Tuesday, January 7, 2014

How to Grow a Successful Writer Part 1

I originally wrote the following article and stored it on the Classes by Beth website. After having a couple of parents comment on it, I decided to revisit the article and add Update Tips with some current ideas. This blog represents the first half of the article. Thanks for reading!

Many parents contact me because they feel their child is a “reluctant writer” and they’re seeking ways to make writing less painful. Wonderful ideas abound to entice our children to write from journaling to story starters to lap booking. While there isn’t anything wrong with these ideas, and many of them can be very useful, I wondered how we might avoid creating reluctant writers, if possible. How do you grow a successful writer? The following gardening tips might help! 

Tip 1: Cultivate by Modeling 
I cringe every time a homeschool mom says, “I hated writing in school.” Often, her child is within earshot. You don’t have to have a passion for writing to model the importance of communication skills. Allowing your child to see you writing offers encouragement and a positive example. Simply keeping a journal and writing in front of your young child can make a difference. 

UPDATE TIP: Consider card making with your child. Work together to make 6-10 cards together. Many children enjoy the creativity and all of the fun supplies out there for making home made cards. Once you have some cards in stock, use the content as a writing assignment. These short assignments often give children confidence and don't seem as painful for reluctant writers as a formal writing assignments.

Tip 2: Fertilize with Great Books 
As you read to and with your child, point out how the author writes well. Use 
books to help your child understand the value of writing. Read often to your 
child and encourage him to read as there are significant ties between avid 

readers and successful writers.

UPDATE TIP: There are a number of options for acquiring libraries of classics and sharing them with your child. Consider using a Kindle, Nook or other e-readers to store a full library for easy access. Plus many classics are free for download. You can also use an e-reader, computer or tablet to read the story aloud for you and your child, so you can both enjoy listening together. Libraries often carry classics on CD and even e-book downloads. There's no need to spend a lot of money to fertilize the garden of your child's mind with great works of literature!

Tip 3: Plant in the Right Season 
Unless your child demonstrates a strong interest and some ability, it’s not advisable to push writing (not handwriting, but content writing) before the child develops significant reading skills, usually around the 3rd grade. Forcing children to write before they are developmentally ready may only cause frustration, for both of you, and make future writing endeavors less enjoyable. Prior to 3rd grade, consider copy work and very short, fun activities rather than sentence and paragraph formation. 

Tip 4: Cross-pollinate for Greater Growth 
Children tend to have better attitudes toward writing when they view it as a skill to be utilized overall rather than a individual subject. Writing well makes other subjects easier just as weight training helps athletes perform better and avoid injury. Integrating writing skills with other subjects, such as history and science, allows your child to practice writing and you to evaluate your child’s writing without an assigned “writing” assignment. The focus is on the content rather than on the subject matter. 

UPDATE TIP: Often you can spark interest for writing in your child by switching up the method. For example, if you have a tablet that your child doesn't normally use, allow use for special writing assignments. One of my students recently received an I Phone and although writing is not his favorite thing, he expressed that using his I Phone to write was much more enjoyable. 

Tip 5: Each Tool has a Purpose 
Grammar and spelling may be taught using workbooks, but you want to watch your vocabulary when talking to your child about writing. Don’t interchange grammar and spelling with writing when talking to your child. Grammar and spelling should be viewed as tools to help your child write better. 

UPDATE TIP: Even if you use workbooks for grammar and/or spelling, also consider using whole books to emphasize the relevancy of grammar rules and spelling in real world writing. Point out how published authors follow the same rules as students.

We'll cover tips 6-10. with updates, in the next blog post. Or if you just can't wait, visit the CBB website and finish reading the article there. While you're visiting check out the other articles stored there! 

Be sure to leave a comment and share your ideas about how you cultivate your own young writer.

God bless,

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