Do the Write Thing
What You Can Do
As another school year approaches, it is a good time to think about what we can do to help our kids become competent and confident writers. As that kindergarten teacher told me so many years ago, teachers need and deserve our support in this important task. So take a deep breath and make language and writing come alive for your kids through activities like these:
- Write. As with so many things parental, modeling is probably the most important thing we can do. Use e-mail. Write cards and letters. Write grocery lists and “to do” lists. Keep a journal. Let your kids see you using writing as a basic tool for daily life. Little kids take in what we do like little sponges. They want to do what we do.
- Get your kids to write. Put up a dry-erase board and a big calendar in your kitchen. Each evening, have the kids take turns writing down the schedule for the next day on the board. Who is going where? What chores need to be done? Enter events and due dates on the calendar. Not only will the kids get some practice writing, but the whole family will get more organized.
Surprise the kids with occasional notes of encouragement in their lunchboxes, under their pillows, or hidden among their socks. Encourage them to leave notes for you and each other.
Encourage your kids to use instant messenger and to send e-mail to family and friends. Install a “nanny” and monitor your computer for unwelcome visitors, of course. But don’t let fears of the Internet deprive your children and you of valuable lessons in written communication. The immediacy of the computer is very reinforcing for kids and adults.
- Play word games. As soon as they are old enough to spell, get a Scrabble Jr. game. Make up your own variations on the rules: See who can use the tiles to make the most words that start with the letter “g,” play in teams, or have the whole family try to use up all the tiles to make a board full of interconnecting words.
- Instill a love of words. Play with words that make their own sound like “pop,” “buzz,” or “fizz.” Talk to the kids about “tasting” words. Roll really interesting ones around in your mouth. Savor the flavor of words like loquacious or quagmire or smidgen. Memorize rhymes and poems as a family activity. Kids who grow up enjoying language become comfortable using it.
- Catch them doing it right. If your child shows you an assignment, start out by commenting on everything you can find that is right about it. Then choose a couple of things to focus on to improve the writing. With elementary-aged kids, you can make a game out of finding all the words that need capital letters or all the nouns that need verbs to make whole sentences. Middle school kids can be encouraged to make their writing more interesting by using new and different adjectives. High school students are ready to take on the challenge of more sophisticated argument or more complex sentences. The point is not to overwhelm your child with corrections but to help him delight in making a good thing better.
- Read. Read. Read. Kids who are read to and who read a lot often develop an intuitive sense for what looks and sounds “right.” Help little kids become involved with language. Point out the interesting shapes of words. (“Elephant” looks very different from “the.”) Show them how proper names always have a big letter at the front. Talk about how the author uses describing words to help us see what he or she sees. Show them how the different punctuation marks change how a sentence is said.
Learning to Write Well Is, Well, Natural
The most important thing we can do to foster writing skills is to have a positive attitude — both about the value of writing and about our kids’ ability to learn how to do it. Learning to write really can be as natural and rewarding as learning to talk. Even kids who struggle at first can rise to the challenge when their parents and teachers are optimistic about their success and supportive of their efforts.
Hartwell-Walker, M. (2020). Do the Write Thing. Psych Central. Retrieved on February 22, 2020, from https://psychcentral.com/lib/do-the-write-thing/