6 writing strategies for wordy kids

Writing strategies to help highly verbal children create more concise, manageable stories

I often write about reluctant writers and their struggles to produce just a few sentences.

But what do you do with an enthusiastic, highly verbal student who (when left unchecked) scrawls out a 19-page tome? How can you encourage this eager child—and her boatload of ideas—while helping her write a more manageable story?

Today we’ll take a look at some strategies for reining in wordy writers.

The Problem with Long Stories

Teaching children to self-edit is an important goal. Most kids already have a hard time finding their own errors, but it can be completely overwhelming when they’re faced with that stack of 19 pages to edit, polish, and revise.

Not only that, long stories are often filled with tangents that wander away from the main action, so it’s wise to teach kids to narrow their focus and write concisely.

Until your child has developed the skills to plan, organize, and write cohesively, you’ll want to guide her to write stories of a more manageable length. At first, encourage her to stick to a fixed number of paragraphs. If she wants to embellish and expand (or even write a novel), she can do that in her free time.

In most cases, stories that are super long have these common characteristics: 

  • Overly broad topic
  • Many characters
  • A number of different settings
  • Many plots, subplots, and rabbit trails
  • Long, wordy sentences or run-ons

Writing Strategies for Wordy Kids

Rather than try whittling down a long story into a shorter one, it’s usually much cleaner to start over. Challenge your child to keep her new story to five paragraphs or two typed pages by following a few simple guidelines.

1. Narrow the topic.

Instead of tackling a vast subject like the Ohio flood of 1913, it often helps to take a mental snapshot—zeroing in on one moment in the midst of a bigger experience.

2. Use fewer characters.

Perhaps she could write about one main character who must save his sister as the flood waters rise. Or, she could focus on a member of the Akron fire department who helps one family get to safety.

3. Stick with one setting.

Many changes in scene and setting add to a story’s length. Though a verbal child might want to have multiple scenes in her story, suggest that she settle on one or two. 

4. Limit the passage of time.

Writing about an event that spans days or weeks pretty much guarantees that the story will be long and involved. But if she sticks to a time frame of several hours, she’ll more easily manage the story details. 

5. Choose details wisely.

Details are important! They add color and interest, and they engage the reader. By all means, encourage her to describe characters, emotions, settings, and events. At the same time, caution her that trying to fit in all of her great ideas can bog down the writing or steer her off course. 

6. Be precise and concise.

Enthusiastic writers enjoy words, don’t they? But often, their stories are tangled with awkward sentences and long strings of adjectives.

Without discouraging your student from developing a more mature writing style, explain that long sentences and big words don’t always produce good writing. Guide her to use simple language and choose more precise words.

A helpful strategy is to first invite her to write a skeleton of each sentence that includes a subject and predicate. Once she has the basic story structure in place, she can carefully choose modifiers, sentence variations, figurative language, or other details to expand each sentence and make it more colorful.

Even if their prose is a bit over the top, we’re thrilled when one of our children finds joy in writing. In what ways do you guide your wordy young author to write more concisely?

Image courtesy of bugphai / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Spring photo writing prompts

Excite a child's imagination with these photo-inspired spring writing prompts!

CHILDREN seem to burst with imagination this time of year. Don’t let them keep their ideas and stories locked inside! Inspire them to create wonderful worlds of fancy with these delightful spring picture writing prompts.

Mysterious Meadows

Many years ago, a delivery boy disappeared in this quiet field of flowers. The only thing he left behind was his faithful bicycle. What clues will you discover when you look deeper in this meadow? Where did the boy really go? Why did he leave his bicycle behind?

Excite a child's imagination with these photo-inspired spring writing prompts!

Locked in Stone

When the winter snows melted, the townspeople discovered a girl who had turned to stone. Write a story about this girl, using at least four of these words: spell, message, sunrise, water pitcher, shoes, twin sister, royal stables.

Excite a child's imagination with these photo-inspired spring writing prompts!

A Garden Guest

You wake up in a strange cottage and hear voices in the garden. Who will you meet along the garden path? What instructions will they give you, and what will happen if you don’t obey?

Excite a child's imagination with these photo-inspired spring writing prompts!

If you enjoy writing and journal prompts like these, be sure to check back each week for more Writing Prompt Wednesdays!

Photos: bm.iphone, Elliott Brown, and MAClarke21, courtesy of Creative Commons.

Why does writing matter? Part 2

Teach kids that writing matters for many future jobs and careers!

By Daniella Dautrich

PARENTS know that writing matters. It allows our children to form ideas, cement their knowledge, and spread their thoughts to others. Still, your kids might wonder if they’ll ever really use writing in their future professions. If so, encourage them that writing is important to many careers. Specifically, help them think about these four fascinating jobs that require communication through the written word!

The Mad Scientist

Students who love math and science are inclined to argue that writing isn’t important. But if one of your kids pursues computer science, chemistry, psychology, or another related field, his research will only be as valuable as his communication skills. There’s no point to scientific inquiry if you never share your work with others. This is why grad students hope to get their papers published in academic journals or conferences.

Academic papers require a broad range of writing skills, including a mastery of vocabulary, the ability to summarize main points for abstracts and related work sections, and an understanding of logical organization.

For a research scientist, writing doesn’t end with a PhD dissertation. More papers—and most likely a grant proposal here and there—are what it takes to share scholarly ideas, experiments, and results with our ever-changing world. 

Passing the Bar

Has one of your children dreamed of becoming a lawyer or legal assistant? It’s not too early to teach the skills she’ll need for technical legal writing. Reinforce her knowledge of grammar and punctuation on a regular basis. Help her identify and fix sentence fragments or dangling modifiers in her own writing and the writing of others.

Legal writing takes many forms, from preparing contracts and wills to writing persuasive briefs for court cases. Ideally, these documents are written with clarity and directness.

Of course, the legal profession involves plenty of archaic words and Latin phrases. Prepare your daughter now by instilling a sense of familiarity with these strange, confusing terms. Read aloud from a variety of old books and play memory games to learn Latin roots.

Just the Facts, Sir

When your sons hear “cops and robbers,” they probably imagine police officers with sirens, pistols, and shiny badges. Did they know that police jobs can also include writing? Full-time officers respond to many incidents throughout their shift, and they often end the day by writing police reports.

A police report describes the who, what, where, when, and how of a crime for supervisors and jury members. These narratives should be clear, detailed, and organized. Once the officer has gathered information from victims and witnesses, examined physical evidence, and possibly made an arrest, he must write it all down.

If your students desire careers in law enforcement, help them practice telling stories in chronological order. Encourage them to write with distinct paragraphs for the beginning, middle, and end. Always push them to write in the active, not passive, voice! (“The truck driver swerved and hit the telephone pole” is much more informative than “The telephone pole was hit by a vehicle.”)

The Sales Pitch

Careers in marketing and advertising come in all shapes and sizes, from traditional 9-5 jobs to freelance work-from-home positions. What do these roles share in common? Strong writing skills!

If your daughter is someday hired to develop radio commercial scripts or magazine print ads, she will need to engage her audience with witty, fresh, and memorable writing. No room for dull or vague words here!

Perhaps she’ll work on website development for a clothing company or restaurant chain. Sensory, descriptive writing is often the key that converts clicks into sales! From company slogans to “back-cover copy” (the blurb on the back of a book), writing skills can transform simple products into golden eggs for both employers and employees.

I’m sure you can think of even more real-world jobs that require strong writing skills. Discuss these with your kids over lunch or dinner. We’d love to hear what you come up with!

Photo: Leonid Mamchenkov, courtesy of Creative Commons

Geography journal prompts

Jump into geography with your kids using these journal prompts about children around the world!

EXPLORE foreign cultures with your kids as they write about children around the world! These fun geography journal prompts will help jumpstart your adventures.

1. My Own Little Corner

If you lived in the Russian city of Moscow, your family might share an apartment kitchen with two other families, and you might fold up your bed every morning to save space! Imagine how your life would be different in Russia, and journal your thoughts.

2. School Days

If you attended school in Morocco, you would probably go home for a two-hour lunch break each day and return to school for classes until 5:00 p.m. Compare and contrast this schedule with a typical school day in your home.

3. Fiesta Dreams

If you lived in Mexico, you would probably celebrate El Día de los Niños (Children’s Day) on April 30. On this day each year, schools and streets overflow with colorful candies and piñatas, while music and laughter fill the air. Make a list of ten activities you would include in a “Children’s Day” celebration.

4. The Family Table

If you lived in Armenia, you might enjoy eating sarma—grape leaves stuffed with rice and meat. Don’t forget to try some tomato sauce and plain yogurt on top! Write an appealing description of this dish for a restaurant menu.

5. Cheers, Mate!

If you lived in the remote Australian outback, you might attend the School of the Air. A  satellite network would allow you to view real-time classes on your computer, while web cameras and email would help you interact with your teacher. What would you like most about attending the school of the air? What would you like the least?

Be sure to check back each week for more Writing Prompt Wednesdays!

Photo: woodleywonderworks (globe) and Juan Antonio Capó Alonso (stone wall), courtesy of Creative Commons


Why does writing matter, Mom?

Yes! Writing matters--because the freedom to think and persuade will always matter.

By Daniella Dautrich

DO your efforts to teach writing feel like an ongoing tragedy (or comedy)? Perhaps you slog through the lessons and tell the kids it’s important, when you’ve never cared much for writing yourself. Now they look at you with that awful question on the tip of their tongues:

Why does writing matter, Mom?

If you’re not quite sure how to answer them, it may help to remember this: to teach writing is to set a mind free. When you press on week after week, you help preserve the freedom to think and critique—the liberty to spread ideas and inspire hope.

The goal of education is true understanding. Hearing and reading add up to half of the equation. Writing makes up the other half.

  • Once we’ve heard or read something, writing lets us reflect and respond.
  • Memory drills rehearse facts; writing lets us compare those bits of information, see distinctions, and form judgments.
  • Culture bombards young people with cookie-cutter thoughts; writing helps them form their own ideas, shaping them into something orderly and beautiful.

When you teach your kids to write, you give them the power to share their own experiences and to persuade others. These tools will become invaluable as they step into their adult roles in the world.

Words from the Pulpit

If your son is called into ministry one day, he may find himself speaking to an audience every week. While sermons begin with prayer and study, they take their full shape on paper. The writing skills your kids learn today—such as brainstorming, research, and organization—could have profound impact on future generations. Well-crafted words can live in the minds and hearts of the listener longer than we might imagine.

Blogging with Purpose

When your daughter marries, she may choose to embrace the high calling of stay-at-home-mom. In this role, giving and receiving support from like-minded women is essential! Teach her writing and blogging skills today, and she will carry the ability to connect with other moms (and perhaps earn a side income) wherever she goes.

Proper grammar and spelling, practiced in your homeschool day after day, can become badges of credibility in public forums like blogs. Clear, concise writing can engage new readers in fresh ways through blogs about family life, homemaking, or homeschooling. Take advantage of opportunities today to prepare your daughter for a writing outlet in the future.

Spreading a Message

At some point, your grown children may feel drawn to work or volunteer in the nonprofit sector or political realm. Who knows? Perhaps your one of your kids will run for a local office or start a nonprofit organization!

From candidates to interns, spokespersons to secretaries, the visionaries who staff political offices, think tanks, and charities all rely on writing skills. Proofreading an editorial or article? Fine-tuning a ballot statement? Mass-mailing a fundraising letter? It’s time to roll out your revision toolkit! Self-editing (and editing other people’s writing) is perhaps the most important real-world writing skill.

I hope you’re encouraged as you consider ways your children will write in the future. Next week, we’ll look at more unexpected careers that involve writing!

Photo: Kathleen Franklin, courtesy of Creative Commons

CHOH Conference and Curriculum Fair

WriteShop will be attending the CHOH (Christian Homeschoolers of Hawaii) Conference March 14-15. This conference will be held at Kalihi Union Church, Honolulu, Hawaii.

CHOH Conference WriteShop

Visit the vendor booth

As you begin looking toward the next school year, it’s also the perfect time to stop by the WriteShop booth to ask questions, see what’s new, or browse through WriteShop books in person.

At the convention you can:

  • See our full line of WriteShop products
  • Purchase the newest WriteShop Primary books.
  • Thumb through the exciting new WriteShop Junior materials.
  • Learn how you can teach a WriteShop co-op class in your area.
  • Receive much-needed encouragement about teaching writing.

Attend Kim Kautzer’s workshops

Kim Kautzer

Gone Fishing: Tips and Ideas to Motivate Young Writers

Friday 12:30 -1:30

Inspiring Successful Writers (Teaching Teens)

Friday 4:30 -5:30

Writing Strategies for Special Need Kids

Saturday 1:00 – 2:00

Growing Your Child’s Vocabulary

Saturday 3:00 -4:00

Visit CHOH’s website for more information.

March Free Printable Writing Prompt

This month we have two printable writing prompts– one geared toward teens and the other for elementary kids!

Elementary students: Take a trip to the zoo! Which animal would you take home for a pet?

Teens: The world is changing. What change have you observed over the past five years?

March Printable Writing Prompt from Writeshop

Click the image above to download the “Zoo Writing Prompt” and the “Changes in the World” writing prompt. If you would like to share this prompt with others, link to this post. Do not link directly to the PDF file. Feel free to print this PDF file for your own personal use. Please do not sell or host these files anywhere else.

Be sure to check back each week for more Writing Prompt Wednesdays!

Library writing activities with kids

Head to the library for some kid-friendly writing activities!

By Daniella Dautrich

DO you ever get to spend an afternoon at a favorite coffee house to read, work, or do some lesson planning? Then you know there’s nothing like a fresh learning atmosphere to make old familiar tasks more fun and appealing!

If your kids are starting to drag their feet with writing assignments, plan a special writing day at your local library. With a little thinking ahead, you can create a memorable school day with your elementary-age children.

Interview a Librarian

The day before your library visit:

Set out a spiral notebook (or a clipboard with lined paper) for your child. Help him write a list of five interview questions for the local librarian. Be sure to leave several blank lines after each question for the answer.

Hint: Questions can range from work experience to educational interests to creative ideas. For example: How long have you worked or volunteered here? What kinds of books do you like to read the most? What do you think of the new library remodeling project?

At the library:

Find a librarian who doesn’t seem too busy. Encourage your child to introduce himself and ask his interview questions. If he lacks confidence about writing down answers on the spot, perhaps you can write down the librarian’s responses on scratch paper. Then find a study table where your child can fill in his interview sheet with neat, unhurried handwriting.

Brainstorm with Picture Books

The day before your library visit:

Decide on a topic for your child’s next writing assignment. Will she write a story about dogs and cats, or a descriptive paragraph about a ballerina? Once you’ve agreed on a topic, she can look forward to brainstorming with picture books at the library.

Hint: Check your library’s website, and make a list of book titles and call numbers the day before your visit. This will save time and energy with your little ones when you get there.

At the library:

Gather two to four picture books on your child’s writing topic, and find a comfortable reading area. As you look through the pictures (not the text), encourage her to make a word bank of words and phrases related to her topic. Illustrations of a ballerina might prompt her to write down hair in a bun, sparkling eyes, pink tights, black leotard, stretching, bending, reaching, tall, thin, and graceful. As long as she stays engaged in creating her list, try not to offer your own ideas. She will enjoy using her very own word bank when it’s time to finish the writing assignment later in the week.

Revise with Reference Books

The day before your library visit:

Make sure your child has completely finished the first draft of a writing assignment. When he gives it to you, circle or underline all the vague words, boring nouns, and ho-hum verbs and adjectives.

Hint: Younger children will need more help with this activity. Older elementary and junior high students should work independently, for the most part.

At the library:

Let your child research the call numbers for a thesaurus. Depending on the particular library and book title, he may need to peruse the reference shelves. When he has chosen one or two promising books, find a study table where he can revise his writing assignment from the previous day. Using the thesaurus, he can replace weak, low-information words with words that pop off the page and make the reader hungry for more.

Of course, most of these writing activities can easily take place at home on a rainy day. But I’m sure your family will appreciate a change of scenery and a change of pace when you share uninterrupted writing time at the library.

Photo: John Blyberg, courtesy of Creative Commons

WriteShop’s 2014 Homeschool Convention Schedule

WRITESHOP will be exhibiting at a number of homeschool conventions around the country this spring and summer. Will you be attending any of these events? If you’ll be there in person, we invite you to stop by our booth in the exhibit hall and say hello!

WriteShop 2014 Convention Schedule


March  14-15

CHOH – Christian Homeschoolers of Hawaii
Honolulu, HI
Kim Kautzer is a featured speaker:

  • Gone Fishing: Tips and Ideas to Motivate Young Writers
  • Inspiring Successful Writers (Teaching Teens)
  • Writing Strategies for Special Need Kids
  • Growing Your Child’s Vocabulary

April 5-6

MPE – Midwest Parent Educators Conference
Kansas City, MO

  • Workshop: Inspiring Successful Writers

April 10-12

SHEM – Southwest Home Education Ministry
Springfield, MO

May 2-4

2:1 Conference
Bloomingdale, IL
2:1 is not a homeschool convention, but WriteShop is attending as a conference sponsor.

May 9-10

Homeschool Book Fair
Arlington, TX
Kim Kautzer is a featured speaker:

  • Gone Fishing: Tips and Ideas to Motivate Young Writers

May 15-17

IA Conference (NICHE) – Network of Iowa Christian Homeschool Educators
Des Moines, IA,

May 22-24

NCHE – North Carolinians for Home Education
Winston-Salem, NC

June 5-7

ICHE – Illinois Christian Home Educators
Naperville, IL

June 12- 14

Great Homeschool Convention
Ontario, CA

June 13-14

WHO Convention – Washington Homeschool Organization
Puyallup, WA

July 11-12

AFHE – Arizona Families for Home Education
Phoenix, AZ

July 11-12

H.I.N.T.S. Book Fair
Matthews, NC

  • Workshop: (TBD)

July 25-26

VHE – Valley Home Educators
Modesto, CA
Kim Kautzer is a featured speaker:

  • Writing is a Process, Not a One-Time Event!
  • Teaching the Timed Essay
  • Writing Strategies for Special Needs Kids

Magical journal prompts about wishes and dreams

Magical and heartwarming journal prompts about dreams and wishes make a great writing warm-up activity!

EVERY child loves to daydream, whether about magical worlds or making this world a better place. If your kids need a writing warm-up this week, let them choose one of these journal prompts about dreams and wishes.

1. Stardust Stories

Do you ever wake up in the morning and wish your dream from the night before would come true? Write about one of those dreams and why it was so special to you.

2. Sweet Surprises

Best friends often share their dreams for the future. If you could make one wish come true for a friend, what would it be? Write a short poem (four to eight lines) about how you’d plan this wonderful surprise.

3. Magic in a Bottle

You have just discovered an ancient genie who will grant you three wishes. You may only ask for physical things, not intangible ideas such as “peace” or “happiness” or “fame.” What will you choose, and why?

4. Seeking Funds, Changing Lives

Imagine you are a fundraising coordinator for the Make-A-Wish Foundation, a non-profit organization that grants wishes for children with life-threatening diseases. Brainstorm three goals or ideas for raising money, and write a paragraph describing one of these strategies.

Be sure to check back each week for more Writing Prompt Wednesdays!

Photo: Joe, courtesy of Creative Commons
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