Completing a piece of writing requires your child to use many different skills at once — organizing ideas, holding a pencil correctly, forming letters, spelling words, using correct grammar, punctuating sentences, using vocabulary — and they have to do all of this while accessing information in their working memory and staying on topic. If your child struggles with one or more of these processes, writing can quickly start to feel labored and arduous. Under the Common Core Standards, kids are writing more than ever, across multiple subjects. Kids who struggle with writing may become reluctant to write, so it’s important to take action if you think your child is struggling. Talk about any concerns you have about your child’s writing with the teacher.
By using these tips and exercising a little patience, you can support your child as they learn to write confidently and skillfully.
Ask what your child is writing about.
Begin each homework session by asking your child to explain what they are expected to do. Ask questions to help your child clarify the details of the assignment. His answers will indicate how much support he’ll need — whether he will be able to work independently or if he’ll need some help to get started.
Be the coach, not the player.
Although you may be tempted, don’t write reports or papers for your child or tell them what to write. Instead, put yourself in the role of writing coach and offer encouragement, guidance, and feedback from the sidelines.
Check your child’s work.
If you aren’t around when your child completes their homework, let them know you’ll look it over when you get home. Be sure to follow through on your promise. Emphasize that you’re doing this to help them, not judge them.
Give positive feedback.
When offering feedback about your child’s work, start with positive statements such as, “You remembered to indent paragraphs; that’s great progress,” or “You have some interesting ideas in this part. What happens next?” Focus on the quality of the effort rather than on small errors, especially as the first feedback you offer.
Make sure your child sees you writing at home.
Write your child messages and leave them on the refrigerator. Write emails, letters, or postcards to friends and relatives. Post a daily or weekly calendar, make a shopping list, or write in a journal.
Encourage your child to write — anything.
Encourage your child to write short stories or keep a journal. As often as possible, encourage them to write on a topic of their own choosing. If they have favorite book or movie characters, suggest that they make up their own stories starring their favorite characters.
Make an album.
Have your child make an album of photographs they’ve taken and write a brief description under each picture.
Involve your child’s passions.
Encourage your child to develop interests they can investigate, research, and write about to become an expert on a topic.
Create a writing space.
Provide a place to complete writing assignments that has everything they’ll need, including a clear surface, sharpened pencils, erasers, and good lighting.
Check for good form.
When they write, check to see if your child is sitting up straight with both feet on the floor, holding the pencil correctly, and keeping their arm from the elbow to the wrist on the table or desk for support. Be sure that they slants the paper slightly to the left (45 degrees) for right-handers or slightly to the right (45 degrees) for left-handers.
Encourage your child to learn how to type.
Encourage your child to learn keyboarding (typing) skills as early as possible. Third grade is a good time to begin. Computers encourage writing and give immediate feedback about spelling and grammar.
Brainstorm sessions are helpful for starting the writing process. Encourage your child to talk about the main idea they want to get across and what points they can make that will support that idea. Or to talk through the plot points of a storyline.
Revise, revise, revise!
Emphasize that good writing always involves multiple drafts. First drafts are mainly for writing ideas or topic information. Second drafts would include organizing content, correcting grammar, checking punctuation, and correcting spelling.
Teach your child to read drafts aloud.
When the piece of writing is done, encourage your child to read it aloud. They might notice additional things they think should be revised.
Break projects into pieces.
For children who feel overwhelmed by a longer writing assignment, it can help to break the assignment down into shorter chunks or drafts. For a long-term writing project, help your child organize what they’re going to write over a period of several weeks. When writing assignments and projects are broken down into smaller parts, you and the teacher can offer feedback and suggestions along the way.
Learning to write well takes lots of practice and patience, so keep your child from getting discouraged by individual assignments and encourage them to find reasons to write every day.