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Quick writing tips for every age

Turn your child into an unstoppable scribe with this grade-by-grade advice.

By Joe Quirk

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Children love action and movement, but they are not always so crazy about sitting still and writing words. When 5-year-olds are made to sit at a table with a pen and paper, many fold their arms and sulk. We don't want them to think that when writing begins fun stops.

Children write when they think it has a purpose. Don't "assign" writing tasks as if they were homework. Instead, incorporate writing into play.

Try this: Here's a neat-trick — 5-year-olds love to pass secret notes, so slip your kindergartner a Post-It with a question on it. Do you want a Hershey's Kiss? Your child may write: Ys! You write back: Yes, what? Your child: Yes, pees! Then you can write: Can I have a real kiss first? (Even if you have to read this aloud to your child — or he has to ask another adult for help — you're still teaching the fun of writing and communicating in print.)

Never correct spelling and handwriting at this stage. That will come after your child learns to write words. Child specialists say "invented spelling" is just fine. Your role is to make writing fun — but did you notice how the exchange above prompted your kindergartner to learn the correct spelling of yes?

Joe Quirk is a novelist, science writer, and creative-writing teacher living in Berkeley, Calif. His bestselling book, The Ultimate Rush, is an action thriller about rollerblading.

Comments from readers

"what to do when your twelve years old son refuses to talk to a counselor and parents got divorce."
"Middle school is the time to focus on how to organize and compile notes for a simple research paper. This should start in 6th grade and be repeated in the 7th and 8th grades as most high school English classes now assume that students have note-taking and organizational skills honed in middle school."
"I like your positive suggestions to our boys and girls. However, if you can give us more exciting tips of how we can visualize and understand our children motive in terms of their school works as well as liking boys or girls especially during school hours. Why at this stage of 5th grade and middle school both of these genders are really preoccupied of school works and being popular. Who is more likely to be asked to be their girlfriends and boy friends? And how can we as a parent handle this situation in a right way for them. Give us more technique to understand them. I always like your topics about our children. Thank you very much. "
"I feel very strong about assisting children in their education. No one is too old too learn and no one is too young. Children today are expose to the computer and parents are there to encourage their children."
"Thanks, this article gives hope to a cringing grandparent!"
"Encourage them to write letters and start petitions as well! One of my children was upset that our community wasn't recycling everything other communities were recycling, so I helped him write a letter to the agency responsible. They wrote back! And while one letter seldom changes anything, it was a kick for him to read that they had heard from others and were planning to implement a change. "