Most teachers really dread teaching writing. My strange genetic make up allows me to love the writing process and teaching kids how to get their ideas down on paper. Excitement builds within me whenever I start planning a writing project. Usually, kids give the long drawn out moan on the first time I announce we're going to do some writing, but by the end of the year the kids are asking when we're going to do the next one. Now that's a feeling of accomplishment.
If you're a parent or teacher trying to encourage your children to write, I have some tips for you. Over the next few weeks, I'll share some lessons I used to do in class to pull out the best writing from my kids. I hope I'm able to do the same with my own as they grow.
One of the best things you can do for your child is to have them keep a journal and have them write in it everyday. This can be very overwhelming for some kids. They just don't know what to write. In the beginning, I would put a writing prompt on the board for those who have writer's block. The kids did not have to choose the writing prompt, but it offered a choice to those who didn't know where to start. I also kept the writing limited to one minute. Sound too short? A minute can seem like forever when you're a kid doing the writing, but seems doable when they hear the short time limit. During that minute I have one rule. You're pencil must be moving and it must be writing words. At first I don't worry about the content. Some kids write, "I don't know what to write," over and over and over. After a while they get tired of writing that and their brain starts connecting to their hand.
If you're wondering what you do with the child who loves to write and a minute is just too short to put their ideas down on paper, I have an answer for you too. Kids who complain that a minute is too short, generally already have a love for writing. As they finish other assignments in class have them revisit their journal to continue their thoughts, or continue their story during the next journal write time. Be sure you check on them to show your interest in their ideas. Don't allow it to just be work to keep them busy. Show your kids you value what they write.
Now that you know what to do with the child who won't write and the child who won't stop writing, I want to encourage you to allow your kids to share with others. If you're doing this activity at home, try to find a buddy who will also commit to journaling. If you're a teacher, offer a few minutes of class time immediately after the journal write for kids to share who want to share (Never force kids to share their thoughts if they do not want to). This will allow other kids to hear all of the different types of writing kids record. Some kids will write personal narratives and others will write lists of what they need to do when they get home. All types are writing, and all have a place. Just encourage your kids to write!