Problem: Your homeschooled child is a weak writer who doesn’t know how to make writing assignments fresh and interesting.
Solution: Provide an assortment of activities and tools that build strong writing skills.
Whether you’re sewing, gardening, working with wood, or fixing an engine, you can’t do the job properly without certain skills and tools. The same can be said for writing—and we’re not just talking about paper, pens, and a laptop. Weak writing skills pose a big stumbling block to kids of all ages, so let’s look at some practical principles that will help you equip your children for writing success!
Play Pre-writing Games
Playing games and having fun is an easy and painless way to improve weak writing skills! Pre-writing exercises and writing games act as warm-ups that get creative juices flowing, build vocabulary, and strengthen sentence and story development. Games you make up, like sentence-building games, make perfect pre-writing activities.
And don’t discount the value of purchased games. Scattergories and Star Wars Story Cubes come to mind as two great writing warm-up games our family loved to play. Along with old friends like Scrabble and Boggle, they make ideal family gifts. Your kids will have no idea they’re learning!
Use Brainstorming Worksheets & Graphic Organizers
Before your child or teen writes the first word of a composition, they increase their chances for success by brainstorming. Like pre-writing, brainstorming is a skill that stimulates thinking in general. However, it also acts as a springboard for writing about a particular subject. In essence, brainstorming is like traveling with a plan!
Brainstorming can improve weak writing skills in several ways. It
- Gets ideas flowing so students have something to say.
- Helps them overcome writer’s block.
- Prepares them for writing as they come up with a plan that sets the in the right direction.
- Helps organize their thoughts.
To further promote thinking skills, you’ll want to teach a variety of brainstorming techniques. Whatever the topic, suggest a brainstorming method that’s best for the kind of composition your kids are writing. For example:
- Plan out a how-to composition by listing the steps of the process.
- Study a subject carefully and record observations before writing a descriptive paragraph.
- Jot down the sequence of events for a story or narrative.
- Plan the beginning middle, and end of a story using a 9-grid.
- Use a Venn diagram to identify similarities and differences when writing a compare/contrast essay.
There are many ways to brainstorm, but worksheets and graphic organizers are tools that often smooth the way for reluctant writers.
If you’re using a program like WriteShop I or II with your teens, you’ll find brainstorming worksheets already prepared for each writing assignment (see example here). But brainstorming isn’t just for your junior high or high schooler! You can begin teaching this skill as early as kindergarten, either on your own or with a helpful curriculum like WriteShop Primary or WriteShop Junior. Starting your children when they’re young can help prevent the debilitating case of writer’s block that often plagues older students.
Introduce Editing Tools
A good checklist serves as a guide to help students identify their own errors in content, style, and mechanics so they can improve and enliven their writing. For instance, if the checklist reminds them to choose strong words, they’ll be forced to find more interesting words to replace weak ones. This simple tool can help your kids hone a valuable skill they’ll use all their lives.
Don’t forget the fun factor! When it comes to strengthening editing skills, elementary children are more eager to proofread when they can play games and use grown-up editing tools such as highlighters and colored pencils.
Add in Other Skills and Tools
In addition to checklists and brainstorming worksheets, there are other tools that help breathe new life into writing. For example, skill-building exercises and activities can give your child instruction and practice in new writing skills like choosing titles, adding details to the middle of a story, writing topic sentences, citing sources, or using sentence variations.
I’m sure grammar is part of your language arts curriculum, but how it can revive writing may be a complete mystery to you. When you require children (teens in particular) to apply newly learned grammar concepts to their compositions (as in WriteShop I & II lessons), grammar actually makes more sense. So rather than teach grammar in a vacuum, teach it as it applies to writing. That’s where the rubber meets the road!
Writing isn’t an exact science, but you can still apply proven principles to inspire stronger writing in your homeschool. I hope you’ll soon notice a difference in both attitude and output as you put some of these tips into practice.
More Ways to Help Your Struggling Writer
- What to do when your homeschooled child lacks confidence as a writer
- How to motivate a child who is apathetic or unmotivated about writing
Do you wish your homeschool writing curriculum offered more pre-writing activities and brainstorming ideas?
Take a look at WriteShop I for your 7th-10th grader or WriteShop Primary or Junior for elementary ages! You’ll love all the writing games, graphic organizers, and editing tools that improve weak writing skills.