The Write Stuff: Teaching Our Kids How to be Better Writers
Does thinking about teaching writing skills to your kids fill you with dread? Do you feel like you don’t have time to teach writing, reading, spelling, grammar, and all of the other parts of English and Language Arts?
If you’ve ever felt that way, you’re in good company. When I taught ELA, writing always got pushed to the back burner because I was so consumed with teaching all of the other skills. However, I’ve discovered there are ways to teach writing in conjunction with other pieces of the ELA puzzle.
Teaching Writing Skills
As with any skill, writing needs to be taught explicitly. Our kids need to learn the foundational components that make them good writers. There are four specific things that we need to teach our students in order to help them become better writers.
1. Our kids need to read & listen to good writing.
If you want to become a better writer, you need to read better writing.
In other words, kids need to be reading stories or listening to daily read-alouds from authors who create quality literature. As we hear and read quality literature, we begin to understand the author’s craft and what makes each author unique.
We also begin to understand and perceive the cadence, flow, and word choice of specific authors. This helps young writers create an internal word bank to pull from when writing themselves.
2. Students need to be able to manipulate the text.
When we teach writing skills, we need to give our learners the opportunity to take sentences apart and put them into an order that creates great flow. This is a critical part of being a better writer.
While kids need to know that a sentence starts with a capital letter and ends with punctuation, they also need to be able to pick appropriate word order to show understanding of grammar and context.
Teaching the parts of speech within the text makes the meaning of each part more real. In other words, knowing that a noun is a person, place, or thing doesn’t always equal knowing how to use a noun appropriately in writing.
Activity Idea: Give kids words that make a complete sentence, but don’t give it to them in the correct order. Let them manipulate the words by putting them in different orders in an effort to create a sentence.
Have them say their sentences out loud. If the sentence doesn’t make sense, have the students move the words around again, repeating the process until they have a correct sentence. When they get a sentence that makes sense, they can glue it down on paper.
3. We need to teach them about mechanics.
As we are teaching writing skills, we have to make sure our kids understand the mechanics of writing. To understand the mechanics of writing, kids need to write.
We need to give kids an opportunity to copy correct writing; therefore, copy-work is going to be a pivotal component.
Including copy-work in your routine will help your kiddos create something similar to “muscle memory” for capitalization and punctuation. If you practice anything enough, the skill becomes reflexive, and it no longer requires brainpower to complete the task.
So providing our students with daily opportunities to copy good writing helps them develop good writing habits from the beginning.
Activity Idea: Have students take the sentence they created earlier, and write it correctly. This helps them remember those key components of capitalization and punctuation. (Because you provided the words, there should not be any misspelled words in the writing.)
4. Discuss the link between illustrating & writing.
This is probably the best part of writing for most kids, but many times, we “don’t have time” to let our kids illustrate their writings. This usually means we don’t want to “waste” our instructional time for an activity like drawing and coloring.
However, illustrations add depth to writings. In fact, illustration is an integral part of the writing process, and it can be a rigorous task if approached the right way. Requiring one illustration for a sentence is fairly simple, but requiring only one drawing to encompass the entire paragraph or story increases the difficulty exponentially.
Activity Idea: Have students illustrate the sentence that they constructed and wrote. Make sure to focus on a drawing that “shows” the sentence in picture form. (Don’t allow them to write a sentence about a cat and then draw a picture of a dog. That defeats the purpose of the illustration.)
Remember, we want our kiddos to enjoy writing, and if they’re going to enjoy it, we need to make it fun. I’ve created several Building Sentences products that will help you make writing more interesting for your kids.
These activities are designed for 1st and 2nd graders, but they will work for advanced Kindergarteners and 3rd graders who need a little remediation.
Because I know you and kids will love these sets so much, I want to give you a 10 page sample pack for FREE! Click here for your FREE printable pack. Then after you see how much fun it is, you’ll want to check out the monthly packs.