How to Overcome Writer’s Block

How many of your students love to write? Everyone? Probably not. Many writers, children and adults alike, stare at a blank page . . . and sit there staring, staring, and staring. This common challenge is known as “Writer’s Block”. Oftentimes, frustration is exhibited, tears are generated, and defeat is accepted. However, defeat does not need to be the result!

This post is one of several posts and webinars focusing on creating, motivating, and engaging writers.

As you know, one of my favorite ways to teach is by using children’s literature, specifically picture books. Whether teaching math, history, science, reading, writing, or word study, books are a beautiful way to engage and motivate students. Using books as teachable opportunities for any topic, skill, or strategy is a huge bonus! Continue reading to learn how to engage students and overcome writer’s block.

Connect and learn more in my Facebook community: Engage, Educate, Excel.

Teach Writing ~ Post Purpose

In this post, and several following, I uncover the mystery about teaching writing. My goal is to share several strategies that I have implemented to grow my reluctant, nonwriters who experience writers’ block into eager writers who choose to write at school, write at home, and come back the next day to share their story or project.  It is very exciting for me to see this growth and the excitement students exhibit when they love to write as homegrown authors!! Writer’s block . . . solved!

Teach Writing ~ Problem

Unfortunately, when it comes to writing, some teachers may find teaching writing challenging for various reasons:

  • Personal conversation: “Writing is too personal.”
  • Personal conversation: “Getting kids to write is hard.” 
  • Personal conversation: “I’m not a good writer.”
  • Personal conversation: “I don’t know how to teach writing.”
  • Personal conversation: “I don’t like to write, and my kids are not writers.”
  • Personal conversation: “Boys hate writing. I can’t excite them.”
  • Personal conversation: “Writing is such a vast field, I’m not sure where to begin.” 
  • Personal conversation: “I experience writer’s block.”
  • AND . . . . LOTS MORE!

Did you know teachers can experience the same self doubt and writer’s block students experience about writing?  Where to begin, what to write about, how to write my thoughts, etc. These thoughts are normal, YES NORMAL, especially if the teacher had similar experiences with writing in school. Teachers have several personal conversations and are sabotaging their ability to teach writing! Let me be the first to tell you . . . YES!! YOU can teach writing to eager writers, resistant writers, and overcome writer’s block.

Teach Writing ~ Personal, Past Experiences

How many of you remember your early days of writing in school?  Did it look like this?

The teacher chose a random topic or genre and you wrote about this topic? A topic or genre that you may or may not have any connection with and/or could care less about “the topic”.
Is that you??

Our personal, past experiences shape our thoughts, attitudes, and perspectives

in positive and negative ways.

Let me share with you that writing has changed since our days as students in the classroom. Whew!! Thank you!!! I thought you’d be relieved!!

I’m excited to share with you several strategies AND a framework that will be revealed over the next several blog posts and webinars that will turn your reluctant writers, those who experience writer’s block, into fluid, eager writers who choose to write daily.

NOTE: Be sure to check back often for weekly blog and Youtube updates AND join my Facebook online community for additional conversations with other educators about education.

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Teach Writing ~ Solution

If you are struggling with exciting your writers, this post is for YOU! Go ahead and get your notebook, paper, and pencil ready, as I share several strategies to move you from “I hate teaching writing” to “I can’t WAIT to teach today!” 

Remember, as I shared earlier, this is just the first of several posts and webinars about teaching writing. Take the strategies that I share, implement, come back with questions or book a call with me, learn some more strategies, and before you know it, you will LOVE teaching writing!!

Teach Writing ~ Picture Books

Yes, you’ve already heard me say this, but one strategy I use to engage, motivate and excite students in writing is by teaching with picture books.  Why? Students are able to identify with the topic or character and have an idea to share some of their own thoughts.  As a teacher, I have found the best way to teach writing is by using engaging books, showing purpose and value, making writing fun and enjoyable, and writing all the time

Teach Writing ~ Trait Focus: IDEAS

As teachers, we always read books to our students. Yes, we read for enjoyment and conversation. Now I’d like you to start thinking about the read aloud as another opportunity for a lesson. Reading a book for one purpose and later for another purpose is 100% appropriate. This is the same idea as watching a television show or movie a second time. We always learn something new. When teaching with picture books, the second read or “warm read” can be for instruction.

The first lessons I teach in writing are about IDEAS.

Anytime I read a book, whether a picture book, list, nonfiction book, textbook, or listen to an announcement, lunch conversation, phone call. . . anything . . . I ask my students, “Where did the author get the idea to write this book? agenda? Where did the speaker get the idea to share this announcement? phone call? Helping students make a connection to visual literacy also helps extend learning. Where did the television producer get the idea to record this movie? video? commercial? What about music? Where did the songwriter get the idea to write this song?

Do you see how asking questions about content we see and experience everyday, everywhere, brings a heightened awareness to the author’s intention?  We just have to ask the questions!

Getting students to see and understand that everything communicated whether in printed text or orally all starts with an IDEA.  As a matter of fact, I got the IDEA to write this blog post because I am frequently asked how I get my reluctant students to write. 

Teach Writing ~ The Reading Connection

I’m sure you already now this: reading and writing go hand in hand, one is encoding (writing) and one decoding (reading).  When teaching the writing focus on IDEAS, the next step is to extend learning with a reading focus: Author’s Purpose. I ask my students “Why did the author write this book?  Why did the author choose to use these words to share meaning?  How do the pictures, graphs, tables, help convey information to the reader?  Why did the speaker share this information?  Why did the speaker choose to use this tone of voice to communicate?  Why did the songwriter choose to sing the song slow? fast? 

Do you see how asking questions about author’s purpose compliments IDEAS? I do not recommend teaching these skills in the same lesson, but as budding authors, students learn that once an idea is planted, the author has a specific purpose in how he/she chooses to convey the information.

Once students have an IDEA to write about, the purpose is now center stage. The purpose of this blog post is to share a writing instructional strategy that can be implemented into the daily routine, whether that is at school or home.

TIP: The more this topic is discussed throughout the day, students begin to see IDEAS all around them and find a purpose for writing thoughts down on paper. 

Teach Writing ~ Related Resources

Teaching writing can be quite challenging. Writing is a multifaceted communication tool. The best way to teach writing is to engage writers in a variety of genres and opportunities to write. I have compiled some additional resources to support you on this journey.

Teaching Literacy with Children’s Literature

How to Teach with Picture Writing

Have You Filled A Bucket Today?

use children's literature to teach literacy

Teach Writing ~ Final Thoughts 

Reading picture books by exemplary authors in a variety of genres will inspire young authors with excellent examples of great writing. Begin asking students questions, engaging students in conversations, and soon each student will have an IDEA to write about with purpose. Remember, writing starts with an IDEA and has a purpose for the reader to engage. Writer’s block will no longer be a challenge!

There you go!  My top strategies to engage your writers and overcome writer’s block is by learning how IDEAS are turned into text and discovering a purpose to writing content. 

I’m looking forward to continuing our discussion in upcoming blog posts, webinars, and in the Facebook community: Engage, Educate, Excel.

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Annette Durbin

Annette has been an educator for 29 years working in the PK-6 elementary classroom, English learner instructional specialist, district leadership, university professor, as well as a mentor for teachers nationwide. A National Board Certificated Teacher, Annette focuses her research on accelerating learning and advancing achievement, personalizing instruction, technology, and leadership in the education field.

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