Intrinsic motivation means children write without any additional outside incentive. No bribes. No treats. No money. But the truth is that few children are motivated by the sheer love of writing. So—short of paying them off with cash or candy—what can you do to inspire them?
Writers Need an Audience
Writing for an audience adds purpose and meaning to the assignment. Having an audience takes your child past the point of writing for a “requirement” or a grade—and it certainly takes him beyond writing just for his normal, everyday audience of one: you.
Importance of an Audience
You can spark renewed interest in writing by guiding your child to think of ways to broaden his understanding of what an audience can be. Help him experience how others can find pleasure in reading his work. He’ll be rewarded with increased joy and confidence, and I think you’ll begin to see his writing blossom as he takes more pride in his efforts.
Seeing Their Works in Print
When I taught writing classes years ago, we always ended the year with a Writers’ Tea. Our students invited friends and family, dressed up for the occasion,and recited poetry. At the end, we passed out class anthologies featuring samples of each student’s best writing. As they pored over the stories and poems in the spiral-bound booklets, it was clear how much the children enjoyed seeing their works in print and sharing the anthologies with their parents and grandparents.
Thinking Outside the Box
An anthology is just one of many ways to publish. Below are some other suggestions for expanding your kids’ writing audience or showcasing their writing through their published projects. When they polish a story or poem so that it’s the best it can be—and when they go beyond the traditional “final draft” to create an interesting published project—they’ll be much more likely to write for the joy of it. Here are some ideas:
- Shape Books: Cut out shapes that match the story’s theme (e.g., house, car, seashell or animal shape). Use cardboard or heavy cardstock for the top and bottom cover and grade-level lined paper for the pages. Staple edges, or lace the pages together with yarn.
- Puzzle: Glue a photocopy of the child’s story to a piece of cardstock. On the back, have her draw a picture about the story. Cut the cardstock into 8 or 9 simple puzzle pieces that a friend or family member can assemble.
Board Game: Suggest that your child create a board game about his story. Play the game with the family.
- Journaling Notebook: Assemble your child’s journal pages into a special notebook.
- Cards and Letters: Help your child create a card on the computer. Or provide her with scrapbooking papers, punches, stickers, and other supplies so that she can make a fancy card for publishing her friendly letter or invitation letter.
- Comedy Night: Have your child write & illustrate funny story. Host a special family Comedy Night. Start by having your young author share her humorous story. Then choose a funny cartoon to watch or a stack of silly books to read. Invite everyone to tell their favorite jokes.
- Suitcase Story: For a story about a travel or vacation experience, make a suitcase out of a 12- x 18-inch piece of brown construction paper. Fold the paper in half and round the corners with scissors. Cut two handles from yellow or tan paper and tape them in place. Staple the child’s final story inside the suitcase.
Publishing Factual Reports and Book Reports
- Lapbooks and Flap Books: These make great avenues for displaying facts, photos, drawings, and short reports. They work well for factual reports as well as for explaining the steps of a process. Here’s just one of many lapbooking websites to help get you started.
- Mobiles: Mobiles are a fun way to publish a report or book report! You can attach index cards or paper shapes to a length of string or yarn and hang them from a coat hanger or the rim of a paper plate. On one side of each card, have the child write facts about his topic or details about a book’s characters, setting, or action. On the back, he can illustrate.
- Trivia Game: This is a great way to publish a younger child’s short factual report. On the cover of a manila file folder, have the child write five questions about her topic and then staple the report inside. Let family members or friends try to guess the answers. Then they can open the folder and read the report to see if they were right!
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Most of these fun and creative activities come straight from the pages of WriteShop Primary and WriteShop Junior, elementary writing programs that incorporate clever publishing ideas into every lesson.