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Teaching a Reluctant Writer

One of the questions I commonly get is, “My child hates writing. What can I do?” A lot of kids are reluctant writers!

There are a few different answers to that question, and they depend on the reason your child hates to write.

Teaching a Reluctant Writer

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Many kids dislike writing because they’re not sure what to write, even when they’re given a topic. They stare at a blank piece of paper, hoping that something will appear.

When it doesn’t, they become convinced that they’re just not “good” at writing. In reality, they don’t yet understand the process and structure.

Some kids dislike writing because the physical act and the mental act don’t quite get along, for any number of reasons.

There may be an issue like dyslexia or dysgraphia, or they may just process information in a different way.

Today, I’ll give you tips on working with the first issue. The second will be covered in tomorrow’s post!

The Mental Process of Writing

Teaching our kids to write doesn’t seem like it should be all that hard; after all, we do it every day. How hard can it be?

There’s a difference between knowing how to do something and knowing how to teach it, though.

Something that we often forget is that our kids aren’t approaching this task with the same context we have. To many of us, it’s pretty straightforward: take out a paper and pen and write down what’s in your head.

Think about it, though: unless you’re currently a student yourself, how often do you write something solely because you’re assigned to do it?

Probably not very often. Instead, we write because we actually want to write.

Whether it’s a grocery list, a thank-you email, or a blog post, we actually have something in mind before the words hit the page.

That’s because writing is very much a mental process. There is a physical aspect to it – either handwriting or typing – but that’s one of the last steps.

If your child doesn’t understand the mental process, how can they complete the physical part?

Some kids are natural writers. If you’ve got one of these, great!

This information can still help you refine their skills, but they probably already understand a lot of it. If this is the case, don’t feel like you have to go to great lengths with these steps!

For those of us with kids that are not naturals, it’s important to take some time with this process.

You might feel like they’re not “really” writing, but they are. And once they get the process down, you’ll be amazed at how much easier writing is for them!

Tips for Teaching Your Child to Write

Before you set your child down in front of a clean sheet of paper to write, there are a few steps to take. You’ll want to do these in a way that fits with your child’s learning style, but they’re important.

First, allow your child to think through their topic. This doesn’t mean just coming up with a topic, like “Christmas at Grandma’s” or “Why I Like Minecraft.” It means really thinking through it.

For visual learners, this might best be done with a graphic organizer (like the one in my subscriber’s only resource library, which you can get access to below) or on a whiteboard.

Auditory and kinesthetic learners will probably need to talk through the process with you while filling out the organizer. They might want to move around during this process or even act it out.

This is totally fine – it’s actually really helpful for them!

Putting It Down on Paper

Once the topic, details, and structure are all worked out, it’s time to put it down on paper. Some kids will find the organizer really easy to work with on their own.

If this is the case, let them at it!

Other kids will need to talk through the process or work at it in short spurts.

This isn’t a lack of focus, most of the time; it’s just how their brain works. If they need to bounce ideas off of you, be available to do that.

You don’t necessarily have to sit right next to them the whole time, but you may want to stay within earshot.

If your child needs to take short breaks, that’s fine! At first, the mental process of writing isn’t easy.

As they get used to it, the need for breaks will usually decrease.

The first step is to write the rough draft. This is just what it sounds like – rough!

The sole purpose of this draft is for your child to get the thoughts from their brain down onto paper.

Spelling and grammar errors, word choice, and even sentence order can be fixed during the revision process.

Editing the Draft

Once the rough draft is done, have your child put it away for at least a day. (If it’s on a tight deadline for a class, take at least an hour or so.)

This will allow your child to look at it with fresh eyes and see what’s actually there, rather than just what they think they wrote!

When they’ve made their notes, have them give it to someone else – you, a sibling, or a friend – to edit. This is just to have a second pair of eyes on the paper.

Note: If your child is especially sensitive about what they write, this step can wait until they gain confidence. It’s a process, and everyone goes through it in a different way!

Once notes and edits are finished, it’s time to write the final draft. If the project is typed, this is really easy! If not though, it’s also good handwriting practice.

Celebrate Your Author!

At each step in the process, find ways to give honest encouragement to your child. This will help them build confidence and the desire to keep writing!

If you have any questions – or want to celebrate your child’s work! – please let me know. You can find me on my Facebook page and group!

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Teaching Writing in Your Homeschool

Teaching Kids with Writing Difficulties

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