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Six ways to encourage young writers

Follow these suggestions to encourage your child's budding writing skills.

1. Poetry Puzzler

Both you and your child should write down five fun words in a list. Exchange lists and write poems (both of you) containing the listed words. If this is too easy, make a longer list of words! If it's too hard, limit the word selection to one topic, like things on a farm or favorite foods.

2. Quick Trip down Memory Lane

Have your child start a story with this sentence: "I remember the first time I ___________. I was…" Once she's chosen the subject, have her write without stopping for three minutes. Tell her she can't re-read or edit until time's up. If she can't remember any more and there's still time left, encourage her to start writing a new memory with the same beginning sentence. It's a great way to "warm up" her writing mind and will free up a child who's scared of "messing up" a story or the blank page.

3. If I Were...

If your child complains he has nothing interesting to write about, ask him to imagine that he could step into the shoes of a favorite character or celebrity. Then have him write a list of things starting with "I would…" that details the things he would do, what it would be like, and how it would be different than his life now. For example, if he chooses Superman, he might write, "I would fly to school faster than the bus and never be late. Even if I overslept!" This is also great to do with "regular" people, too.

4. Pass It Along

(requires 3 or more people) In this writing game, each person writes a sentence in the story, and then passes it on to the next person to continue. Sounds easy - but there's a trick! Before passing the story, each writer folds the paper so that only the sentence she just wrote is visible to the next writer, who has to continue the story knowing only that last sentence and not any of the previous ones. Decide on how many rounds the paper will make, then read aloud the hilarious results.

5. Day in the Life

Have your child pick an object that he uses/carries/sees everyday and write a story from the perspective of that pencil/backpack/TV remote. How does it feel about its job? About the people who use it? Have him write down observations and details about what happens to his chosen object over the course of a day to make the story rich and real.

6. Make a Book

To really help your young author feel a sense of accomplishment, collect some of her best writings and bind them up. You can easily do this with cardboard covers, or by putting contact paper over a specially created cover illustration on heavy paper. Have her make a table of contents, a title page, and a bio about herself to include between the covers.

Comments from readers

"these 6 ideas are pretty cool, can't wait to try them out w/the 3rd grader!! thanks"
"Great Schools is such a positive, informative resource for me as a grandmother of elementary school students. i cut and paste and email and print these articles and send them on. today i wish i had a notebook of ALL of my grandchild's 'ART WORK' since she was born!!! i am starting now, however! my friend does not have a computer. how can she, too, get this type of information? thank you for ALL your hard work! GO involved parents,successful kids!!!!"
"Hey, I'm a girl aged 16and I'm really interested in writting books.I have been writting very long stories but I just can't seem to get the chance to publish them.Please help me get my stories published and contact me if there's a chance.Thank you."
"PRESS RELEASE For the first time in its history Marple is hosting its own short story competition ( maximum 2000 words on any subject.) This is open to all writers worldwide, and there is a special prize for under 16 year olds. The competition is being run by Joyce Reed, a local writer and poet, who last year was awarded the ‘Winner of Winners’ prize at the English Speaking Union in London for her overall writing skills. She has self published four books. Profits from the latest, an anthology of poems called ‘Music of Time’ are being donated to the Nordoff - Robbins music therapy charity. Joyce is keen to encourage all writers, and has donated two cash prizes in the adult category. For under 16’s, the Gordon Mills short story prize of £75 has been generously donated by his widow Barbara. The competition is being run as a non profit making event with any profits being donated to charity and is running in parallel with the Marple Locks Festival this year. Entries must be received by 25th May 2009. The winners will be presented with their cheques on 5th July at the closing ceremony of the festival in the Memorial Park in Marple. All those involved in the competition are giving their services freely, and we are indebted to many friends for help and promotion. Particularly Mark at the website, and David Lee B.A. for the use of his wonderful pencil drawings of Marple. Entry forms can be obtained by sending a SAE to:- The Marple Short Story competition 2009 PO Box 143 Marple (LDO) Stockport SK6 9AD Or via our website at Joyce Reed "
"I think these ideas are great..i am very impressed. Thanks a lot great schools....."
"Thank You for this great website! Everyday i learn something new. The information is very useful and I will definetly pass them on. Thanks a million!!!"
"This is so inspiring , great ideas . It's really nice to have such pointers ,now I have a path to go to with my second grader . Yes, I'll too come and give the feedback .Thanks ."
"I think I'm going to try the 'pass along' game with my two kids and I'm going to 'make a book' for them too!"
"Thank for this info. I want to use it for my son."
"these are great ideas !!! Tank you ! i will use with my child !"
"The ideas sound great. I think I might try a couple with my son. He needs practice writing neatly more than anything. "
"What creative ideas!! If this does not work for those ambivalent little writers, I don't think anything else will...."
"This is awesome! This will be both educational and fun for my son (4th grade) and I. Thank you truly."
"I think these are great ideas. We will implement them tonight. I'll come back and give results. Thanks"
"My daughter (4th grader) has some trouble reading and writing. These tips for encouragement are great. I've tried a few and it's working."
"These are wonderful suggestions. I will attempt to use them all with my son. Thank you"
"these writing Ideas are great they sound like a lot of fun and gives you a chance for quality time and learning together."
"I had my daughter do this and I increased the time to 10 minutes and I was blown away with what she produced! This was so great to help her focus and subject easy that she can write about! Thank you!"
"give examples of children's work on this page from each grade. So the parents know where the progress is and examples of learning skills. If they have no back ground in education levels. folsom"
"I want my daughter to write down her goals. There is a better chance of them happening if they are written down."
"This is very helpful. My first-grader is having difficulty with writing in class and it is a challenge to find ways to help and encourage him. These are good ideas. Thanks!"
"Good ideas. I will definitely use some of these suggestions. Thanks."
"Great Ideas!!! I will definitely use them and pass them on."