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Citation: Buis, Kellie. (2007). Reclaiming Reluctant Writers: How to Encourage Students to Face their Fears and Master the Essential Traits of Good Writing. Portland, ME: Stenhouse.

Title: Reclaiming Reluctant Writers: How to Encourage Students to Face their Fears and Master the Essential Traits of Good Writing
Year: 2007
Publisher: Stenhouse
City: Portland, ME
Medium: Book
Author(s): Buis, Kellie
Grades: Fourth Grade to Eighth Grade
Categories: Struggling Writers
Annotation: This unique book by Kellie Buis provides intermediate teachers with helpful suggestions for supporting older students who struggle with writing. Kellie talks honestly about the resistance of some students to writing and urges us to “reclaim” them and to help them recover the desire to write that most of them had when they started school. Unfortunately, the enthusiasm for writing often dwindles for some students as they move into the intermediate grades and middle school.

Kellie presents a Myth about each topic, followed by a section called Reality, then a Challenge for us as teachers and suggestions for what that might look like in your classroom. If you are a literacy coach, Kellie’s descriptions of reluctant writers in this book would be perfect for as a focus for a workshop or staff meeting. In the first chapter, she explores the conditions that are necessary for writing to flourish. Then each of the next chapters addresses specific needs of reluctant writers, along with recommendations:

Chapter 2: The Need for Fun, Experiential Writing
Chapter 3: The Need for Personal Writing
Chapter 4: The Need for Imitation
Chapter 5: The Need for Planning When Going Public
Chapter 6: The Need for Shared Responsibility
Chapter 7: The Need to Connect, Talk, and Celebrate.

Kellie writes that even if you have the best intentions, fabulous minilessons and writing workshop in place, reluctant writers may still flounder: “Process writing demands that writers take risks, reveal themselves, and push themselves to take in knowledge, use knowledge, and share it” (p. 10). Such risk-taking may be too overwhelming and struggling writers may be easily defeated by the tasks that your other students seem to take in stride. She presents possible writing plans with grabbing titles like “Cool Questions for Curious Kids” (Inquiry and Exploration), “Goop, Glop, and Science Soup” (description), and “The Quest for Good Books” (review). Kellie encourages us to provide students with “out-of-desk” experiences in order to make writing active and social as students use their writer’s notebooks to explore topics collaboratively in science and social studies.

For many students, resistance comes from having to reveal themselves too soon, so she encourages teachers to start the year with “safe” genres such as descriptive writing or free-verse poetry until they build up their confidence and trust. In the third chapter, Kellie presents some fabulous ideas for reclaiming writers by building fluency. She uses writer’s notebooks and free-writes as safe forums for these authors. If we push them too soon to revise and share their writing, these students often shut down. She talks about the importance of making revision active and social, rather than a solitary act as part of a collaborative community. She advises patience as low-risk writing helps reluctant writers build their confidence and fluency.

Kellie describes how some students who lack procedural knowledge will profit from more demonstrations of write-alouds. Other students who have not read a lot will benefit from more read-alouds. (The Appendix has a great list of “Strong Titles for Read-Alouds in many genres). They both become social events in which we’re not only providing models, but allowing students to become actively engaged in various genres and forms of texts. Literacy coaches may want to share tips from this book with colleagues or use this book as a professional book study as intermediate teachers all focus on ways to support the reluctant or struggling writers in their classrooms.