Helping Your Student Become a Confident Writer
Are your students reluctant writers? Do they stress over essay questions or balk at writing an email to their teacher? If so, they’re not alone. For many students (and adults), writing is about as inviting as a trip to the dentist—yet it’s also one of the most practical life skills and an essential career skill.
But parents and Learning Coaches can help transform their reluctant writers into more confident, even eager writers. The key, says Julie Amato, Connections Academy® instructional specialist, is to make writing at home frequent and fun.
Writing at Home = At-Home Writing
While students have many opportunities to write in both virtual and traditional classrooms, here’s a simple fact: When students write more at home, they become more at home with writing. They build confidence and fluency; they begin to see writing as an important part of their everyday lives.
Fortunately, daily family life is rich with opportunities to write. Here are a few of Julie’s tips for making the most of those opportunities.
Writing with purpose. Younger children especially enjoy working with parents around the house. When they begin writing, it feels empowering when they can actually accomplish something useful with their new skill. Encourage your students to help you:
- Make grocery lists or to-do lists.
- Write notes to friends or family members.
- Write holiday, birthday, or get-well cards or thank-you notes.
- Take down telephone messages.
- Record recipes as they work with you in the kitchen, or directions as they help you assemble or operate a new toy.
Writing those thank-you notes, cards, or letters with students also gives you the opportunity to model a positive attitude toward writing. When you show that writing is a satisfying activity, your children will want more of that satisfaction for themselves.
Writing for fun. As a young child, did your student spend hours drawing pictures and spinning stories or jokes to go with them? Well, even as your student grows older, you can harness that same sense of imaginative play to help strengthen his or her writing skills through:
- Improvisational writing. You may remember the spoken version of this activity from your days at summer camp. You, the parent, make up the first sentence of a story and write it down. Your student writes the second sentence, building on the story you started. The writing goes back and forth between you and your student(s) as the story builds to a conclusion. The story can be silly, scary, adventurous, or all three.
- Like improv performances on stage, you can’t say no to your writing partners’ contributions. You have to accept and build on them. Once your students understand the concept, let them write the first sentence. But be prepared! You may be unleashing a powerful and possibly hilarious imagination. Speaking of which…
- Post-it® jokes, riddles, and questions. Do your students love to tell jokes and riddles? You can tickle their funny bones and give them opportunities to practice their writing at the same time. Encourage your students to write a riddle or joke on Post-it® notes throughout the house whenever the mood strikes. Then post your own joke or riddle, along with an appreciative comment about theirs, in response.
- For younger students or reluctant writers in particular, these short forms make writing doable; your responses turn it into a fun and rewarding game. It’s a win-win game, too, as students practice writing and the entire family joins in the laughter.
- You can also use Post-it notes to encourage students to write about their interests, asking open-ended or fill-in-the-blank questions such as:
“My favorite movie is _______. I like it because _______.”
“Where do you want to travel and why?”
“I’d like to learn to _____. Can you help me ______?”
- Interviews. Naturally curious, kids love to ask questions. You can harness that curiosity for good, encouraging them to learn about family history by conducting interviews with grandparents, friends, or neighbors. Interviews give students the chance to think through and write out their questions and then “package” the answers in entertaining forms such as a:
- Mock biography or fictionalized story
- Script for a podcast or play
- News story
Looking for more fun home writing activities? Julie recommends Storybird.com, where your students can write, illustrate, and publish their own picture books, chapter books, and poems. The site allows your students to choose an image that sparks their imagination and then to write and illustrate a story around it, choosing from hundreds of other beautiful drawings. When finished, your students will feel like real writers!
Keeping the Focus on Fun
With all these activities, Julie encourages families to keep learning activities fun. “Students get plenty of opportunities to write in many subject areas at school. So you don’t want these at-home activities to seem like another assignment,” she explains.
As a parent, you know your students best, so be guided by what they enjoy, whether it’s a personal interest or just being silly! If you keep the focus on fun, then they’ll become not only better writers but also more eager writers.
How do you encourage your students to write more at home? We’d love to know! Share your answer in the comments below!