Reluctant writers

Online Communities

We suggest you find a professional association to join or set one up. Examples from the UK and Australia are: United Kingdom Literacy Association (UKLA); the National Association of Teachers of English (NATE), also UK based. As far as Australia is concerned, equivalent organisations are: The Australian Literacy Educators Association (ALEA); The Primary English Teachers Association of Australia (PETAA) and the English Teachers Association of Australia (ETAA).

Editor’s comments

This is an example of a carefully carried out research addressing real problems teachers face in classrooms. The interventions can be easily applied and the contextual factors should support teachers in reflecting on their own practice and influence on learners.


5 star

The contextual factors identified by the author may limit transference but the Editors see no reason that this approach would not normally transfer to other settings. Clearly children have to be taught to mind map but this is a skill of benefit to all class members.

Strength of evidence

5 star

This is a carefully carried out study with a well documented methodology. The findings have been further tested- see the case study column above.


The evidence presented here is from a three year research project funded by the Bedford Charity (Harpur Trust) in the UK (2007-2010).

Areas for ongoing further research and feedback

Research into other interventions which success with reluctant writers is welcomed.

Email to discuss adding your research or case studies if you want to test the ideas further.


Questions which would make for an interesting follow-up study include the following:

  • children's motivation for writing at home
  • the frequency with which they engaged with different text types and
  • modes of writing, ie electronically or by hand


Two sets of assessment criteria were used in the project to evaluate pupils' narrative writing. The first set were the Assessment of Pupil Progress (APP) criteria. These were generic writing criteria devised for national use in the UK. The second set, referred to as the Assessment of Narrative Writing (ANW), were devised by the lead researcher, Paul Gardner, and were based on key elements of narrative.

Pre-writing strategies: story and mind mapping

Whilst, in itself, mind mapping may be a useful tool for systematically recording ideas around a given subject, the finding that pupils in KS1 can take up to 6-8 months of 'rehearsal' before they are able to independently construct mind maps negates their use as a 'ready made' panacea for the planning of writing with this age group. In order to become competent in the use of mind mapping pupils in this age group required a considerable amount of teacher support and scaffolding.

Teacher perceptions of gender

Early in the research when teachers were asked to identify reluctant writers in their class a common feature was teachers' tendency to name only boys. The gendered identity of the reluctant writers was questioned with reference to research in gender studies which suggests girls tend to subvert teacher directed learning by means of covert behaviour. Even though girls were included in the final sample, boys outnumbered girls on a ratio of 2:1.

Physical factors: sensory, motor

For adults, it is easy to forget that writing is a physical process. Several younger pupils in the study had difficulty containing their work on a single sheet of paper because their diagrams and writing tended to be too large. It was felt that this would improve over time as these pupils refined their fine-motor control and spatial awareness. One teacher noted;

'It made me realise how impediments such as poor fine-motor skills and spelling impact on writing.'


Subscribe to RSS - Reluctant writers