Entries Tagged 'Encouragement' ↓

Waiting for fruit

Waiting for Fruit | Writing Encouragement for Homeschool Moms

My kids have come such a long way in their skills using WriteShop, but they still don’t enjoy writing. It’s still “work” to them, and they’d rather be doing something else. ~Marisa, SD

Fun vs. Fruit

As parents, we toggle between wanting to use a curriculum our kids like (even if it’s less effective) and using something that’s more “work,” yet clearly produces results. For two of my own kids, math was our bugaboo. The “fun” program I used one time set them back a year, so it was back to Saxon for us, even though they didn’t especially like it.

Moment of Clarity

I love when homeschooling moms have an epiphany, that “Aha!” moment when they realize—and accept—that writing does need to be taught, and how this often means sitting with our kids and coaxing the writing out of them.

The wise parent makes the commitment to brainstorm one-on-one with her children as needed, asking leading questions and encouraging them in what they write down. She knows that their efforts would be half-hearted if she left them to work on their own.

Later, when it’s time to write the rough draft, she sometimes needs to go through the process with each one individually as well.

She sticks with her curriculum and holds her kids’ hands—not just for the sake of commitment, but because she sees fruit! Marisa adds:

 Again, I worked with each of the kids individually to get their [brainstorming] done… Though it takes a little more time than I like, the end result is far more satisfying for all of us!

I too have walked in Marisa’s—and your—shoes. When my son finally began working independently in high school, all those hours and hours of side-by-side efforts paid off. I pray they will for you too.

 

 

 

Photo: Danielle Buma, courtesy of Creative Commons.

Helping children write about a favorite memory

Lost in Thought

“But I don’t know what to write about!” 

“I can’t think of anything!”

How many times have we heard these cries of anguish when asking our children to face a blank page? And although we may do our best to encourage their creative efforts through the use of topic-specific prompts, sometimes we need to give kids more direction, more of a step-ladder to climb into the clarity of their own thinking.

Smaller Steps

The next time you’re faced with kids who are absolutely convinced the power of the pen has abandoned them, try breaking the prompt itself down into manageable parts. Doing so allows children to concentrate on one task at a time and to experience feedback in developing their ideas for written expression.

The “I Remember” Activity

Let’s use the prompt “Write about a favorite memory” as an example of breaking a writing topic into smaller chunks of ideas. This activity gives a feeling for the writing process approach and works well with any age.

Happy Little Fishergirl

  • Think of five things that have happened to you. Write down each of the five things, beginning with the phrase, “I remember.” When you’ve finished, share your ideas with me.
  • Now, write down one name associated with each of the five things you selected.
  • Write down the most important of the five senses (taste, touch, hearing, sight, or smell) that goes with each of your “I remembers.”
  • Now select the “I remember” you would most like to write about. Share the memory with me.
  • Now, writing as fast as you can for ten minutes, see how much of the memory you can get on paper. Don’t worry about punctuation or spelling; you can think about that later, if you like what you’ve written.
  • Now, let’s read your story and think of ways to possibly make it even better.

By tackling a topic in this step-by-step manner, students become more confident and skilled in the brainstorming and drafting stages of writing. And as they will discover, fluent writing flows from the power of knowing you have something to say.

. . . . .

Janet Wagner is a regular contributor to In Our Write Minds. For over two decades, Janet was an elementary and middle school teacher in two Christian academies, a public district school, and a public charter school. She also had the honor of helping to homeschool her two nieces. Janet and her husband Dean live on the family farm in the Piedmont region of north central North Carolina. Currently, she enjoys a flexible life of homemaking, volunteering, reading, writing, tutoring students and training dogs, and learning how to build websites. You can view her web work-in-progress at www.creative-writing-ideas-and-activities.com.

Creative Commons “Lost in thought” photo courtesy of Flickr.
Photo of “Happy Little Fishergirl” © D Sharon Pruitt. Used by permission.

Conversation Journals

After a busy week in the classroom, Friday evenings were a quiet, delightful treat: Delightful because I got to curl up on my living room couch, with cookies and tea, and read through my students’ journals. Delightful because the brightly colored pocket folders held the written thoughts of my kids, as they experienced classroom life in real time. Delightful because each student and I kept a written, running conversation in the pages of those folders.

Conversation journals, we called them.

Every afternoon, students penned brief summaries of:

  • their observations about each day’s class.
  • what they wanted to remember.
  • what they found difficult.
  • what they would seek assistance on to understand better.
  • what attitudes they had about learning in different subject areas.

They addressed their entries to me, and I responded, thus often beginning written conversations that would last weeks on many topics!

Not only did I gain insight into their struggles with long division, enjoyment of O.Henry’s short stories, or thoughtful concern for environmental issues, but I gained insight into my students’ growth as writers.

Conversation journals are also a handy tool in the homeschooling classroom. They provide a non-threatening context for kids to write at their own proficiency level. Mom or Dad writes back, modeling appropriate language use, but not correcting children’s language.

Such journals allow opportunities for kids to see growth in their own writing ability. And while a parental response should not result in corrections, an adult can examine a child’s writing for topic initiation, elaboration, variety, use of different genres, expression of interests and attitudes, and awareness of the writing process.

The bonus for a parent: insight into which academic concepts need to be taught to a greater depth, how a child is developing as a writer, and a shared journaling experience. That last item is the most precious of all.

Join the conversation!

Related link: Becoming your child’s pen pal

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Janet Wagner is a regular contributor to In Our Write Minds. For over two decades, Janet was an elementary and middle school teacher in two Christian academies, a public district school, and a public charter school. She also had the honor of helping to homeschool her two nieces. Janet and her husband Dean live on the family farm in the Piedmont region of north central North Carolina. Currently, she enjoys a flexible life of homemaking, volunteering, reading, writing, tutoring students and training dogs, and learning how to build websites. You can view her web work-in-progress at www.creative-writing-ideas-and-activities.com.

Springtime: The perfect time for a rebirth of writing goals

Crocus boke

Most folks think of January as a time of reflection and goal-setting. And while the New Year is certainly the most popular time for planning those resolutions, spring offers additional, thoughtful opportunities.

We view the Easter season as a time of rebirth and new growth. Why not use this time as an emergence into a new season of writing, as well?

A Writing Portfolio Conference

As a former classroom teacher, I kept writing portfolios for each of my students. With the turn of each season, I met individually with each student for a portfolio conference. As in the traditional classroom, portfolio conferences are also valuable in homeschool settings.

Assessing growth

In a portfolio conference, parent and child can face the child’s writing growth together. This is mutually informative for mom or dad, son or daughter alike. Not only do children learn more about their strengths and weaknesses, but parents learn how their children view their own work.

Parents also gain insight into the effectiveness of their teaching strategies! Children receive feedback on setting and achieving writing goals. Parents receive feedback on how to make writing activities more meaningful and useful to their children.

Discussion questions

As you prepare for a spring portfolio conference with your child, here is a list of questions to jumpstart discussion with you son or daughter:

  • What kinds of things do you like to write about?
  • What does your portfolio show about you as a writer?
  • How have you improved as a writer? What can you do well?
  • What else do you want to improve in your writing?
  • What new types of writing would you like to try this spring? Fantasy? Mystery? Poetry? Memoir pieces?

As the Lenten season prepares the pathway to Easter, may springtime lead to new avenues of writing and learning with your children.

. . . . .

Janet Wagner is a new contributor to In Our Write Minds. For over two decades, Janet was an elementary and middle school teacher in two Christian academies, a public district school, and a public charter school. She also had the honor of helping to homeschool her two nieces. Janet and her husband Dean live on the family farm in the Piedmont region of north central North Carolina. Currently, she enjoys a flexible life of homemaking, volunteering, reading, writing, tutoring students and training dogs, and learning how to build websites. You can view her web work-in-progress at www.creative-writing-ideas-and-activities.com.

Put a positive spin on editing

Put a Positive Spin on Editing | Writing with Kids

A quick peek at the “Editing & Revising” category in the sidebar will show you that I talk about editing quite a bit here. It’s a big deal for so many homeschoolers—and is often the very thing that puts a damper on an otherwise decent day or week of writing.

I’m always on the hunt for a fresh idea to share that will make the editing process even a teensy bit easier for you and your kiddos. Editing can leave an unpleasant taste in many a mouth, so today, let’s look at ways to make the process more positive.

Start Them Young

I love to see parents begin to teach self-editing skills during the elementary years—before anxiety, fear, and self-deprecation begin to overtake their children. While they’re still young, introducing them to simple ideas can actually make self-editing fun!

  • For example, you can absolutely revolutionize self-editing with one little trick: Make a photocopy of your child’s original writing project and let her self-edit the copy. This allows her to preserve the original, which many children are quite reluctant to mark up.
  • Encourage children to identify a difficult word they spelled correctly or a sentence that has no errors. They love hunting for things they did well, rather than only focusing on mistakes.
  • Another suggestion: Provide them with their own set of supplies such as highlighter markers, colored pencils, and tiny stickers. Armed with their personal editing tools, children can sit down with a real sense of purpose to find those errors and highlight the things they did well. Editing can become a joy instead of a dreaded chore.

“My son feels very professional having a tool kit for this specific job.”  -Karen, WA

A Second Pair of Eyes

But don’t stop at self-editing. Every paper benefits from another look, so once your child is finished self-editing his work, take time to edit it yourself.

  • Keep suggestions to a minimum.
  • Don’t try to find every error,
  • At this age, there’s no need to ravage your child’s paper with a red pen. When you do spot something that needs attention, try not to cross out or erase. Instead, simply print the correct word or punctuation mark directly above the old one.

When finished, give your child the opportunity to rewrite his composition on fresh paper, should he so choose.

Positive, Encouraging Feedback

Put a positive spin on editing | Editing skills for kids and parentsIt’s not always easy to edit a child’s writing attempts. We’re naturally inclined to point out all the mistakes, roll our eyes, sigh deeply in exasperation, or even become angry. Clearly, that’s not the best approach when dealing with a tender-hearted nine-year-old.

So before a negative word rolls off your tongue, affirm your developing writer by searching for things you can praise.

Next time you look over your child’s paper, why not try making a few of these positive and encouraging comments?

  • You’re off to a great start!
  • I love your ideas.
  • You are so creative.
  • What a descriptive story!
  • You shared some interesting facts.
  • Wow! You remembered all your capitalization rules.
  • Thank you for trying so hard.
  • I can see that you’ve put a lot of thought into your story.
  • Great word choices! My favorites are “powdery” and “luffy.”
  • I like your title. It gives me a good clue about your story.
  • This is my favorite sentence.
  • Fantastic! Look how your punctuation has improved.
  • You are becoming a great writer.

More Ideas: Editing Skills for Kids and Parents

Thankful in so many words

thank · ful  adj.

appreciative

grateful

content

beholden

indebted

cheerful

obliged

satisfied

overwhelmed

at peace

pleased

glad

comfortable

Helping your 3rd-5th grader with writing

Middle to upper elementary children express a really wide range of writing abilities.

Some children still struggle to hold a pencil or write words.

Some have strong verbal skills yet remain weak in writing. They can spin a great story and tell it orally, yet they’re not yet able to write independently.

Others are beginning to emerge as writers, still depending on you a great deal (as much or more than ever, it may seem). These children need to dictate ideas and sentences during both brainstorming and writing, though they’re also able to contribute more and more to the actual writing itself.

Finally, there are those who are progressing well through the stages of writing and now work fairly independently.

Encourage the Writing Process

Continue to encourage the writing process so it becomes natural. This starts by helping your child view writing as a multistage process:

  • We plan.
  • We write.
  • We make changes.
  • We write our final draft.

Ultimately, our kids begin to understand that the paper is the product and writing is the process.

How Much and How Often?

For children in grades 3-5, the focus remains on improving sentence structure and writing a solid paragraph.

  • On average, they should spend about 30-40 minutes per day on writing, depending on both age and attention span.
  • In my experience, 8-10 quality writing projects per year is plenty of writing (meaning the piece will be taken through each step of the writing process). That’s roughly one complete writing project a month. Meanwhile, lesser assignments such as book narrations, journaling, and so forth can fill in gaps.
  • A good target is 1- to 3-paragraph stories or short reports. Take care not to rush your child into longer assignments too soon. A concise, concrete, short piece beats a long, rambling, disjointed, dull, repetitive, tedious essay any day—no matter what age the child!

Remain an Involved Parent

These are bridge years, when most students go from largely parent-supported writing pieces to more independent writing. The biggest key to success with this is lots of practice. Fostering independence doesn’t mean you give an assignment and disappear! Even if it seems counterintuitive, continue working closely with your middle and older elementary children. Your 3-5th graders need you to:

  • Model and teach.
  • Oversee their work.
  • Participate with them as needed.
  • Praise their efforts.
  • Give helpful feedback.

Make Writing Fun

Start writing now! If you wait till junior high to begin teaching writing, by then it’s time to get down to brass tacks, and your children may have missed the delight of writing during their elementary years, when they learn that writing is something to enjoy and anticipate.

So most of all, for any elementary child in grades K-5, the writing experience should be fun! Motivation, excitement, and a positive learning environment all help children build confidence in their writing skills as they acquire the ability to write.

Helping your K-2nd grader with writing
Helping your 5th-8th grader with writing
Helping your high schooler with writing

Copyright 2010 © Kim Kautzer. All rights reserved.

Page copy protected against web site content infringement by Copyscape

 .  .  .  .  .

In Spring 2011, WriteShop will introduce WriteShop Junior Book D, the first in a series of writing curricula for middle and upper elementary ages. Children have so much fun playing writing games, learning to use exciting writing tools, and writing appealing stories such as adventures and mysteries that they hardly realize they’re learning!

We’ll continue posting details and info here at the blog, but if you’d like to be among the first to get the scoop about the book’s release—or even preorder, join our mailing list by visiting www.writeshop.com and looking for the newsletter sign-up box.

Helping your K-2nd grader with writing

I’m sure it’s no secret to you that children develop at different rates. One child possesses remarkable fine-motor skills, yet she struggles to speak a coherent sentence. Another talks circles around his siblings, but his handwriting leaves much to be desired.

This disparity is often more obvious during the primary years, when most children are either emerging writers with little or no ability to write or beginning writers who are developing early writing skills.

Let Go of Expectations . . . and Stress

Because fine-motor skills vary from child to child, don’t be distressed if your youngster has a hard time holding a pencil correctly, writing on a line, forming letters and words, or demonstrating neat penmanship.

These early elementary years—typically kindergarten through third grade—produce a great deal of growth in most children, but if your little one doesn’t seem to be following the pack, take a deep breath and accept that it’s okay.

Meanwhile, make sure your writing time is spent together, and that you build instruction from your child’s own efforts rather than from artificial expectations. For example, if he’s great at telling stories, but cries buckets if you make him write anything down himself, let him dictate to you as you write his words.

My youngest child definitely had his own timetable. He had the hardest time with any writing-related activity, so most of our “writing” time happened orally, with me doing the writing as he narrated. The good news is that with much mommy patience and perseverence, he eventually did “get” it.

Embrace Repetition and Routine

Have you ever noticed that your littles never tire of reading the same book or singing the same songs over and over and over again? It’s one of the main ways children absorb information, and the sooner we accept that, the more likely learning will take place.

Repetition, routine, and consistency play a major part in nurturing young writers. Since primary-age children thrive in this environment, you may have to sideline your own fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants tendencies as you devote yourself to keeping a schedule, building bit by bit on their emerging skills, and nurturing your young writers in the way they learn best. Someday you may be able to let spontaneity reign once again, but until then, routine is your friend!

Focus on Age-Appropriate K-2 Writing Skills

Too often, parents neglect teaching children how to think about and plan a story. They just assign it. Instead, give your young children tools to experience success as they develop the ability to write by teaching them to brainstorm; plan a beginning, middle, and end; and then write or dictate the story.

Typical Progression

Take care not to jump into advanced writing too soon. Instead, watch for and encourage this progression in your youngsters:

  1. Writing a letter, word, or group of words on their project according to their ability.
  2. Writing a complete sentence.
  3. Understanding the concept of a paragraph.

How Much and How Often?

  • At this age, it’s enough to devote 3 days a week to the writing process.
  • Spend 15-30 minutes max per day on writing activities, depending on age and attention span.
  • Expect your child to write 5- to 7-sentence stories. A more articulate child may show interest and inclination to write longer pieces—and that’s great. Just don’t force it. Make sure your children crawl before they walk!

Be an Involved Parent

Children cannot learn to write on their own. A parent who participates one-on-one with her child inspires success! To effectively develop basic writing skills, your child needs some important things from you:

  • Your presence
  • Your example
  • Your encouragement
  • Your daily guidance

Teaching your young child to love words and writing—or even the idea of writing—comes from purposeful instruction in a fairly structured environment. Your child may not absorb everything you say and do. He may not exhibit the skills your friends’ kids exhibit. And he may alternately drive you crazy and break your heart with his moans, groans, and tears.

Just remember that this is springtime for your little one, where you’ll see both subtle growth and explosions of learning. Take your time to nurture with patient care, and your budding writer will bloom and blossom in time.

Helping your 3rd-5th grader with writing
Helping your 5th-8th grader with writing
Helping your high schooler with writing

Copyright 2010 © Kim Kautzer. All rights reserved.

Page copy protected against web site content infringement by Copyscape

 .  .  .  .  .

WriteShop Primary is the perfect way to gently introduce writing skills to young children using repetition, routine, pre-writing games and activities, crafts, and storybooks. Perfect for most children in grades K-3. For help choosing a starting level, visit this link.

Free class: “Ten Stumbling Blocks to Writing”

At homeschool conferences, one of my favorite workshop presentations is Ten Stumbling Blocks to Writing. I love sharing practical ways parents can help their children overcome the obstacles that stand between them and the blank page—including laziness, perfectionism, and lack of motivation.

HomeschoolBlogger.com has been presenting a great lineup of FREE online classes this summer, the last of which is “Ten Stumbling Blocks.” Not only will you hear the audio, but if you’re a visual learner, you’ll also enjoy watching examples and demonstrations on a helpful, colorful PowerPoint.

Class Details

Workshop: Ten Stumbling Blocks to Writing
Presenter: Kim Kautzer, WriteShop
Date: Tuesday, August 31
Time: 2 PM EDT/1 PM CDT/noon MDT/11 AM PDT
Cost: FREE
To Register: HomeschoolBlogger Free Classes
Webinar Description: “I hate writing!” Is this the cheerful response you get when you give your kids an assignment? Then you’ll want to find out ten common stumbling blocks to writing and discover what students need in order to overcome their anxiety, fear, or lack of confidence. Learn how the steps of the writing process can actually motivate your most reluctant children, and gain tips and tools for encouraging their success.

For more information: http://homeschoolblogger.com/webinar/ten-stumbling-blocks-to-writing/

Do you have a reluctant writer?

Homeschool moms can discover the hows and whys of helping a reluctant writer.

Young students are often bursting with ideas. Most likely they can talk your ear off, but getting them to write those ideas down is another story altogether.

Where Did It Go?

The act of capturing a fleeting thought and pinning it to the paper is a challenge. We think it sounds so easy to “just write what’s in your head,” but the reality is that many children simply aren’t mature enough to put all the pieces together.

First, a thought must formulate in a child’s mind. Then, it has to travel all the way down his arm to the pencil. But by the time he starts wondering how to spell this word or punctuate that sentence, the once-delightful idea has at best been reduced to three dull words, or at worst, vanished completely.

Children 10 and under often need more help with writing than we think they should. We expect them to be able to think of an idea all on their own and then write about it. But in truth, many kids

  • Struggle to come up with writing topics.
  • Forget what they want to say.
  • Get overwhelmed by perfectionism.
  • Complain that their hand hurts.
  • Fear making mistakes.

Whether or not your children have special needs or learning struggles, writing can throw them into a tailspin.

Start Them Young

Do you have a reluctant writer? Too many students approach junior high strongly biased against writing—either because they were never taught how to write and now fear it, or because of negative experiences with writing as younger children.

But by starting them while they’re young, your children can actually look forward to writing and learn to approach it with joy. This happens when you create a safe, warm, nurturing atmosphere and offer writing activities that teach—yes—but that are also infused with fun.

One of the reasons I’m so passionate about WriteShop Primary and WriteShop Junior is the focus on letting your children ease into writing. As the parent, you gently guide, rather than push or force. Definitely not the sort of program where you give an assignment and leave them to their own devices. Instead, you’re encouraged to share in the entire process—including the actual writing.

How Much Help Should You Give?

If you wonder how much of the writing you should take on, the answer is: As much as it takes for your children to feel successful. And if you ask how much of the writing your children should be doing? Only as much as they are able. It’s very simple, really. If you sense their frustration at ANY point along the way, recognize that this is their cry for help—and your signal to take over a bit more.

Depending on your children, you might:

  • Provide them with writing ideas and prompts.
  • Encourage them to write about topics they love or that tickle their fancy—horses, sports, chess, Legos, gardening, etc.
  • Use a personal experience or familiar story as the basis for a new story. They don’t always have to come up with something unique—it’s totally fine for them to retell a familiar story in their own words.
  • Do some or all of the writing while they dictate to you.
  • Let them write the words they know while you write the words they can’t spell yet.

Instead of worrying that you’re failing your child, enjoy the realization that you’re modeling and teaching. Meanwhile, your little sponge is absorbing, processing, and sorting everything into his mental filing system.

The good news is this: You won’t handicap your child by supplying him with writing topics; he won’t become a writing failure if he lifts a story idea from a sibling; and prompting him with questions and dialog won’t create overdependence on you. It may take awhile for him to really get it. Just know that your participation with him is an important key.

Shoot the Writing Rapids—Together

As the mom of a once-reluctant, writing-phobic son, I speak from experience. My daughters were more “natural” writers who fairly sailed down the rapids of writing.

My son, on the other hand, couldn’t stay afloat in the raft! Our journey was hard, and we experienced more than our share of frustration, so I can completely relate to your struggles.

From the time we began homeschooling in kindergarten until Ben was 14 or 15, I stayed very involved with his writing, whether it meant helping him with ideas, prompting his writing with questions and dialog, or letting him dictate to me while I wrote his words down. Sometime around 10th grade, the pieces FINALLY fell into place for him, and by the time he graduated from high school, he had become a strong, independent writer.

So hang in there! Don’t be afraid to hop into the writing boat with your son or daughter. Help now, as much as your child needs you, and believe that independence will come one day.

Copyright 2010 © Kim Kautzer. All rights reserved.

Page copy protected against web site content infringement by Copyscape

Photos courtesy of stock.xchng
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