Writing Help for Elementary Students

Back in school, you probably had some moments where you just did not feel like writing — the topic wasn’t interesting, you didn’t like poetry, or you just felt intimidated by the blank white page. Your child probably feels the same way at times. That’s why we developed a list of tips, tools, and free resources dedicated to writing help for elementary students.

Read on if you want to know:

  • 6 reasons why elementary students might struggle to get words on the page
  • how to help your child get through these specific hurdles
  • 7 ways parents can get writing help for elementary students right now
  • links to free online writing platforms, games, and visual writing aids for your child to improve their writing skills in a low-pressure environment

6 Reasons Why Students May Struggle to Write

1. Low Motivation

When students don’t have a personal interest in a creative assignment, it’s much harder for them to get started.

Luckily, a little creative freedom and personal choice goes a long way when it comes to writing help for elementary students.

2. Lack of Inspiration

If you and your child are feeling uninspired, use some of these writing prompts for kids.

In instances where students don’t have a lot of guidance on what to write, they may have difficulty coming up with a topic to write about.

Staring at a blank page with no ideas can get really terrifying, too — which brings us to another possible reason elementary students need writing help.

3. Lack of Confidence in Writing Capabilities

A lot of students judge themselves very harshly, even from a young age. And when they start to feel bad about an activity so early on, then they really start to fear and try to avoid it.

They might judge themselves for not having any “good” ideas, or think that their writing is “horrible.” Some students go so far as to crumple their papers up and throw them away.

At this stage, it’s really important to make your child feel safe to write, and to show you their writing. This is the time to nurture the good ideas, and to very gently point out any errors.

And let them know that they are not a failure if their writing doesn’t come out “perfect.”

4. Difficulty Structuring Writing

Structuring a short story or an essay can be difficult even for well-practiced writers. Imagine how elementary schoolers feel when starting a completely new form of writing.

When they first start out with writing that has several interwoven parts, it’s easy for them to spin out and miss a key point of a persuasive essay or an incomplete plot line.

This is where things like visual organization tools come into play.

5. The Editing Process

The struggle to write a complete story is not unique to elementary schoolers — although some people are just naturally more creative than others. But everyone can relate to the monumental effort it takes to edit a piece and produce a polished work 

Elementary students may especially struggle with this, since it takes focus to go over something they have “already done.” They also have to be open to criticism and to the idea of correcting their own mistakes.

Younger students who are generally more celebrated than critiqued will feel uncomfortable with the idea of being “wrong.” And this can be hard to move past.

6. Physical and/or Mental Health Barriers

Individuals who struggle to write may also be dealing with:

  • dyslexia, a learning difficulty that makes it hard for students to break down and make sense of words
  • ADHD, a disorder that makes it difficult for students to focus on reading and writing
  • dysgraphia, which makes it difficult for people to physically write words on paper
  • dyspraxia, a coordination disorder that makes it hard for students to perform movements in order

In cases of physical or mental health barriers, an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) can help you get the information and assistance you need to help your child flourish.

Related: What is an IEP and how does it benefit your child?

Writing Help for Elementary Students: 7 Things You Can Do to Help at Home

1. Learn their barriers to writing success.

Observe your elementary schooler as they do their writing assignments.

Take note of when they start to struggle. Is it before they even begin? Do they blank in the middle of writing their stories, summaries, or presentations? Do they neglect the editing process?

You can also simply talk to them about what’s holding them back. Listen to their needs and work with them to resolve barriers to success.

2. Create a reading culture at home.

There’s no way around it — if your student is going to write, they have to read.

Reading texts in different styles and on different topics helps your child expand their thinking about what they can write about and what “counts” as good writing.

Expose them to things like comic books and online stories — these are all just different presentations of story and knowledge.

Related: This is how to use comic books to improve your child’s reading skills.

3. Get your child in the habit of freewriting or journaling.

Freewriting and journaling are ways for your child to express themselves without the fear of “being wrong.” It’s a low-pressure way to get kids into the habit of writing.

Don’t monitor this kind of work for grammar, style, or content — your child’s journal is their safe space and parents should respect that.

Related: Find out why journaling is so important for elementary students and how to help them create their own.

4. Engage your child in different kinds of writing: informational, storytelling, poetry, whatever they have encountered in class.

Making up stories is fun, and definitely encouraged, this is not the only form of writing your child will run into throughout their lives.

Help them develop their summarization, research presentation, and creative skills by having them write in different styles.

Follow the sort of writing skills your child has encountered in class.

Even when your child’s class moves on from a certain writing format, include it in your child’s writing prompts or “challenges.” That way, they’ll consistently work on and retain useful writing styles.

They can even “copy” the writing style of different authors, but write about something they’re interested in.

For example, your child may read an informational text about the history of space exploration.

But maybe that article was boring to them. Offer ideas for more interesting texts, like an informational article about a game or TV show they especially write. Ask them to write down facts about the topic, how it came to be, why they like it, and why they think this information is important for people to know.

5. Use graphic organizers to add a visual aspect of writing and editing help for elementary students.

There are tons of free graphic organizers out there to help students gather their thoughts before dedicating themselves to writing an assignment.

Use some of the free interactive graphic organizers listed below and let your child think visually.

6. Go over your child’s work together. 

Use a printer or copier to duplicate your child’s work. (If they really need to practice their handwriting, have your child rewrite their work.)

Then, you can either ask them to edit their paper, while you edit the duplicate. After, come together to discuss what went well and what didn’t — with the writing itself and the editing process. Point out any errors they missed or stylistic choices they could have made.

Then send them off to incorporate the edits into their next draft.

You could also forego the independent editing if your child is not at that level yet, and look over their paper together.

Gently point out errors and ask them to think about how to fix them.

In either case, give your child colored pencils, crayons, or create a key that visually indicates what kind of error your child made. You can even borrow error symbols from online spelling and grammar checks, like red squiggles under misspelled words.

Creating an editing system now will save your child a lot of time in the editing process later.

7. Write with your child. And let them read your work.

There is power in being vulnerable with your child. They appreciate when you engage in an activity with them, and your child will probably enjoy the idea of critiquing you, too.

Write something silly: a story they star in, a personal narrative about something embarrassing you did when you were a kid, a funny article about a topic they would find interesting.

Give it to them and let them “edit” it for you.

Online Writing Resources for Help Elementary Students to Get Engaged

ReadWriteThink Student Interactives: Online, Interactive Graphic Organizers for Prewriting

ReadWriteThink story map graphic organizer for prewriting help for elementary students. Text: Organizing & Summarizing: Launch the tool!

Image courtesy of ReadWriteThink.

ReadWriteThink is an online platform dedicated to free student engagement tools and materials. They offer a number of online fillable graphic organizers, diagrams, and other customizable tools. Your young writer can use these for crucial prewriting activities such as idea generation, plot structuring, or information organization.

Interactives include:

  • story maps: students develop their own characters, settings, conflict, and resolutions with sets of organizers
  • cube creators: students create outlines for different kinds of writing, using prebuilt story cubes, mystery cubes, biography (and autobiography) cubes; or, they can create their own cube from scratch
  • timelines: students can create drag-and-drop timelines of events for informative, narrative, or fiction writing; they can incorporate labels, text boxes, and images to their timeline
  • graphic maps: students chart the high and low parts of a story idea, life events that they want to include in a personal narrative, etc.

The more your child has planned out before they start writing, the less likely it is that they will get stuck later on.

Youth Passion Project: Free, Online Writing Lessons for Your Student

Youth Passion Project course catalogue. Text: Introduction to creative writing.

Image courtesy of Youth Passion Project.

Youth Passion Project is a free online platform with a variety of courses, all taught to young learners by high schoolers.

A lot of courses are designed for grades 5-8, but there are courses for elementary schoolers in the humanities and arts. (And a lot of courses, such as Bullet Journaling, are accessible to younger students with your guidance.)

Courses are live and, for most classes, require only household items and a WiFi connection.

Sign your child up for the next Creative Writing session today!

Storybird: An Art-Inspired, Kid-Friendly Writing and Publishing Platform 

Storybird online kid-friendly writing platform. Text: Write a picture book.

Image courtesy of Storybird.

Storybird combines the power of written word, visual storytelling, and artistic collaboration in their free story writing and sharing platform.

Your child can write and print their own:

  • picture book
  • longform story
  • comic book
  • flash fiction work
  • poetry

They can post their work and get feedback from peers and educators in a safe, moderated online space.

Elementari: Low-Pressure Exposure to Writing and Coding

Elementari writing and coding story platform.

Image courtesy of Elementari.

Elementari is a free online platform for students to read, write, and share interactive stories. Students use words, images, animations, voiceovers, and basic coding logic to create stories that interact with the reader. It’s kind of like making a choose-your-own-adventure book.

Students can also “remix” other students’ work to create new story endings.

If you take anything away from the article, let it be this: Engagement is key.

If you really want to help your elementary student with writing well, you need to help them write often.

The more they write, the more chances they have to practice the writing, spelling, and grammar skills they learn in class. They also have more chances to get creative and inspired, which will help expand their thinking.

Looking for sample texts to help your child understand different writing formats, get ideas, or practice word processing skills? Check out our free library of reading passages and sets. Filter by grade level, topic, genre, and writing style to find the perfect writing pieces for your child.