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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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First grade

It's hard to get kids to write with so many distractions. From video games to television, siblings to pets, everything seems to conspire to prevent children from attaining the focus required to write.

By first grade, kids should be writing on their own initiative. How would you like to get yours to write without saying a single word?

Try this: Fill every room with writing supplies. Every parent learns that kids will grab and experiment with whatever's in reach, whether it's a joystick or a box of matches. If paper and pencils are always around, kids will play with them. Put the remote control on a high shelf, and keep writing supplies on the dining-room and kitchen tables.

Long pieces of paper encourage list making. Note cards and envelopes inspire kids to write letters to each other. Hang a paper mailbox on each bedroom door, and never throw away those freebie note cards from charitable organizations — they're perfect for kids who would just as soon write a note to someone in the same room as put one in a mailbox. Index cards, labels, folded paper, Post-It-notes, staplers, sticker, tape, and glue are all guaranteed to lure kids into writing.

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. "