Brainstorming with your Reluctant Writer: out-of-the-box ideas for your out-of-the-box learner

teaching a reluctant writer | homeschooling dyslexia

Writer’s Block happens even to the most gifted writers, but it is a serious problem for our kids who hate writing or are intimidated by it. My dyslexic daughter definitely falls into the category of the reluctant writer, not that she doesn’t have ideas. This child is always bursting with creative ideas for everything, but trying to find words for those ideas is tough. Even more so if she is required to think of those words on the spot or under pressure.

We know that the first step to writing is brainstorming, compiling a list of ideas and choosing the best from that list. But how do we get our reluctant writers to even get started with this list? Here’s a BIG Tip: don’t make them write it! 

I’ve taught writing in many settings over many years—to college freshman, to sophomore and junior English and pre-law majors, to kids in homeschool co-ops, and of course, to my own kids. And one strategy I like to try when working with reluctant or intimidated writers is trying to plug into their other strengths, the areas where they are confident. If I could tap into an area of creativity where they were confident, the ideas flowed much more freely. We all have ideas, but each of us processes those ideas uniquely. Connect with your reluctant writer on their level with their gifts.

Ideas for Brainstorming with your Reluctant Writer

  1. Is your reluctant writer a talker? Let her talk and talk and talk. Ask questions. Encourage her that there are no bad ideas right now. Just whatever pops into her head. You can be her scribe and write down the ideas as she says them, or you can just listen until she finds her favorite ideas and is ready to start writing.
  2. Is your reluctant writer an artist? Let him draw! Don’t make him describe the room with words; let him draw it first and then tell you about his drawing. Let him create a comic strip of the story first, then narrate the story to you from the comic strip. Let him sketch the abandoned shack before he describes it to you. Let him draw a diagram before he tells you the steps to building the marshmallow launcher.
  3. Is your reluctant writer an actor? Let him act out his ideas. If he starts using sound effects instead of words, ask him what is happening. When he’s done, retell the story back to him to see if you understood it correctly. Write down what he says, or record it and let him transcribe the video.

Remind them that bad ideas and good ideas are all a part of this process; sometimes those bad ideas lead to the best ones. If your child is a perfectionist, trying to think of the perfect idea will also lead to reluctance and writer’s block. Try playing some games to get the ideas flowing. A couple of games I love are Story Cubes (there are several varieties) and WriteShop Story Prompts. Play one of these games as a warm up before you get started.

Once the ideas are flowing, help your reluctant writer to capture those ideas before they disappear. Act as the scribe and write down what your child says. Or, use a voice recording device and allow your child to replay her narration as many times as she needs in order to write it down. Writing is a complicated process that we tend to take for granted. And it’s often very tough for our kids, particularly our dyslexic kids, to have an original thought, remember that thought long enough to write it down, and then write it correctly onto paper.

Reluctance usually comes from fear. Remove the fear, the intimidation factor, and you very well could have a budding author in your midst.

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