Strategies for Struggling Writers

By: Autumn Mills

Dear Reader,

As a struggling writer, I dreaded assignments in school that required some form of a paper to be turned in. Every time I was require to write a paper, I would make horrible grades. It became so discouraging to me, that I refused to write at all. The feelings I felt as a child still creep up on me when I have a writing task. The stress, the frustration, the general self-hatred due to the fact that I didn't know how to "fix" the problem, were very present when composing an essay.

Due to the fact that I identify so well with struggling writers, I wanted to do everything I could to equip myself with the tools necessary to help these students. There are so many effective strategies available to us as educators, that we should never have to look at any student and say "I don't know how to help you improve your writing."

Please join me as I help you discover the wonderful strategies I will grasp tightly to in my future years teaching. Enjoy!


Autumn Mills

Restaurant Review!

I recently visited this quaint little cafe. Everything on their menu was wonderful and the service was great! I left there with a full mind after devouring all the amazing items they offered. Please take a moment to check out their menu below, and if you have some time to spare, go see them!
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Dear Autumn,

I hate to write. I HATE, HATE, HATE it! My papers never seem to have the information needed, it takes me forever to figure out how to write my paper, and I always forget what information I want to put in my paper. I just want to quit school so that I never have to write again. What can I do feel better about being a writer?


Struggling in Shelbyville


Dear Struggling,

Oh how I can understand your feelings. I too had a hard time in school writing papers. I had so many ideas and words running through my head, yet I couldn't figure out how to make them make sense on paper. There were days that I would have preferred to have never returned to school as well. But I have good news for you! There are many tools available to you to make the writing process a little bit easier, and a lot more organized.

As a beginning writer, you can use quick and easy strategies like the "Traffic Signals for Writers". (I believe they bought ad space in this paper, so you might be able to read a little about that strategy.) You can also use something quick to organize your thoughts like the POW strategy. There is also the TREE strategy, I know there is a TREE party coming up soon. However, one of my most favorite strategies is mentor texts. Ask your teacher to recommend some books to you that are good examples of what she is looking for in your writing.

I truly hope you learn to love writing. It is something you are going to have to do the rest of your life. I have found the best way to love writing is to write about things that I am passionate about. It makes the process a lot more fun!

Good Luck!


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SRSD Funnies

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Papers, Poorly Written
Jan. 1, 1924-Dec. 3, 2014

Poorly Written Papers, a terrible nuisance and destroyer of one’s education has been executed after being convicted of murdering the papers of students worldwide.

Poorly Written Papers was brought to justice by Pre-Write, Draft, Revise, Edit, and Publish. While the process was extensive, this is a huge victory for the team. Each member of the team used their specific skills to ensure the success of our future leaders.

In addition to Poorly Written Papers conviction and execution, his accomplices Bad Grammar and Improper Punctuation were tried and convicted as well. They are currently awaiting execution on death row.

While the loss of a life is not a reason to celebrate, the knowledge that our students are going to be able to produce quality writing brings peace to many educators.

TREE Party

Wednesday, Dec. 3rd, 9am

601 Glade Rd

Colleyville, TX

Do you need help organizing your thoughts for a paper? Come join us as we become experts on the TREE strategy! You will "leaf" here a better writer.

Come prepared to learn!

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Crossword Puzzle

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  1. Torri, O. L., Graham, S., Leader-Janssen, B., & Reid, R. (2006). Improving the writing performance of struggling writers in second grade. The Journal of Special Education, 40(2), 66-78. Retrieved from
  2. Greiner, A. (2004). Writing Can Be Fun!. Principal, 83(3), 40-41.
  3. Charron, N., Fenton, M., & Procek, C. (2012). Encouraging Struggling Writers K-12: Practical Ideas from Practicing Practitioners. New England Reading Association Journal, 48(1), 66-72
  4. Harris, K.. Graham, S., & Mason, L. (2006) Improving the Writing, Knowledge, and Motivation of Struggling Young Writers: Effects of Self-Regulated Strategy Development With and Without Peer Support. American Education Research Journal, 43(2), 295-340
  5. Saddler, B., Moran, S., Graham, S., & Harris, K. (2010) Preventing Writing Difficulties: The Effects of Planning Strategy Instruction on the Writing Performance of Struggling Writers, Exceptionality: A Special Education Journal, 12(1), 3-17
  6. Zigo, D. (1998). Narrative thinking as a strategy among struggling early adolescent readers and writers. Journal of Research in Childhood Education, 13(1), 56.
  7. Sylvester, R., & Greenidge, W. (2010). Digital storytelling: Extending the potential for struggling writers. The Reading Teacher, 63(4), 284-295.
  8. Helsel, L., & Greenberg, D. (2007). Helping struggling writers succeed: A self-regulated strategy instruction program. The Reading Teacher, 60(8), 752-760.
  9. Graham, S., Harris, K. R., & MacArthur, C. (2006). Explicitly teaching struggling writers: Strategies for mastering the writing process. Intervention in School and Clinic, 41(5), 290-294.
  10. Collins, K. M., & Collins, J. L. (1996). Strategic instruction for struggling writers. English Journal, 85(6), 54.

Genre Memos


1. Obituary (Short)

I wrote this short piece about the death of bad writing because I wanted students to see that by using the writing process they could turn in quality papers. While the piece is minimal, I think it conveys a big message. Not only does is show students one genre of writing, but it also empowers them to use the tools available to them to produce excellent papers.

2. Comic Strip (Long)

I really enjoyed making this piece. I really wanted to find a fun way to demonstrate exactly what the SRSD model is, and how to implement it into the classroom. However, writing a really long and boring script would not have been so impactful. Quite a few of my articles related to the topic I chose used the SRSD model to introduce new strategies to their students. Lisa Helsel wrote in her article “Overall, I believe that SRSD is an approach that should be explored by upper elementary and middle school teachers who work with struggling student writers. While some teachers may be intimidated by the number of steps that are involved in implementing SRSD, Graham and Harris have produced several resources aimed specifically at teachers (Graham &Harris, 2005b; Harris &Graham, 1996).” (Helping struggling writers succeed: A self-regulated strategy instruction program.) (Improving the Writing, Knowledge, and Motivation of Struggling Young Writers: Effects of Self-Regulated Strategy Development With and Without Peer Support) (Explicitly teaching struggling writers: Strategies for mastering the writing process)

3. Menu (Long)

There are so many strategies that were introduced in the many articles I read. I wanted to be able to put them all in one place and “entice” my students to use one of the by their descriptions. I felt the menu was the best way to do this. I chose to use appetizer, entrée, and dessert to categorize them, because some of the strategies are simple starts, some are more in-depth and could be used from start to finish, and one of them was a really fun strategy that I would most likely use as some sort of reward. By separating them into these sections, students can use what will fit best with their writing task. Majority of my articles inspired the menu. (Digital storytelling: Extending the potential for struggling writers), (Encouraging Struggling Writers K-12: Practical Ideas from Practicing Practitioners) (Improving the writing performance of struggling writers in second grade) (Narrative thinking as a strategy among struggling early adolescent readers and writers)

4. Billboard (Short)

In one of the articles I read, a school employee, Alice Greiner, had the task of raising scores in an underperforming school. One of the areas students struggled was writing. Greiner came up with a strategy using the colors of a traffic light. I chose to do a billboard demonstrating what each of the colors represented for the writer. I felt this would be a fun way to display what the students need to do for this strategy in the classroom. (Writing Can Be Fun!)

5. TREE Party Invitation (Short)

I love parties! Anytime I hear that word, I get really excited. I don’t even care what the party is for. I feel like students would probably be more engaged if we incorporated “learning parties” into our day. While the invitation does include basic information like time and place, it also introduces the TREE strategy. This is a great way to give students a heads up about the information they are going to be learning.

6. Crossword Puzzle (Long)

I chose this piece, because it tied all of the other pieces together. All of the information introduced throughout the Smores site is addressed in this puzzle. It is a good assessment tool to use with students. You don’t have to necessarily give them a word bank, and by using this you are tying into the Memorize It stage of the SRSD model. (Preventing Writing Difficulties: The Effects of Planning Strategy Instruction on the Writing Performance of Struggling Writers)

7. Goal Sheet (Short)

I chose to use a goal sheet because K.M. Collins and J.L. Collins expressed the importance of goal setting in the article they wrote. Students typically are more successful in the task they are given if they have a goal to work towards. By having this visual students can have a regular reminder of what they are working towards. (Strategic instruction for struggling writers)

8. Dear Abby Letter (Long)

I chose this genre because I have always enjoyed reading the Dear Abby column in the newspaper. I think children would be excited to see a letter they wrote to an advice columnist published in a paper and replied to. I also chose this because it is a great way for a student to ask for advice in anonymously, and maybe other students will be having the same struggles and will benefit from the response as well.