What to Do When They Don’t Write Anything in Upper Elementary

There are tons of strategies to help kids edit and revise in writer's workshop. But what about drafting? When your students are stuck and they refuse to write becuase they don't know what to say, this strategy will help get their pencils and brains moving. The quick sketch has worked for me in upper elementary and in primary grades, too, to help young writers think of what they want to say in their drafts! Don't let kids sit and get stuck in the writing process. Try something different! Free download and video, too!

When my brother was in the fourth grade, he had a sort of writing paralysis. Every time he started to write something, he thought it wasn’t good enough.

He didn’t think he had enough to say about any topic, so he just sat there.
The rest of the class would start writing, and he’d just sit there.

The teacher stood over his desk, demanding, “YOU WILL WRITE SOMETHING!”… and he just sat there.

He was stuck. And beyond being stuck, he was embarrassed.

This isn’t how it has to go. And if it goes like this, I can guarantee that kid isn’t going to write a thing for you. How do I know? Because my brother didn’t write a thing for that teacher.
Do I understand her frustration? OH, YES! We’ve all been there, when we feel like we’ve done everything we can to help a student and they just refuse to write!

But that approach just didn’t work.

Sometimes they just need to get their brains into the right headspace to write about their idea and realize they have more to say than they thought. In this video, I share the easiest drafting hack ever – and the part your kids will love the best is that it doesn’t start with writing complete sentences on a perfectly blank (and terrifying) page. It starts with a quick sketch.
Before you say, “Oh, they’ll spend ALL their time drawing and none writing”, let me explain. A quick sketch is not a drawing. And it is definitely not a masterpiece. It is quick. And it is sketchy. I used to tell my kids it was a “ten-second sketch”, even though it definitely takes a little longer than that.
Because if you’ve got a kid who’s staring at a blank page anyway, what have you got to lose? Get that pencil moving and get those ideas flowing with a quick sketch for drafting! Watch the video to learn how. It’s easy, fun, and it works.

Need some help to get started? Check out this free download for tools to help you teach writing in 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade!

  • The Framework of Writer’s Workshop
  • Components of Writer’s Workshop
  • Minilesson Planner
  • Steps in the Writing Process
  • Guide: Guiding Students Through the Writing Process
  • Think Aloud Sentence Starters
  • Writing Process Folders: directions & printables
  • Conference Log 
  • Personal Editing Checklist
  • Revision Strategy Card: Find a Place

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