Young children in grades K-2 are usually considered “pre-writers”—just learning to write letters, words, and groups of words. Their writing experience should be fun! After all, isn’t our goal is to help our primary-age children build confidence as they gain the ability to write?
Daily Guided Writing
Because children learn best by example, take time to model good writing techniques to your child. Let her narrate her words to you through a daily time of guided writing. This gives her that predictable, shared writing experience that’s so important to her development.
For beginning readers, the predictable patterns and easy sight words build confidence. For more confident readers, narration gives daily practice in reading and writing harder words and sentences.
Most importantly, this time of guided writing gives kids the freedom to put together ideas and create word patterns without the limitations and fear of having to write them down. So even if your child already knows how to write simple sentences, you can often get more from him if he is allowed to dictate his words to you rather than write on his own.
How to Elicit Narration from Young Children
Together, you and your child can write several short sentences about simple, familiar topics such as animals, friends, the weather, or upcoming events. Sounds easy, right? But if you ask your son to tell you all about friends, for example, he’ll probably say, “I don’t know.” It’s an awfully broad topic, after all, and his little mind may be all a-jumble. Most kids need direction, but some will need more help than others to formulate their thoughts into simple words.
So how do you get your child to dictate to you? It’s all about asking questions! For the youngest or most reluctant kids, begin by writing three to five predictable sentence starters, such as:
- A friend is
Friends like to
Friends are special because
Next, discuss various options for ideas on how to complete each of the three sentences. Ask questions to lead and prompt your little one and to keep the dialog on track. Here’s one idea:
- You: Let’s think of some words that tell us about friends. I’ll go first. A friend is funny. Now it’s your turn.
Child: A friend is happy.
You: A friend is important.
Child: A friend is kind.
You: These are all great. Which one should we choose for today?
Child: A friend is kind.
You: Let’s write that. A friend is kind. Here’s the marker. Can you help me write the word kind?
You: What do friends like to do together?
Child: Play games.
You: Let’s use complete thoughts. Friends like to play games together. Say that. “Friends like to play games together.”
Child: Friends like to play games together.
You: Great. Let’s write it down. Friends like to play games together. Can you help me with the marker?
You: Tell me—why are friends special?
Child: Because they share their toys?
You: Yes, that’s a very important reason. Can you finish this sentence to make a complete thought? Friends are special because ____.
Child: Friends are special because they share their toys.
You: Good job. Now let’s write that down. Friends are special because they share their toys.
When you’re done, you might end up with something like this:
- A friend is kind.
Friends like to play games together.
Friends are special because they share their toys.
Not only have you modeled thinking skills to your child (by asking questions like who, what, and why), but you’ve also demonstrated simple techniques of beginning with a capital letter, ending with a period, and using a complete thought. See how a simple five-minute dialog can go a long way in teaching basic writing skills?
Copyright © 2008 Kim Kautzer. All rights reserved.
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This dialog comes from Lesson 4 of WriteShop Primary Book A. WriteShop Primary is filled with dialog examples to help you prompt your child during daily guided writing times. Book A is now available in our store. Book B should be released later this year.