Journaling isn't only for grown ups. I believe the best way to encourage good writing, is to encourage reading that stimulates. Exposing children to quality texts that honor the language rules allows them to learn without realizing they are getting a lesson.
But, at some point in time, pen (pencil) literally gets put to paper and your child will have to express his or her thoughts in writing. It can feel intimidating, but exciting. My son has been an avid reader for several years. He articulates himself well verbally and I love complimenting him on his vocabulary. He did alright in the lower elementary grades on copy-work, but there was a noticeable decline in his skill level (and grades) when the upper elementary classes asked for writing work.
He needed practice in basic grammar, sentence structure and fully expressing an idea. The amount of time he had to work in class with the teacher was just enough to get him started and to "complete" his homework on his own. However, no one was editing and helping him to improve. He needed more practice.
So, I asked him to journal with me each day. We began with writing just three sentences each day, and he had to do it before his "homework" was considered complete. Sometimes I gave him a topic (weather, holiday, family, etc.) and other times I let him write about what he wanted.
Working together, I was able to walk him through the process of re-reading to be sure his sentences were complete and that ideas were fully expressed. I think he began to value my feedback and trust me to improve his writing. Once he mastered the grammatical issues, I encouraged better writing in general. For example, I asked him to use a different subject in each sentence. I required at least one compound sentence.
Know what? His grade improved but more importantly, his writing improved. He now takes time to think before he writes and he is more confident expressing himself. We no longer journal everyday, but the practice still part of our skill tool box. I hope to continue and perhaps one day he'll take up the task on his own!
How do you encourage writing? Do you have any creative ways to help your child express him or herself? When should I start the same with my younger children?
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