Teaching Children to Write With Confidence
“Honey, you need to rewrite this paper….”
“I hate writing!”
Tears, frustration, and raised voices – is this what teaching writing is like at your house?
We often deceive ourselves into thinking that some kids are good writers and others are not. While it is true that some children are gifted writers, all teens can learn to write well.
Create with Words
If we think of writing as an art, then words are the medium for the artist.
Good writers love words, play with words, and carefully choose words for their writing. Give your young writers as many experiences as possible to play with words and discover new words. Talking and reading are ways to experience words, but we can also play games that focus on words.
- What Do You Meme?
Place games together to have fun while your kids don’t even realize they are learning. Coming up with adjectives, adverbs, and synonyms can turn into a game.
“The boy ran ,” you say.
Everyone fills in the blank.
“The boy ran quickly.”
“The boy ran slowly.”
“The boy ran awkwardly.”
Think about ways to give your children words, words, and more words. Then when it is time to write, they can pull out their words and begin.
Working with words builds confidence in your budding writer.
If we think of writing as communicating our thoughts, feelings, and ideas, then we must give our children practice with communicating.
Talking, conversing, and role playing all give our children experience in expressing themselves to other people.
Asking children, “What was your favorite part of the day?” is a great way to get them to think and express their thoughts.
“Which one do you like best?” Then follow up with “Why?”
Having something to say that others will enjoy hearing or reading about builds confidence.
Write to an Audience
Writing is always about communicating clearly, concisely, and graciously to an audience. When you are chatting with someone, your audience is right in front of you.
Good writers keep their “audience in front of them” at all times and focus their writing to their audience.
When children sit down to write, then can imagine that they are “talking” on paper to a specific person they enjoy chatting with.
Intellectual discussions around the dinner table produce good academic writers!
Yes, it’s true!
The act of putting your thoughts about an intellectual subject into words and speaking them to your family (an audience) is very similar to writing a paper. Don’t expect children and teens to write a very good paper about something they have never talked about with others.
Talking about a subject is step one while writing is step two.
Listening to others express their opinions is helpful too! After all, we need to know the other side of an argument.
The dinner table is a great place to talk about the Bible, church, politics, social issues, business, history, government, geography, culture, art, music, and … well, just about anything!
Beyond talking, we can show our children samples of good writing.
If we think of writing as putting words down on paper, then we need to show our children examples of good writing so that they know what we expect from them.
Often our children read literature and more literature for school (maybe with some textbooks or non-fiction “living books” thrown in too), and then we want them to write an essay.
Most children and teens have never read an essay. How are they supposed to write one?
Before writing essays for you in high school, why not have your teenager read God in the Dock (a collection of essays) by C. S. Lewis or some of G. K. Chesterton’s essays? This will show your teen what an essay looks like.
You can find simple articles written for children that contain a thesis statement and prove it in the article for the young writers who are learning to write essays.
Books of all genres are awesome, too. Looking for Christian classics for your home library? Read Classics Every Christian Should Have in Their Home Library.
Children don’t just need to know how; they need to know why.
The Purpose of All Writing
Good writing glorifies God.
Writers are servants, serving the audience, or people they are writing for.
Every writing project should have an audience. We serve others through our writing. We also have a duty as believers in Jesus to honor Him with the words we choose to use. They should be gracious, kind, and wholesome, building others up!
“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen,” (Ephesians 4:29 NIV).
We might reword that verse to say “Do not write anything unwholesome, but let every word we write be helpful, building others up according to their needs, and benefiting everyone who reads our writing.”
Once children can communicate verbally, see samples of good writing, and understand the purpose of good writing, it’s time to teach them the basics.
Good writing begins with good sentences. While this may sound very basic, many adults cannot write a good sentence.
Remind your children teens of the five elements of a sentence: subject (noun), verb, complete thought, capital letter at beginning, and proper punctuation at the end. Many students of all ages write fragments, lacking a complete thought, or run-ons that need to be divided into two or more sentences.
If your child cannot write a good sentence, start by dictating good sentences to them. Go over each sentence, making sure every comma, capital letter, and punctuation mark is in place. Make sure all words are spelled correctly.
Next, have students write their own sentences, rewriting them over and over until they are excellent sentences. This will probably require the use of a thesaurus to get the exact word the child is looking for so that the meaning is clear but the wording is concise.
Writing is often a balance between clear (saying enough) and concise (keeping it simple).
Starting with the basics and learning to do them well builds confidence.
From sentences, move on to paragraphs. Paragraphs make up essays, articles, blog posts, reports, and research papers. The sky is the limit to what your child can write!
Who knows? Your child may end up writing a novel in high school. You can read Exciting, Engaging, Fun Who Dun It to learn more!
Until next time, Happy Homeschooling!
Meredith Curtis, homeschooling mom, writer, speaker, and publisher, loves to encourage families in their homeschooling adventure. She is the author of Americana Newspaper Reporting, American Literature & Research, British Literature & Writing, Communication 101: Essays & Speeches, and Who Dun It Murder Mystery Literature & Writing. You can check out her books, curricula, unit studies, and Bible studies at PowerlineProd.com. Read her blogs at PowerlineProd.com and listen to her at Finish Well Podcast.