Four Roadblocks of the Reluctant Writer

Oct 21, 2022 | Posted by the IEW Blog Team

As teachers, our hearts go out to the reluctant writer—the student who thinks putting pen to paper is painful and who Andrew Pudewa describes in the Teaching Writing: Structure and Style seminar as the student “who would rather scrub all the floors twice than write.” Reluctant writers are more common than we like to believe. In fact, many of us were—and perhaps still are—reluctant writers. Even teachers, though, who enjoy writing might feel underprepared to teach their students how to write.

IEW has spent years perfecting a solution to reach the reluctant writer. We’ll share that in Parts 2 and 3 of this series, but first, let’s look at four roadblocks that stand in the way.


Possibly, the reluctant writer’s greatest fear is the blank sheet of paper. The instructions seem so easy to the teacher: “Just write about anything you like.” While some students jump in and eagerly begin writing, the reluctant writer stares at his paper with no idea how to start. Knowing what to write about is not a prerequisite for learning how to write. Students can succeed when they learn a clear process to follow, but writing is a complex process.


Writing is a complex process. Spelling, handwriting, and composition are entirely different neurological functions. For most students this complexity must be broken into small, manageable pieces. This is what makes IEW’s Structure and Style writing approach so effective. It incorporates imitation and modeling with content that is provided in a source text. Because students don’t need to worry WHAT to write about, they can focus on HOW to write instead. Repeated modeling by the teacher breaks down the roadblocks of complication and confusion.


Like learning to play an instrument, swing a golf club, or play chess, writing is a skill that must be practiced in order to become good at it. Practice takes time and requires guidance and encouragement. Even when a student is able to think of something to write about and puts her best effort into an assignment, getting back a paper marked up in red with too many corrections is deflating. Instead, students benefit most from a coached practice model that rewards them when they see what they can do and moves them along in incremental steps toward improvement. Teachers model each step and coach their students, who, in turn, practice and repeat that step until it becomes easier. Then, the teacher models the next step, and the process of practice and coaching continues.


Writing should be a part of every subject rather than a subject unto itself. When students collect information from content area sources, they have many opportunities to practice writing, such as note taking, summarizing, reports, essays, or oral presentations. When they write about history, science, literature, math, religion, and the arts, they see the merit of writing in any situation. This gives them a valuable skill for most any career.

Convincing your colleagues to include writing assignments in their subjects might be a challenge. Consider the following:

  • An incremental structure helps teachers teach writing more effectively, yet writing methods classes are not typically part of teacher education programs.
  • Teachers are not taught to use modeling and imitation as an instructional strategy beyond the primary grades or in subjects like music, art, and P.E.
  • Too much emphasis is placed on evaluation and grading rather than guiding and coaching.
  • Writing is typically taught as a separate subject rather than integrating it across the curriculum.

The Structure and Style method can help teachers and their students overcome writing reluctance. In Part 2 we’ll share a lesson that will make teaching and learning how to write easier and perhaps even enjoyable!

This is the first in a three-part series dedicated to “Reaching the Reluctant Writer,” an hour-long workshop presented at educational conventions, webinars, and school staff meetings. If you would like to schedule this or another workshop for your faculty, contact our Schools Division or your school’s Educational Consultant.

Jean brings 34 years of classroom experience to IEW, having taught grades 1–6 in New York, Virginia, and in California, where she taught sixth-grade language arts in the Rocklin Unified School District. She was introduced to IEW in 2001 when a colleague shared Student Writing Intensive videos at weekly school staff meetings. As a result of student progress and teacher enthusiasm at her school, RUSD brought Andrew Pudewa to Rocklin many times over the next several years to train district teachers, resulting in improved student writing and test scores district-wide. Named Rocklin’s “Elementary Teacher of the Year” in 2001, Jean was also included in the 2004 and 2005 editions of Who’s Who Among America’s Teachers.

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