What are the habits of an effective child writer? What are their rituals and routines that motive them and push them forward?
Practice makes perfect. We know this and use it time and time again to assure ourselves that no matter how many times we fail at this one thing we cannot conquer, one day the battle will be won.
Why would you teach your child any differently?
School is about both practice and discipline but often you will see a student get discouraged because they received a bad grade or just can’t seem to master some essential skill they have been practicing again and again and again.
When it comes to writing especially, a lot of places just can’t get the formula right. The steps are taught, the writing is explained, your child goes to work and then comes back with a paper that’s been so marked up they can hardly read their original writing.
Talk about discouraging. So how do we break the cycle to turn your demoralized writer into an effective writer?
First they’ll need to know the habits of an effective writer. You will help guide them into these routines.
An effective writer:
Brainstorms—even if they are absolutely sure about the topic they want to write
about, make a list of how many examples of that topic your child can come up
with. If the list is less than three, then its time to think of a new idea.
Outlines—before they write they need to organize their thoughts in a cohesive manner. Help make an outline of what your child wants to talk about and in what specific order. Then fill in the spaces with details. You want your child’s first paragraph to start broadly and work itself down into the specifics of what they’re going to be talking about. The middle of the paper should be composed of what their topic/argument is. The last paragraph should synthesize their ideas while leaving the reader with a concrete statement.
Drafts—your child should go through at least two copies of their writing. First have them get all of their ideas out and on the page, then go back and help them see where they need to add/eliminate information. Last, go back and help them revise for grammar, punctuation, flow, and spelling. Tell them to do this at least twice before they consider their work done.
Reads—have your child read as much as they can about their topic, or depending on what type of writing they are doing, read some examples of that style. Tell them to have a concrete idea in their head of what the tone of their writing should sound/look like. It’s important to give it life. In fact, go ahead and have them read their own work out loud. If they trip up or get stuck then you know it’s a place they have to revisit.
Rests—give them a break after they have developed their ideas or run through a complete first draft. Just don’t forget to come back to it! When your child approaches their writing with a fresh set of eyes and perspective it can really help them to fine tune what they are trying to say. At the end of the day writing is about communication and your child wants to make sure what they have to say comes across in the best way possible.
Re-visits—look back at their old writing. What worked and what did not? What can they bring with them as they move forward and what can they leave behind? Last but not least, praise them on all the work they’ve done so far and how much they have improved over time.
Practice does make perfect, and writing is no different. The more time you dedicate to perfecting your craft, the better the results you will see. Teaching your child how to form these habits is an important part of the writing process and it will become as easy and innate as tying your shoelaces together. (No matter how long it took to learn!) You have been an effective teacher to them all their life; this is just one more thing to conquer together.