Problem: “Writing is boring,” they say. But you don’t know how to motivate your apathetic kids to pick up a pencil and write.
Solution: Give them a wide variety of writing experiences and let them choose their own topics.
Face it. Many students are unmotivated because their writing assignments ARE boring. But honestly, other times it’s because they simply don’t care. This lack of motivation is another stumbling block that keeps children from becoming successful writers.
When a child struggles with motivation, there’s no simple fix, but addressing what’s at the heart of their apathy can help. Here are four things to try with your kids when nothing else seems to light a fire under them.
1. Offer a Varied Writing Diet
Do you have one child who loves creative writing and another who prefers to write nonfiction?
Unfortunately, too many homeschool writing programs limit students’ options. Restricting them to a steady diet of book reports or essays snuffs out creativity and stifles initiative. But letting them only write stories isn’t the answer, either.
Instead, give them a chance to dabble in different genres by varying their writing assignments. They won’t always like every type of writing you assign, but it’s good to mix things up. Not only will it expose your kids to a wide range of writing genres, but this small change could be the very catalyst that will motivate them to write!
Here are just a few ideas (along with links to instructions). Give them a try!
- Let teens try descriptive writing, using vivid detail to describe people, places, objects, and foods.
- Invite younger children to use their five senses to write descriptively.
- To dabble in expository writing, encourage students to explain a process, write short reports or biographies, or make a newspaper complete with articles, opinions, human-interest stories, and comics.
- Teach your kids to write narratives from varying points of view or in a different voice or tense.
- Make book reports more fun for everyone by thinking outside the box!
- Encourage them to write funny stories, fiction stories, or historical diaries.
- Help them write a description of an imaginary land.
- Teach older teens to write research papers.
- Invite students of all ages to have fun with poems, such as haiku or imagery poetry.
- Use writing prompts to teach writing, or throw in an occasional writing prompt just for fun.
2. Give Kids Freedom to Choose Topics
Not only is it good for unmotivated kids to write in different genres, it’s also important to give them flexibility of topic choices within those genres. Nothing squelches creativity like saying, “You MUST write about THIS.” When their assigned topics feel irrelevant, boring, or uninteresting, students can feel less than enthusiastic about writing.
I’m not saying your kids should run the show. After all, you’re still their teacher! But if you’re teaching a particular kind of writing—describing a place, for instance—give them some choice. Let them describe a baseball stadium or a coffee shop, a mountain cabin or a busy street corner, your garden or their bedroom—all while remaining within the lesson’s framework.
It’s the best of both worlds when you establish some parameters but offer freedom too. When children have some “ownership” of the subject matter, they’re more likely to invest themselves in the writing.
Does your homeschool writing program limit your child’s or teen’s writing experiences or restrict their topic choices? WriteShop can help!
Each lesson in WriteShop Primary, WriteShop Junior, and WriteShop I & II provides the framework for a wide range of engaging writing assignments. At the same time, the curriculum gives kids freedom to pick their own topic.
3. Tie Writing to Other Subjects
When other approaches fail to motivate kids to write, incorporate writing across the curriculum whenever possible. Instead of teaching writing as a separate subject, “writing across the curriculum” lets you mesh writing instruction with your study of history, literature, art, music . . . the opportunities are endless.
Your kids might love exploring art-based writing or trying their hand at nature-inspired writing projects. And if they’d rather create than write, special projects let them demonstrate knowledge of a subject without having to do a lot of writing.
4. Write with Delight
Finally, consider delight-directed learning, which allows children to explore a favorite topic—hobby, sport, historical period, whatever their passion—and write about it in many ways. The beauty of delight-directed learning? Your child can explore one broad topic of interest while using many different writing genres or styles, including:
- Using vivid description
- Explaining a process (“how-to” composition)
- Writing fictional stories and nonfiction narratives
- Writing essays and reports
- Developing news articles
Meanwhile, each individual writing project focuses on a different aspect of your child’s topic, whether it’s 4-H, horses, LEGO, dance, or antique guns. You may grow tired of reading essays, stories, and reports about the history of football, Patrick Mahomes, how to throw a football, and “My First Touchdown,” but if it means your student is writing . . . well, rejoice!