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Encouraging the Reluctant Writer

Isn’t it amazing how different each of our children can be? As homeschoolers, we get to witness this first hand as we work with our students at home. Out of four children, I have one who can hardly wait to get started and could write pages upon pages of information or story and most of it will look great without much to edit. I have one who is very eager to write and is still a little rough around the edges. I have one who loves to write and won’t take an ounce of instruction on how to do so (let’s hope this improves after preschool!) and I have one who loves ideas and dreaming up stories but has no time for the conventions of writing.

Each of our children requires us to know them well so that we can customize our instruction for them. If you are like me and you have a child who is a very unwilling participant in the writing process, then you know it is a challenge to engage this student in a way that will be encouraging. Hopefully, with some extra effort on our part, we can see some progress.

With my reluctant writers, I find it’s important to make the writing an authentic experience. Is there an assignment with purpose that you can have your child do? Letter writing, narrations on a current topic of study, or a persuasive piece related to something your child wants are a few ways to make the writing meaningful to your student.

These ideas let your student own some of what is in the assignment and it allows you to help them explore different writing applications such a friendly vs business letter format or a summary or a persuasive paragraph.

When I work with my reluctant writer, I try to remember that the process is sometimes more important than the product at this stage.

For example, one of the strategies my 9yo daughter enjoys is using word cards to form a paragraph. Recently, I gave her 5 words having to do with the Underground Railroad. My linear thinking brain assumed she would write five facts about the Underground Railroad thus completing my objective of having her write some facts- something I am hard-pressed to do with my creative, out-of-the-box thinker. To my surprise, what she produced was a fictional story complete with dialogue. She used all the cards. She incorporated the facts. She just didn’t do it the way I thought would be best. However, in the end it was all there and the piece gave us something to edit and talk about and improve upon. In other words, it was a success!

That recent experience brings me to my next point. When working with a reluctant writer, really try to figure out what is going to make this student motivated to write. For my daughter, it’s writing stories and plays. I would like to focus on some other skills, however I can still reach my goals for her while allowing her to explore writing the way she wants to do it. She loves to have her characters talk with each other and I’m all for it as long as she can punctuate it properly. She’s agreeable to learning the finer points of using quotation marks as long as I let her write dialogue in her stories. We both win.

I do not use a formal program for grammar or writing simply because I like to tie our writing into our current unit study. However, what some may consider l lack in formality, I make up for in consistency. We write everyday in our homeschool. Sometimes it lands in our lap. Just today, my 7yo asked if he could write a letter to his grandparents. He wrote a fine letter and our next step is to edit. He shared some great ideas and I did some coaching with him as he read his sentences to me. He did some rearranging and by bedtime thought his letter was ready to mail. I see a few things we can edit tomorrow, but what a great writing assignment.

Finally, I think it’s important to keep in mind why we want our kids to write. My goal for my children is that they will be effective communicators. Part of effectively communicating is writing well so that your audience understands you- whether the audience is reading a paper or reading an email. I choose activities and assignments for each of my children that bring them closer to that goal- whatever that might mean for them at any given time during our school year. Continuing to model and coach kids, no matter how much or little they have written, is critical for the reluctant writer. Experiencing success and building on it makes a good writer. I look for opportunities for my kids to grow and to be successful.

Here are a few resources I use, that in their own way, share something about writing with children which I have found helpful.

  • Games for Writing by Peggy Kaye (lots of different writing games and activities to nudge even the most hardened reluctant writer)
  • Games for Learning by Peggy Kaye (includes similar games to those found in Games for Writing)
  • Creating Books with Children by Valerie Bendt (a unit study on making a book with kids- from planning to editing to publishing and binding. Our kids really enjoy this one)
  • Unit Studies Made Easy by Valerie Bendt (How to write and implement a unit study- with lots of information on the kinds of writing to assign during the study and how to evaluate it)

Perhaps you have another resource to share with us. Please leave a comment and let us know what you have found to be successful with your children.



 Written by Heather Woodie


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