing;
whether they are struggling because of their perception of themselves as a writer, a learning
difference, a lack of motivation, or a learning difference, I wanted to be knowledgeable on how I
can help students that need extra help in learning how to and improving their writing. This felt
like a valuable topic to explore because many teachers need to be skilled in preparing
adaptations, modifications, and extensions. Our effect on students as readers and writers is
tremendous, so it feels vital that I research and practice implementing strategies to help

struggling writers. This knowledge serves as valuable information for any teacher, since most
classrooms have exceptional learners or those that need extra time or assistance in school.
Through my research, I found a variety of information, strategies, skills, activities, procedures,
and ideas to help guide me in teaching the variety of struggling writers I will see in my future
When looking at research to see what I can do to help my struggling writers, I wanted to
start by looking for what teachers typically do in their classrooms. One study completed a
national survey with teachers all over America to see what types of adaptations teachers were
making for struggling writers (Graham, Harris, Fink-Chorzempa, & MacArthur, 2003). The
study found that 42% of teachers surveyed made few to no adaptations for students, although
most teachers were sensitive to the needs of writers in the classroom (Graham, Harris, FinkChorzempa, & MacArthur, 2003). In this study's survey, adaptations are considered activities or
procedures that are used for reading/writing being used more or less often, depending on the
situation (Graham, Harris, Fink-Chorzempa, & MacArthur, 2003). The lack of adaptations made
is alarming and shows the importance of making sure more teachers in our school are learning
about and making adaptations for our students. Teachers should be aware of how few are making
adaptations so more teachers can take part in helping with this problem by implementing
adaptations and being aware that the students they see may have had teachers in the past that
have made no adaptations for them. The survey notes that the majority of adaptations they noted
came from a small amount of participants, which is alarming (Graham, Harris, Fink-Chorzempa,
& MacArthur, 2003). Instructors should work to add adaptations to their rooms for every subject,
even if the teacher only implements a few different adaptations per subject. The study also noted
that there was little data on the different strategies and adaptations made by teachers, which is

alarming since it means we can't see how our teachers are helping students in the classroom
(Graham, Harris, Fink-Chorzempa, & MacArthur, 2003). However, this article was written in
2003, and more studies and surveys have taken place since this one occurred. It is important we
continue to take data from teachers so we are familiar with different techniques and adaptations
teachers make so educators can learn from each other. The adaptations made by teachers often
addressed basic writing skills, such as handwriting or grammar, or writing processes, such as
planning or text organization (Graham, Harris, Fink-Chorzempa, & MacArthur, 2003). Some
common adaptations for classrooms examined in this survey included extra conferences/extra
conference time, minilessons, modeling, and re-teaching (Graham, Harris, Fink-Chorzempa, &
MacArthur, 2003). Overall, this article gives great insight to what is seen in other teachers across
the country and how I can learn from the teachers that are and are not making adaptations.
Although it is important to make adaptations for students, the adaptations are only
appropriate if they are beneficial for the teacher and the student. When teachers use ineffective
strategies, student abilities are hindered and they will become or continue to be struggling
writers. One study looked at teachers that were making adaptations and how those adaptations
were ineffective for students (Glasswell, Parr, & McNaughton, 2003). The study examined
teachers that were highly admired in New Zealand and found the strategies they used, examining
the ineffective ones (and why they are ineffective) (Glasswell, Parr, & McNaughton, 2003). The
first ineffective strategy was confusing quantity over quality, by noting that teachers would often
have longer conferences with struggling writers but with many interruptions or not having
sustained time (Glasswell, Parr, & McNaughton, 2003). This is ineffective because it means
wasting the time of the student and the teacher and not giving the student the full attention they
need. Another aspect that hurts struggling writers is when teachers allow interruptions when

working with struggling writers often and/or for a long period of time (Glasswell, Parr, &
McNaughton, 2003). This hurts students in the similarly to the first one, because the writer is not
the teacher's main focus. Another ineffective strategy seen in teachers is using conference time to
focus on low level text issues or surface features, such as mechanics (Glasswell, Parr, &
McNaughton, 2003). This leaves the teacher less time to spend with the student on more
important problems their struggling writer faces and needs assistance in (Glasswell, Parr, &
McNaughton, 2003). Lastly, the article discussed that teachers can increase student dependence
on teachers by taking responsibility for student work and actions (Glasswell, Parr, &
McNaughton, 2003). This article is helpful because it not only studies and finds aspects and
strategies that are ineffective, but also includes ways to fix those strategies or what they can be
replaced with. Alternatives include ensuring quality time with writers, varying what the teacher
covers when conferencing with students (by spending some time focusing on lower-level
text/surface features in writing) but not moving off the path of focusing on the goals teachers
have for struggling writers and moving towards higher-level goals/competencies, and working on
withdrawing support so the writer can slowly become more independent (Glasswell, Parr, &
McNaughton, 2003). It is important teachers examine adaptations and the effects they have on
students, because teachers want to use effective strategies that help them operate their classroom
and work with students in the best possible manner. Elementary students build their identities
overall and as writers through activities such as writer's workshop, so it is vital teachers are
building up students and how they view themselves so students are effectively learning and
thinking about themselves as writers (Seban & Tavsanli, 2015). Because it's been shown the way
students identify themselves as writers can impact their abilities, motivation, and performance in
writing, it is vital that the identity they build through things such as writer's workshop is positive

(Seban & Tavsanli, 2015). Teachers should be examining how they can revise or replace their
strategies and adaptations so they can best accommodate and positively build up their struggling
writers and their identities they are building at such a young age (Seban & Tavsanli, 2015).
Part of helping writer's become stronger in their work is helping them be more
independent. That's why strategies such as the Self-Regulated Strategy Development (SRSD)
model of instruction can be beneficial in helping students become gain more independence in
and becoming stronger in their writing (Helsel & Greenberg, 2007). SRSD helps students by
combining explicit teaching of writing strategies with instruction in self-regulatory skills (Helsel
& Greenberg, 2007). In the article that discusses the SRSD model, it explains self-regulation
refers to self-generated thoughts, feelings, and actions that people use to help themselves reach
personal goals (Helsel & Greenberg, 2007). The stages of Self-Regulated Strategy Development
include building background knowledge, discussing the self-regulatory skill/strategy and writing
strategies, modeling the strategy they will use, memorizing the skill, supporting the skill, and
finally independent performance from students (Helsel & Greenberg, 2007). This strategy can
help slowly get students to become less dependent on the teacher, which is important in helping
to build successful writers as has been previously noted.
Another area that can impact the way students perform as writers is the type of literacy
students practice and develop. As a writer, it is important to be aware of and work to develop
some of the different literacies (Sylvester & Greenidge, 2009). One literacy that can help
students build upon their understanding of and confidence in writing and literacy is digital
literacy (Sylvester & Greenidge, 2009). Something I felt was important in this article that
discussed digital literacy and storytelling was that struggling writers can tap into literacies they
may work better with in order to boost motivation and scaffold understanding of traditional

literacies (Sylvester & Greenidge, 2009). Many students feel more comfortable and confident
using technology and are more confident when exploring new software, devices, etc.; they are
"digital natives" when it comes to technology (Sylvester & Greenidge, 2009). When using digital
literacy to help scaffold a struggling writer as they learn, practice, and implement the writing
process, digital storytelling can help transform a writer from struggling to competent (Sylvester
& Greenidge, 2009). Therefore, this article shows the importance of examining the different
literacies that can be practiced so teachers can properly scaffold students using the literacy that
suits them so they receive a stronger understanding and abilities using the writing process.
Lastly, Tompkin's book, Teaching Writing: Balancing Process and Product, offers lots of
strategies and ideas for helping learners understand the writing process and perform well as
writers. Some of the strategies from the first chapter, "The Writing Process", include the key
features of each writing stage and activities to teach and guide students in working through each
stage (Tompkins, 2012a). The writing stages include prewriting, drafting, revising, editing, and
publishing (Tompkins, 2012a). This chapter covers how the teacher should personalize the
writing process for students and discusses how teachers can do this for their students along with
saying students should understand the importance for all of the writing process stages
(Tompkins, 2012a). Along with this, the chapter includes a list of mentor texts related to
information on and teaching the writing process, authors, writer's craft, and teacher tools
(Tompkins, 2012a). The next chapter, "Developing Strategic Writers", covers writing strategies
writers can use in class to help them; writing strategies include elaborating, evaluating,
formatting, generating, monitoring, narrowing, organizing, proofreading, questioning, rereading,
revising, and setting goals (Tompkins, 2012b). In this chapter, it also mentions which of these
strategies are self-regulatory, which is a key technique and strategy that is discussed earlier in

this research (Tompkins, 2012b; Helsel & Greenberg, 2007). The self-regulatory strategies
include setting goals, questioning, monitoring, and evaluating (Tompkins, 2012b). The chapter
also helps teachers identify students as capable or less capable based on certain characteristics
through a comparison T-chart (Tompkins, 2012b). Some of the characteristics included goal,
process, editing, strategies, and quality (Tompkins, 2012b). There were also minilessons on
writing strategies in this chapter, like the minilesson featured on questioning (Tompkins, 2012b).
It also tells which characteristics should be present in minilessons when teaching writing
strategies: explicit instruction, modeling, collaboration, and independent application (Tompkins,
2012b). The best tools and ways of teaching writing strategies according to the text include
minilessons, explanations, demonstrations, strategy charts, mentor texts, practice opportunities,
and independent application (Tompkins, 2012b). Lastly, the third chapter in Tompkin's textbook,
"The Writer's Craft", which refers to techniques and tools writers use to get the reader's attention
and convey meaning (Tompkins, 2012c). The 7 techniques this chapter discusses includes ideas,
organization, voice, word choice, sentence fluency, conventions, and presentation (Tompkins,
2012c). The chapter also includes what goes into each trait, how they affect readers and writers,
and the main ideas of each trait along with how each trait is vital to the writing process
(Tompkins, 2012c). Also included are the several activities that can be used to teach and get
students working on each of the strategies, including drawing diagrams for organization and
teaching transitional words for sentence fluency (Tompkins, 2012c). The chapter also suggests
and includes a step-by-step guide on how to do interactive read alouds and use word walls in the
classroom (Tompkins, 2012c). Another helpful piece in this chapter is that it includes how to
assess the writer's craft in students, such as student-teacher conferences, scoring guides, scoring
practice, and involving students in the assessments (Tompkins, 2012c). These chapters help

guide through many ideas, strategies, examples, lessons, and more. It's important teachers find
many different resources to help guide them in instructing and building their instruction,
especially for students that are struggling in an area for whatever reason.
Overall, these strategies help show how teachers are currently helping and can better help
writers. Teachers should always be looking for ways to better help their students, especially those
that are struggling in areas such as writing. Examining these articles, surveys, studies, and
textbooks gave me a better understanding as to how I can motivate and help assist my struggling
writers or writers that may have a learning difference. It is important teachers examine all of the
different needs in their classroom, from students with dyslexia to the Gifted and Talented (GT) to
the English Language Learner (ELL) students that may be in their room. As a future educator, I
plan to continue to research and ask other knowledgeable teachers within my profession how I
can best serve my students. Examining these strategies and articles gave me a deeper
understanding of flaws in strategies I have already seen and ideas for teaching my students as I
work more and more directly with the students I see in my student teaching experiences. It is
always important to examine the areas we need more information or understanding in as teachers
so we can better serve our students and school community. By researching and reflecting on
these strategies, teachers better themselves as educators.

Annotated Bibliography
Glasswell, K., Parr, J. M., & McNaughton, S. (2003). Four ways to work against yourself when
conferencing with struggling writers. Language Arts, 80(4), 291-298. Retrieved from
Graham, S., Harris, K. R., Fink-Chorzempa, B., & MacArthur, C. (2003). Primary grade
teachers' instructional adaptations for struggling writers: A national survey. Journal of
Educational Psychology, 95(2), 279-292. Retrieved from
Helsel, L., & Greenberg, D. (2007). Helping struggling writers succeed: A self-regulated strategy
instruction program. The Reading Teacher, 60(8), 752-760. Retrieved from
Seban, D., & Tavsanli, . F. (2015). Children's sense of being a writer: Identity construction in
second grade writers workshop. International Electronic Journal of Elementary
Education, 7(2), 217-234. Retrieved from

Sylvester, R., & Greenidge, W. (2009). Digital storytelling: Extending the potential for struggling
writers. The Reading Teacher, 63(4), 284-295. https://libproxy.library.unt.edu/login?
Tompkins, G. E. (2012a). The writing process. In Teaching writing: Balancing process and
product (pp. 2-30) (6th ed.). Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon.
Tompkins, G. E. (2012b). Developing strategic writers. In Teaching writing: Balancing process
and product (pp. 32-55) (6th ed.). Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon.
Tompkins, G. E. (2012). The writer's craft. In Teaching writing: Balancing process and product
(pp. 56-81) (6th ed.). Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon.