Parents often express frustration at teaching their children compositional writing. Join us for a lively discussion with practical tips about teaching writing. We will give you the tools to approach this subject with confidence.
Regarding “reluctant writers”: Get really curious about where the reluctance comes from, because until you are clear on the why, you cannot help them overcome it. Is it in their mechanical skills (penmanship, stamina, or spelling), their interest (in the projects or the way writing is being taught), the length of the process (creating anxiety or boredom), or in purpose (understanding the why of compositional writing)? Once identified, work hard to find the way in, even if it’s a very small success. Gaining a foothold will give you a start, and finding something THEY LOVE will be the key to their writing heart.
Think of writing as communication. Being able to choose their words carefully to convey exactly what they want is being able to communicate clearly. And let them see the consequences of this communication—an engaged audience (even an audience of one) will help give purpose to writing assignments.
Have just enough choice to engage them. Too little choice will lead to resistance, but too much choice in the writing process leads to paralysis. If we provide children with a path, it is easier for them to “fit themselves into the frame” of storytelling. This is why model texts, model and teach, and brainstorming are such valuable tools in the compositional process; models provide the frame, model and teach shows how to use the frame to create a similar story, and brainstorming guides choices for their own piece of writing.
Remember to “keep the thing the thing” by focusing on the main goals and skills of the assignment. Don’t edit, revise, and grade a composition for everything, especially not all at once. Instead, first look for what you can celebrate as an indication of growth. Then, evaluate based on that assignment’s specific goals and skills. If they can handle more, complete a general editing checklist.
When trying to find your own footing as an instructor, pick something short, manageable, and concrete (rule-based), like letter writing. This way you can practice pulling skills and guiding them through the writing process with something familiar and more structured.
A final thought: When that path is found for your reluctant writer, don’t just let them write to exhaustion—as tempting as it may be in the excitement of that moment. Cut them short! I call it “carrying the spark forward.” Instead of letting them write until they decide to stop, say time is up for the day. That way they will look forward to writing the next day.
Interested in learning more about the WriteShop method of teaching children excellent writing? Use this placement tool to determine the perfect fit for your family.
Subscribe to the weekly Demme Learning newsletter for the latest blog posts.