Last week in Teaching writing, part 1, I promised you some good news, and here it is: writing doesn’t have to be a tearful, hair-pulling experience! Plant a few seeds by trying some of these simple ideas, and soon your kids’ writing will begin to bloom!
Establish limits. When you set limits—such as giving step-by-step directions for the writing project—your children will feel more secure in their efforts. Provide concrete help by way of checklists, brainstorming worksheets, or skill-building exercises. Even something as simple as limiting composition length allows the reluctant writer to admit, “OK. I can write five to seven sentences.”
Expand skills. Start by introducing students to the thesaurus so they can choose more vivid, descriptive, or concrete words. As they make stronger word choices, not only will their vocabulary improve, their writing will begin to sparkle as well.
As a side note, our very favorite thesaurus is The Synonym Finder. Entries are alphabetical, so it’s easy to use. Plus, it’s the most complete thesaurus we’ve found. If you only have a junior thesaurus on your bookshelf, it can frustrate your kids because they may have a hard time finding entries for the words they use. The Synonym Finder, on the other hand, is comprehensive. They’re sure to find just the word they’re looking for.
In addition, teach your students to incorporate grammar concepts into their writing. Are they learning about prepositional phrases or appositives, for instance? Require them use one in a current composition.
Offer variety. If your kids’ writing diet consists mainly of boring book reports, change things up a bit!
- Descriptive writing lessons help students use their senses to zoom in on details—the crunch of golden leaves underfoot; the rich, buttery aroma of sugar cookies browning in the oven; the mournful howl of a winter gust as it whips through barren branches.
- Informative writing can include biographies, news articles, recipes, advice columns, short reports, instruction manuals, and more. As students get older, introduce persuasive essays and research papers as well.
- Narrative writing can take students well beyond the mundane memoirs of last summer’s vacation! Your kids can have so much more fun with their writing when they interview someone and write a narrative of his or her emotional experience. Or, they can retell a simple fable or Bible story from the perspective of one of the characters. For additional variety, introduce personification by asking them to write a story from the first-person point of view of an object. “I Am a Mirror” or “I, Weedwhacker” can inspire some lively prose!
The last part of the series, Teaching writing, part 3: The writing process, will appear next Monday, April 7. Come on back to learn how to use the writing process to set your kids up for success!
Copyright © 2008 Kim Kautzer. All rights reserved.