Symptom: Student thinks all writing is supposed to be flawless on the first try.
Suggestion: Assure the student that a first draft is just that, a FIRST draft, a first attempt to get something down on paper. The first draft is the unrefined ore from the mine. It has to come out, and nobody expects it to be much good until it is improved. Fresh notebook pages can be intimidating; try scratch paper
2. Assignments too broad or too vague.
Symptom: Student freezes up, stares at the paper or computer screen and doesn’t know where to start.
Suggestion: Narrow down the assignment to make it as specific as possible. “Write about our trip to the Grand Canyon” floods the student’s mind with so many impressions that there’s no definite place to start. “Tell how the rock colors changed as the sun went down” is an assignment with a sharper focus.
Symptom: Student is ashamed of being a bad writer and doesn’t want to display it.
Suggestion: Try for one small improvement at a time, maybe a few more definite words, or one or two more lively actions in one scene of a story, or varying the sentence lengths in one paragraph. Count every improvement as a success!
Symptom: Student thinks “I can’t write” and that it’s no use to try.
Suggestion: Search for a different focus for writing besides “learning to write.” What is the student’s own best reason to write? To explain himself, to teach a skill, to enlist others in an unusual hobby, to save a memory, to right a wrong? Start there. Or use the flying-start approach with existing published writing. Take a familiar story and ask “How could it end differently? Start differently?”
5. Mechanical difficulties.
Symptom: Student has trouble managing the pen or pencil or keyboard.
Suggestion: Experiment with what works best at this stage of the student’s physical development. Typing is not sacred if the student does better with a pencil, and vice versa. Work in spurts; take frequent breaks. Maybe take time to just practice handwriting or keyboarding, then tackle writing when the student is six months older.