I am amazed at how many children have a deep love for writing. They are the ones who take their writing journals to recess, lunch, and even home to record their experiences – they want to make sure they ‘capture’ that special moment that will inspire them to write even more. However, we all know that NOT all children have an innate passion for the written word.
After years of trying strategy after strategy, I believe I have compiled a list that has worked for most of my students. And trust me, whether you are a parent or educator, threats, taking privileges away, or getting upset WILL NOT make them write or want to write more.
1- Make the experience enjoyable. It sounds like a ‘no brainer’ but it is easy to get frustrated and go from “Let’s find something to write about today” to “You are not leaving your room until you have at least a page of writing in your notebook.” With the latest one, you will see that children WILL get the page filled, but with giant words. You requested it, and they delivered (they got the page filled!).
2- Start Small. Writing does not have to take hours and does not need to happen sitting at a desk. Start small. Maybe you want to have your child start with an illustration/picture and then move on to having him/her add information about that picture. Sometimes it is not about baby steps, but rather ‘ant steps.’
3- Let them write in a ‘special notebook.’ Before starting to add words on the page, spend time with your child decorating his/her notebook. Look for photos of family, pets, special events, vacation/trips and/or pictures of things that he/she loves (from ponies to Minecraft). This will really decrease the chances of his/her journal getting lost and, most importantly, they will have a ‘special place’ to record those thoughts.
4- Give them freedom of choice. As long as they are writing, let them write. A word of caution and this applies especially to boys – they love to write about topics that for many adults are just too much to handle. Examples? Bodily/physiological functions, gross things, and violent events (on this last one, you can definitely set boundaries), but keep in mind that boys will be boys.
5- Writing is everywhere. Encourage your child to take his journal everywhere he/she goes and devote a few minutes to writing. You will see that slowly, he/she will see how writing is not as difficult and they first thought.
6- Use mentor texts. Have a special picture book you love? Then share it with your child and try to have your child imitate a craft the author is using. There are plenty of great ideas under the “31 Days of Reading in Spanish.” You will surely find something you both love.
7- Stop being the editor. No one likes to write when we know we will get back a page full of red marks. Editing skills are necessary, but too early in the process can stop your child for wanting to write because of the fear of just doing it ‘wrong.’ Let them become fluent writers first, editing will come later.
8- Know that frustration is part of the process. Writing in another language can be a bit more frustrating than writing in the language your child feels more comfortable in. He/she needs to think harder to find the right words. Don’t discourage them by saying, “Look for that word in the dictionary.” Do you know how long it would take him/her to finish a paragraph? Have them circle the words they are not sure about, you can later meet and chat about those words. An authentic teachable moment indeed.
Writing can be both exciting and fun, but remember to start small. You will be amazed at how your child can soon become an amazing author. And as always, I am looking to expand my repertoire of strategies. What have you done that has proven to be effective? I would love to hear.
Photo by WellSpring School