If I waited until I felt like writing, I’d never write at all. ~ Anne Tylor
I hear people say this frequently, “My child doesn’t like to write. How do I get them to write.” Well, the truth is that children love to write. What they hate is red ink all over their paper and no freedom in writing. Avoid making the mistakes below, and you will have some happy writers. (How do I know? I’ve helped hundreds of kids enjoy journal writing and self-publishing spiral bound books. This ignites the flame to write more.)
1. Over correct
This is a hard one. We all want our children to have perfect papers and master all the writing skills at once. However, it is best to select 1 or 2 items to correct. Role model how to correct those items. When the skills are mastered, you move onto 2 more skills to correct. In time, they will master all the skills. Telling someone everything that is wrong with their writing is a way to ensure they will not be motivated to do it again.
I made the mistake of doing this with my high school son, who I thought could handle it, because he was in high school. I never dreamed of over correcting him when he was little with emerging skills; thus, I thought he could handle it as a high school student, because he was older. I was wrong. I helped him with an essay he wrote for a scholarship application. After I finished working with him, unfortunately, he gave up. My over correcting made him feel like he couldn’t achieve the perfect “knock your socks off” paper in the time he had to turn it in. Instead of just doing it and possibly winning, he did nothing. Boy, once again, I had to learn the hard lesson of over correcting. So, be sure to select only 1 or 2 items to work on and praise the rest that merits praise. Success breeds success.
2. Too Technical
Teach some grammar, but if you get too technical, it kills their natural writer’s voice and their motivation to write. They will be so focused on what is proper that they will not get their thoughts on the paper.
3. Always give the topic or story starter
Let your child write about what interests them or a recent experience. Most writers write about experiences in their life, or what they are passionate about. This is easy to do, because they have the knowledge. Let your child use different formats: comics, journals, notes, lists, recipes, poems, songs, stories, biographies, novels,etc. (Click here to see a great way to tie literature to writing in a way kids enjoy)
There are so many options available for getting thoughts out of your head onto paper. The following tools are great: tablet, laptop, pen (it glides across the paper easier than a pencil. You can use erasable ink or allow them to use any ink color. Using a pen encourages just writing thoughts down and not worrying about erasing mistakes. I teach that writing is a process; editing is part of the process done later. For now, just get the thoughts on the paper.)
5. Only assign writing occasionally and without any guidance
Anyone can give a writing assignment, but what children really need is consistent opportunities to write and guided instruction. They need to be taught how to write and given clear expectations. In addition, be sure to program writing time into your daily routine. Consistency is the key to learning to do a new skill well. Even if you only allow for 15 minutes of journal writing, it is better than no writing at all. Writing is an art which is mastered with lots and lots of practice. Anyone can learn to write contrary to what our children plea. Words are the building blocks to sentences which build paragraphs which build essays. Start by role modeling and teaching good word choices. ( For example: Golden lab vs dog, meandered vs walked, etc.) Then, move onto role modeling writing good sentences, paragraphs, essays. Be sure they are reading good essays as good models too. It is easier to write well when you have read good materials. The words just ooze out of you. 🙂
Please share this article with others that you think would benefit from these tips. Also, please ask any questions that you may have about teaching children reading or writing.
To learn more about Literate For Life, see the welcome post.