Writing tip: Set boundaries

Teaching writing is one of the most daunting tasks homeschoolers face. But once you discover how to teach in measurable, objective ways, your confidence will soar. And guess what? When you radiate confidence, your kids pick up on it too!

Over the next few days, I’ll be offering simple, practical tips to help the writing atmosphere improve at your house.

Tip 1: Build confidence through guidelines and boundaries

Offer Topic Suggestions

Many children fear the blank page. But believe it or not, saying “Write about anything you want!” actually contributes to the problem. Instead, suggest topics while still giving freedom.

  • Let your student write from observation or personal experience. It’s easier than making up stories.
  • When possible, let him write about things that matter to him so his passion shines through. If the topic bores your child, his readers will yawn, too.

Set Boundaries

Make sure the assignment includes clear expectations and instructions. Your child should never have to wonder, “What, exactly, am I supposed to do?”

  • Define the nature of the composition. Is it a descriptive writing assignment? Narrative? Biography? Book report? Be clear with your student so he knows what you expect.
  • Limit composition length. If a reluctant student knows he only has to write one five- to seven-sentence paragraph, his confidence gets a boost!
  • Give step-by-step instructions. Unclear directions create anxiety. It’s not enough to just say, “Write.” Kids need to know how to write, so you’ll have to guide them through the steps. If you need help teaching the writing process, look for writing programs that give this type of guidance.
  • Provide a list of required elements, such as:
    • Describe the object but don’t tell a story about it.
    • Use one simile.
    • Begin a sentence with a prepositional phrase.
    • Find synonyms for uninteresting or overly repeated words.

Also see Writing Tip 2: Process vs. product, Writing Tip 3: Write often, Writing Tip 4: Wise Feedback Makes a Difference

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2 comments ↓

#1 Patty on 12.15.08 at 7:22 pm

I’m a new homeschooler. I dread teaching my children to write, because I don’t think I’m very good at it myself. I am so glad I have found this website. I hope to learn along with my children! Thanks for the tips!

#2 Linda on 12.16.08 at 8:19 am

Identifying exactly what they are to write about – not just saying write about dogs…but be specific with step by step instructions. I like the tip about providing a list of required elements too.

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