Modeling and teaching writing
Are you uncomfortable with the idea of teaching your kids to write? Maybe you think you can’t teach writing because you never really learned yourself. Or maybe you’re a confident writer, but you don’t have a clue how to pass that on to your kids.
One thing I do know: Regardless of skill or background, you can model and teach writing with confidence. Even though you may not believe it—you really do know more than your children.
Why Model and Teach Writing?
Simply, it’s unfair to expect our children to do something that hasn’t first been demonstrated.
Modeling writing in front of your children matters, but be encouraged that you don’t have to be perfect or have all the right answers. As homeschool parents, like it or not, our job is to teach and model the process until our children get it. They need to see and hear us thinking through our ideas. It’s good for them watch us struggle to come up with a topic sentence or find the words to make up the lines of a poem. Why? Because they struggle too!
But let’s step out of writing mode for a moment.
Students learn geometry because you show them over and over how to do it, right? They rarely get it the first time. Or the second time. Or even third.
We’d never dream of throwing our kids to the math lion, yet when it comes to writing, we want to assign a topic and say “Go!”
For whatever reason, we just expect them to write intuitively. It’s pretty silly, really, because there are many strategies and skills involved with writing a good paragraph or story.
Model and teach through Guided Writing Practice to provide your young child with a daily, predictable, shared writing experience. Together, write several short sentences about simple, familiar topics such as animals, friends, the weather, or upcoming events.
During this time, you’re modeling important writing skills such as:
- Left-to-right progression
- Letter formation
- Correct spacing
- Punctuation and capitalization
Most importantly, Guided Writing gives your child the freedom to put together ideas without the limitations and fear of having to write them down himself.
A simple way to introduce writing skills is through predictable sentence starters. Young children thrive on repetition, so they’ll enjoy the consistency and routine of using the same sentence starter all week. Just draw out a different response each day.
Hello, _________.(Mommy, Jamie, Mittens)
Today is _________. (Tuesday, Friday, my birthday)
It is _________. (sunny, cloudy, foggy)
We are going to _________. (bake with Grandma, play Legos)
I think _________. (we will have fun, I will build a tower)
As your child’s writing skills increase, use your Guided Writing times to gradually introduce new concepts such as beginning, middle, and end; writing a friendly letter; or thinking of a problem and solution for a story.
This is often the point where moms drop off the grid: You go from nurturing the writing process to feeling guilty that you’re getting in the way of your child’s progress or creativity. Ironically, this is when most kids come to hate writing!
Instead, recognize that this is the phase of writing where you and your child can work together to produce the final project. Model and teach writing skills through examples and prompts. Keep things moving by continuing to do most or all of the writing, but share in the process. Because some of the work is yours and some is your child’s, it’s a collaborative effort. Let this free you instead of tether you to your guilt!
Middle and High School
Even if your teen is now working quite independently, you should still be modeling new writing skills and methods. As you work together, modeling helps familiarize her with the lesson’s expectations.
On a white board, demonstrate and teach writing skills through dialogues, prompts, and questions, but also show examples of the targeted writing. You and student should both contribute to the paragraph.
Again, you’re not modeling a polished final draft, you’re modeling the thinking process. When your teen heads off to write her own paper, your time together will have set the stage.
At every age, your child needs your involvement in the writing process, not just to give editing feedback, but to instruct and model. Like teaching your child to make a bed, knit a scarf, or build a birdhouse, you remain involved until she is confidently and successfully progressing.
Collaborative writing takes time, too—to coax, encourage, ask questions, and discuss possibilities. Together, you and your child will grow comfortable with these writing sessions, and before you know it, you’ll watch her begin to apply the same thinking process when she works by herself.
So stay connected and involved. It’s crucial to your child’s writing success!
Copyright 2011 © Kim Kautzer. All rights reserved.