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Help for Struggling Writers

We recently completed our unit on Essay Writing, and for the most part it was successful!   The objective of this unit was for students to understand and use a 4-paragraph organizational structure to support their opinion on a "big idea."  You know....Common Core stuff.

I also wanted students to use this structure to write several essays, so that they had enough practice to become fluent essay writers.  This happened....with about 98% of my third graders.

The "essay" organizational structure is a big one and students will be assessed on their ability to use this structure over and over again throughout their school career.  By "essay organizational structure" I am talking about "Intro Paragraph - Supporting Paragraph - Supporting Paragraph - Conclusion".  They NEED to be able to do this, without being told, EVERY time they put pencil to paper to write on a prompted topic.  I know I am over-simplifying a bit, but the truth is...if they can do this, they have won half the battle. 

In our district their first big writing assessment happens in fourth grade (the state writing assessment).  Our students flop on this year after year, and of course, I blame myself personally for this failure since I was their third grade teacher. So for the past two years, I have worked really hard to find ways to teach this skill in a way that students understand and can put into practice.  "Chunking" my instruction has been extremely helpful in teaching how to write an organized essay.  I put together these graphic organizers for the specific purpose of showing students how to write an essay, bit by bit.

As I stated, this worked GREAT for most of my students!


I had about 3 kiddos that just didn't get all.  I worked with them rigorously throughout the unit, conferring and one-on-one-ing like crazy with these little ones, but they still didn't get it.  This factoid left me with a giant pit in my stomach.  If you are like me, your failures are way more shiny than your successes.  I knew I needed to do something for these struggling writers.

I decided to come up with an intervention plan for these students to help bring them up to speed on organizing an essay.  I put together a very simple packet, that they now work on as part of their nightly homework.  I had a conference with the parents of these students, and those parents enthusiastically agreed to help and support their child with this initiative.  However, it could also be done during the school day, since it is pretty simple.

Students begin the week by receiving a prompted topic and then completing a very basic graphic organizer to organize their ideas around the topic.

Then, they spend one (or more if needed) day writing each part of the essay:  the introduction paragraph, two supporting paragraphs, and a concluding paragraph.

These reference sheets help them to see the "big" picture of their essay and gives them some sentence starters for each section (since I have found that my struggling writers don't know how to start).

After they write out each section, they write out the whole thing on notebook paper and spend some time checking over their work using a checklist:

At that point, they could (or not) write out their essay in a final copy format.

The next week....wash.....rinse.......repeat.  Students work with a new topic each week.  This repetition has really helped my struggling writers to understand the organizational structure of an essay, while also giving them some much needed practice with their overall writing skills.   They are actually beginning to get it and they have definitely shown improvement in their writing.

Improved learning....that is truly the important thing...and why I do what I do!!


This has also given me some"evidence" to add to my teacher data notebook.  Let's face it...when your principal asks you during your post-evaluation chat, "So, what did you do when they didn't get it?"  You need to have your butt covered!!  I will have a whole lot of evidence to show that I responded to my struggling writers with an effective intervention!!

If you are looking for an intervention program for your writers who just don't get how to organize and write an opinion may want to check it out.  It includes 18 different writing prompts with graphic organizers (enough to last the whole year if needed).

I also created one for informational writing.  They are both available in a bundle.

Love and peace,


  1. I love this format for helping my struggling writers.

  2. Hi Kathy. You design the BEST writing products - I know since I have the informational and the narrative writing packages. I would say that I have 3 students who could write in this 4 paragraph format, and the rest are struggling. My focus is getting the kids to write one really well written paragraph with a great lead, at least 3 details and a conclusion. It seems sad to say, but I'm still trying to get several of them to write sentences that begin with a capital letter and have an end mark. That's why your product definitely fills a void.

  3. Oh.My.Goodness!! I am also struggling with some of my third graders on this same issue. I just finished reading their informative essays on bats and cringed! They are stuck on short choppy sentences and sparse details. Your organizational structure provides the support they really need. At this point I would use it first with my whole class as a "refresher", and then teach it in small groups with my most struggling writers. Hope I win!

  4. This looks like such a great idea! I love how easy it is and how it is the same thing from week to week with only a different topic. I'd actually like to use this with my higher group as the rest of the group is still working on paragraphs. The last group is ready to move on. This would be a n easy way to provide extension.

  5. As a special education teacher, almost all of my students are struggling writers. They struggle to get their ideas on paper, to determine the words to write as well as all of the mechanics.

  6. Since I teach second grade, this would work perfectly for showing students how to organize their thoughts before writing. Right now my struggling writers are working on making sure their 'paragraphs' have more than one sentence.

    I know how you feel, though, about worrying about the three who didn't get it instead of celebrating the eighteen who did.

  7. I am struggling to get my kids just to write one well-written paragraph. We just recently started 2 paragraphs with compare and contrast. Next up will be adding an introduction and a conclusion, so your packet would come in handy. Most of my kiddos struggle with writing so I model, model, model.

    1. Thank you for your comments! The randomly selected winners are.....

      Susan K.
      Suzy Q
      Andrea L.

      Actually, I chose them because they included their email address in their profile!! It makes it much easier to give you something for free!! If the other three that posted a comment would still like this pack for free...please email me at I will be happy to send it to you!!

  8. I enjoy reading your posts!
    I am your newest follower!

  9. I have a third grade student who is really struggling with writing. We are starting with the basics of just capitalization, punctuation, and indenting. He works extremely hard, but I really do not want to overwhelm him. Student tries very hard, but is still struggling with the whole writing concept. I think this could be helpful to him. My email address is

    Thanks for the resources.

  10. I am currently teaching my first year of third grade and most of my students struggle with writing. Almost all my students speak another language at home beside English so this is one major factor in their struggle to write because they cannot gather their thoughts and effectively express them on paper. My goal for the remainder of the school year is to help them with this and hopefully have strong writers by the end of the year. Your packets are structured so well and are just what I am looking for.
    Thank you for taking the time to help other teachers!!
    Melissa Caledonia

  11. Hi, my son is in the second grade and really struggles with organizing his thoughts and putting them to paper. we are currently using the four square method but that does not seem to be helping. this seems to be a great resource. It is clear in explaining what they need to do. can you tell me how to get this?
    Thank you.

  12. I just started using your creative writing tools with my 3rd grader. He loves to read but has trouble putting thoughts and stories onto paper. We just sat and wrote his first essay together! Thank you!

  13. This is really good! I have some writers who struggle to keep up when I model things on the bored.


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