6 Tips to Get Those Pencils Moving
Here are six practice exercises for a range of ages and writing abilities:
1. Write a picture story. For pre-kindergarten and early elementary school-aged children, have them draw a picture on a piece of white paper. Encourage them to write a simple, basic sentence about what they have drawn on the open white space on the paper. Next time, gently encourage them to write more. Prompt them by asking questions about their drawing. What is going on? What person did you draw? What are they doing? How are they feeling?
Once complete, hang their work in your house to promote their hard work. This skill of simple story writing about a drawing is a big focus in the early elementary school years.
2. Plan menus and meals. Place a dry-erase board or chalkboard within easy reach of your kids. If they want you to purchase something at the grocery store, ask them to write it on the board. Planning the weekend menu, have your kid write it down on the board. If you pack your kids’ lunch, encourage them to write down their requests. It doesn’t matter if it’s not spelled correctly; have them sound it out. Kids are willing to participate in anything associated with food, so why not make it educational?
3. Make lists. Get the note pads ready. If you are planning to go to the grocery store, dictate what items are needed to purchase and have your kid write them down. When planning to go away on a trip, have your kids write down what they should pack in their bags. If you’re having a busy week, get your kid to write the schedule down to help everyone remember what’s going on. Making lists is a great way to practice spelling and handwriting skills.
4. Use writing prompts. For older elementary-aged kids who are beginning to engage in creative writing, give them some starting points to get their creativity flowing. Read one of the following writing prompts and encourage them to write a paragraph. Start with just one prompt at a time. After you’ve gone through them all, think about your kid’s interests and come up with some writing prompts tailored just for him. It will be easier than you think.
- If you could be any animal, which would you be? What would you look like? What moves would you make, such as flying or climbing trees? Where would you live and what would you eat?
- Imagine you are riding on a flying carpet. This magic carpet could take you anywhere in the world. Where would you go? What would you see and do?
- If you could have the ability to fly like a bird or swim like a fish, which one would you chose and why? What would you do if you were a bird or fish?
5. Get a pen pal. These days, writing a letter on a piece of stationery, placing a stamp on an envelope and putting it in a mailbox seems old-fashioned. Bring back this art form to your kids. Sending out a letter and waiting for a response promotes patience in our instant-gratification world. Any aged kid can benefit from an exercise in patience while growing their communication skills.
Grandparents, relatives or a friend who has moved to another town are good choices to exchange hand-written correspondence. Buy your kid a pack of stationery to motivate her to put pen to paper. Not only will it give her a fun way to write, it will be good practice for spelling, punctuation and capitalization.
6. Let it out. For tweens and teens, their emotions are on a whirlwind. Writing down their feelings gives them a good outlet for their feelings. These writings don’t have to go public. Putting emotions down in written form also will make writing a successful college application essay easier. The college essay is an opportunity for your teen to tell his story. Getting in the habit of writing about personal experiences will make the often dreaded college application requirement seem effortless.
Start by introducing one of these writing exercises at a time to your child. If you think one is a bit advanced for them, go ahead and let them try it. You want them to be challenged. That’s how their skills will grow.
The more effort your kids put into writing, the better they will be at it. Writing well is a valuable skill that will benefit your children now in becoming better overall students and later in being effective communicators throughout their lifetime.
Sara Kendall is a freelance writer and mother of two daughters.