Writing Lessons with Simple Strategies to Help Struggling Students Grades 3, 4, 5 with Moreno Made Resources

My favorite students year after year are always my reluctant writers. They remind me of myself. I struggled with reading and writing until I was in the fourth grade and had an incredible teacher named Mrs. Moseley that changed my “fake it till I make it” strategy, and instead, she taught me new ways of learning. I quickly fell in love with writing, as it became my escape. I’m grateful for those years of struggling, failing, and persevering, because it allowed me to create strategies for writers that I’m finally able to share beyond the walls of my classroom.

I made a website with resources for students, teachers, and parents to help with handouts, video lessons, google slides, and a lesson plan blog. I hope you find the resources helpful on this site. I’ll be updating and adding to it regularly.

List of Strategies

  • Animoji Writing
  • Color-Coded Writing
  • Think, Rehearse, Write
  • Rule of 3
  • Scribe Writing
  • LEGO Creation
  • Highlighting
  • Writing Buddy
  • Scavenger Hunt Writing
  • Conferencing 1:1
  • Four Corners
  • Rubrics & Checklists
  • Draw & Describe
  • Group Projects
  • Student Centered Topics

The more fun students can have with writing, the more likely they are to stay engaged. I keep practice with these strategies to only 5-10 minutes a day at first. Eventually, children will want to write for more extended periods, but you want to build their enjoyment of writing to begin.

Focus your word choice when you talk about practicing writing and explain the benefits of improving their skill set. I also used timers, in the beginning, to help keep students focused.

The links on this site hopefully help you find these materials quickly. I am an Amazon Associate, and I earn from qualifying purchases from the links on this site.


Click on the above picture to see the video lesson, handout, and google slide for this activity.

Students will have multiple opportunities to practice writing descriptive sentences using this lesson. This activity can be a simple 5-minute warm-up writing activity or a wrap-up 15-minute fun activity to reinforce the day’s writing skill.

My students love this strategy! During 2020, I used Animoji’s for virtual tutoring to keep students engaged and excited about writing! It is an incredible resource to support students wanting to practice writing more. Even the most challenging writing concepts become comfortable when they have an octopus head, and they are writing about ocean animals. 

Please see the below link to my google slides for this lesson. For handouts and video lessons, please visit Moreno Made or my YouTube channel.


Try using 2-3 different colored sticky notes or index cards when having students write. This activity will help students edit and revise their work while still identifying the main idea sentence and the supportive (elaborating) sentence. At the beginning of the year, you can use the same idea of color-coding writing with colored lined paper. This strategy is better than using highlighters and colored pencils/pens because it allows students the freedom and flexibility to edit and revise their work effectively.

After students draft their ideas on different colored papers, we cut out the writing and line them up on our desks. Instruct writing buddies to read the article and give suggestions. This part of the lesson is also the time for 1:1 conferencing.

Think, Rehearse, Write Strategy

“Think, Rehearse, Write Now” is a strategy I use with struggling writers, that need assistance in developing or sharing their ideas onto paper. This technique will help students find ideas and get those thoughts quickly written down on paper. It will help them think through their writing process and rehearse their best ideas in their head. As a result, this will allow students to brainstorm, edit, and revise their sentences in their minds before trying to write them down. The goal of this is to decrease the frustration that reluctant writers feel. This way, struggling writers can focus on understanding the skills needed to learn to become proficient writers.

Please visit MorenoMade.com for more videos, handouts, and resources for this lesson plan.

Rule of Three Strategy

When I see students frustrated and unable to write their thoughts on paper, my go-to strategy is always RULE of THREE. It’s a small, mini, microscopic step a child can do to see an improvement instantly.

To reduce stress and frustration, I have students correct just three things in their writing at a time. For example, if they write a supportive paragraph, when they finish their sentences, ask them to find THREE words to change and improve or THREE places to fix their punctuation. Try and focus on whatever skill is their weakness or the writing skill you taught that day. The lesson for this strategy on Moreno Made relates to handwriting help. Students who have a hard time with their handwriting ask them to erase and re-write THREE words in neater handwriting. By slowing down and taking the time to correct those areas of their sentence, they will instantly see an improvement in their work instead of feeling the need to erase all their work and start over.

Be Your Child’s Scribe And Dictate Their Ideas

Help your reluctant writer by being their scribe. Your child will quickly build confidence with your help to get their ideas on paper quicker than they can for themselves. Then scaffold your assistance by guiding them to edit and revise the writing you wrote down for them. Let the child rewrite the revised sentence on their paper.

The more you do this strategy, the less help you will eventually need to give the child. The goal is for your child to be able to write independently. Try using sticky notes when you scribe for your student. This way, they can move the writing around before they rewrite their work onto their paper.

LEGO Creation Descriptive Writing

Have students use their creativity and excitement of LEGO to help them build on their writing skills. 

There are a few key ways of using this activity with a student;

  1. Let them create a LEGO set and write about the process.
  2. Have students describe their LEGO model.
  3. Create a challenging paragraph about their LEGO set to figure out what they made with LEGO from their description only.
  4. Using the LEGO website, write a supportive paragraph about LEGO.

Using a topic your child is interested in and has a passion for will help them focus more on the task and find more enjoyment while they are learning. I love using this topic because I see students’ retention of skills increased when they took their time writing and creating something simultaneously.

Using the LEGO website for a quick video tutorial was a simple way to show students how to use digital resources for paraphrasing in informational essays. I have also used this topic for opinion essays, and students picked their favorite or most challenging LEGO set to summarize.

Or discover different LEGO sets on Amazon. Then have your child write about their experience putting it together.

Use Highlighting for Reflection of Writing Improvements

I use highlighters in almost every lesson, not just because I’m obsessed with them, but because I have students find their best effort and focus their reflection on this part of their writing.

Some strategies of using highlighters include;

  • Find the best word choice in your sentence.
  • Select the sentence in your essay that shows your best effort.
  • Highlight where you tried ____ skill.
  • What are three areas of your paragraph you can change your word choice?
  • We also always highlight the title of our lesson in our journals, just for fun.

Assign a Writing Partner for Peer Sharing

Try pairing students with a writing buddy. For the first trimester, I match students with a student that have similar writing proficiency levels. I did not change these pairs for the year unless a major problem occurred. I had students sit in groups of four, with two groups of writing buddies seated at the table. This allowed me to group students with others that would push their skill set. When we would write on the carpet for each lesson, the buddies always sit together. This way, as the activity progressed, I would have students stop and share with their partners.


Allow students to explore the world around them to improve writing descriptive sentences using this strategy.

In The Classroom

The first week of school every year for me included a quick 10-minute exploration around the school. I gave each child a small notepad or let them use their writing journal to jot observations as we toured the school.

We would gather on the carpet before venturing out together. I reminded students of behavior expectations and also their journal expectations. I would chart critical questions they should be keeping in their mind as we walked and gave them a few examples from my journal to get their ideas started.

We would do the first observations of the classroom. Students shared with their buddies, and after answering any last-minute questions, we were off to explore. We paused every hallway and wrote down notes. We would go all around the playground, hallways and then sit outside at the stage to take some last-minute observations of the outdoors.

As quickly as we got back to the room, we would all meet back on the carpet and share our findings. They usually just shared with their writing buddy, but we also wrote down our best descriptions and observations on sticky notes for a class chart.

As a quick follow-up, I have students pick their best descriptive words they wrote down and turn them into a sentence to summarize what they have found. We then elaborate on these best sentences if time permits to reinforce how to take one sentence and effectively describe it with further detail.

We continue this activity whenever I notice students are writing short, simple sentences lacking specific detail.

For 1:1 Students

This is a great weekly activity to do with modifications to try and have the student guess what you are writing about by just giving specific descriptions. Then they have to write their descriptive sentence and have you think about what their writing is describing.

For Children At Home

Try a five-minute writing practice and have them go outside or even in their room and write down their observations. Have them focus on using their five senses and focus their notes on one sentence for each; sight, sound, touch, smell, taste. Then highlight their best descriptions and build ONE incredibly complex sentence to summarize their surroundings.

Conferencing 1:1 With Students

Start with a compliment; no matter how small the positive note is, it’s imperative to do this before advising, so they understand you are coming from a place of helping and not criticizing. Next, give ONE specific suggestion and model what that skill means. Please explain why this would help improve their writing. Remind them this is just a suggestion, and their work is their creation, which means it’s their final decision if they take your advice or not. Then leave them to try improving their work. 

Four Corners Strategy

I developed this strategy when I had a student who couldn’t think of a topic. Showing him different categories to build ideas helped him gather his thoughts onto paper in an organized way.

The strategy I call “Four Corners”, can be used at the beginning of a study unit to brainstorm ideas for chapters or supportive paragraph ideas. I use it primarily for students that struggle to process their ideas onto paper in an organized manner.

I use this activity with colored index cards or lined sticky notes that are of various sizes. It can be done in a journal just as quickly with different colored pens or highlighters as well.
Try and vary the colors for the four topics for the visual of changing ideas. Use this strategy to build out supporting paragraphs, and the different colors help students see where to indent when they rewrite on lined paper.

Highlighting is also great to check to make sure students included requirements for writing samples. Finding the topic keywords from the writing prompt ensures students are on topic with their hands. If they miss an element, it is easy for them to see what to revise to improve their writing.


Try scaffolding writing assignments using checklists and rubrics. I created different resources depending on my students’ specific needs. Also, make available step-by-step writing resources. If students need their tasks chunked, shortened, or broken down into smaller sections, try using index cards or cutting-lined papers.

The rubrics and checklists are for later in the school year. I try and only give rubrics and checklists based on the skills I cover. That way, I don’t overwhelm students. I’ll update this section soon with more resources.

Let Students Get Creative with Draw & Describe

Creative students will LOVE this strategy. It allows students to first draw about their topic and use their art to inspire descriptive writing.

Allow students to spend 5-10 minutes to be creative and draw about their writing. While they draw, have them think or discuss words they can use to describe the topic.

For more details and the video lesson, visit Moreno Made to view more resources for this strategy.

Group Lessons- Nonfiction Article

Build paragraphs together. For example, Kagan Jigsaw groups to learn a new skill. Have the class rotate around six different charts; 

  • Creating text features
  • Research to quote
  • Research to paraphrase 
  • Fact to elaborate 
  • Wrap up statement 
  • Example sentence 

As a class, write the transitional sentence together to understand the topic. Each group will rotate to edit and revise. Write sticky note reflection or suggestions. We used to visit each group’s chart to compliment what groups did well on a sticky note.

Another way to do this is to give the research paper, photos, chart paper, markers, and groups to create a paragraph together.

Give Them Choices Over What They Write

Give students choices about their topics. But I know this is easier said than done.

If you can’t let them write an entire essay on a topic of their choice, try to push your schedule for a one, five, ten-minute activity into your plan to give students power over their frustration with writing. When they are engaged, having fun, it is incredible the learning gains you will see in them! I saw it year after year!

Lucy Calkins curriculum was my FAVORITE units of study because of this. Yes, it was more teacher prep, but it was worth it! After the first year, it became easier to help students find their research for their topics. Her charts are incredible, and going to a training was life-changing!

Another incredible resource is Readworks.org. It has the most fantastic articles that I use to find research for students quickly.

For more free writing resources, please visit MorenoMade.com and subscribe for weekly new lessons.

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