Helping young writers capture and organize their thoughts on paper
Primary students are usually overflowing with thoughts. But during homeschool writing lessons, it can be difficult for them to make sense of their mishmash of ideas, much less organize them into a coherent paragraph. You may wonder how a child who is ordinarily full of ideas and words could balk at writing a few sentences or paragraphs. Help your young writers learn to capture and organize their thoughts on paper with these simple activities.
1. Have a Conversation
Most young children love to talk—telling you about their day, chatting about imaginary friends, or asking an endless string of questions. Based on the nature of their chit-chat, it’s easy to pinpoint topics for stories, such as friends and family, pets and animals, school subjects, or hobbies and interests. What does your child often talk about? That’s probably a great topic for writing!
For beginning printers who find handwriting laborious, it’s fine to be your child’s scribe, taking notes based on the conversation you are having. Fuel their passion by prompting them with questions, and write down their answers using the same words and phrases they use when talking. Then use these narrations as fodder for more polished sentences and paragraphs.
2. Make a List
A list is an ideal method to help your children organize their busy thoughts. Lists can take many formats, depending on your child’s maturity:
- words with illustrations
- words only
- pictures only
Model list making by sharing your own lists with your child. Discuss them and ask your child to think of an item to add. Show how you can use a list to prioritize and check off completed tasks, keep track of books you have read, etc. Then, pick a topic from a conversation you’ve had with your child and make a list together. Encourage children to contribute as much as possible. Again, feel free to do the writing for your child if handwriting is a chore.
3. Talk Out Loud
I often talk to myself while making a list or while immersed in a writing project. In fact, I’m doing it right now. No, it’s not madness—there’s a method to it. Talking out loud helps children focus better so they can more efficiently organize their thoughts.
When you talk out loud, you are modeling your thinking to your children. So don’t be afraid to do it … and encourage your children to talk through their homeschool writing assignments, if it helps them.
4. Replay a Scene
Invite your young actor to ham it up for the video camera or voice recorder and tell a story you want him to write down as a narrative. Replay the recording as your child watches or listens, and help him write down what he said. While the action is paused for transcribing, you can ask probing questions to guide him to add details or offer more explanation as needed. With the aid of a recording, your child may be flabbergasted to see how easy it is to put thoughts into words.