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How To Teach Writing Skills | Our Homeschoolers Became Excellent Writers

It all began with our love of books.

 

Real books.

 

The ones we could hold in our hands and consider friends.

 

Within the pages How to teach writing skills - a colorful bookshelf with many friendly-looking booksof books, we entered places of wonder, excitement, encouragement, emotions, and danger. Problems presented themselves, and problems were resolved. We lived with these storybook characters, even when the reading had long been completed. We discussed the values and worldviews of those characters and whether we thought those values and worldviews were ones we wanted to hold as well. We considered what the author did to make his story compelling. We predicted what might happen next. Exposure to and discussions about good books laid the foundation for how our homeschoolers became excellent writers.

 

Our homeschool journey has taught me many things. How to teach writing skills is one of those things. I discovered that becoming an excellent writer takes a long time and a lot of practice. I’m sorry if that’s not what you came here to hear, but there is no quick, magical way to learn how to write well.

 

But what if your children don’t love books? Is it too late? Of course not! Let me help you with that.

    • This post details what we did and what our results were in writing. I’ll show you samples of writing from my children’s writing journals which were penned during our 52-day RV adventure. They were ages 16, 13, 10, and 7.
    • I’ll discuss why we should learn to write well and present a schedule for writing.
    • I will give a recommendation about how to use writing for critical thinking in other academic subject areas.
    • You’ll get a jump start on teaching writing when I reveal the surprising relationships between speaking, reading, and writing.
    • I’ll share important tips for grammar.
      How to teach writing skills - a hand writes a story in a spiral notebook
    • The Writing Process will be laid out.
    • And you’ll discover ways to encourage high-quality content within your student’s writing.

 

 

Why Should We Learn To Write Well?

In the adult work world, there are many situations when communication must be offered in written form, both formally and informally. There are emails, faxes, reports, notes, letters, promotions, presentations, proposals, resumes, essays, articles, lesson plans, employee schedules, graphic designs, etc. Granted, a McDonald’s employee and a dump truck driver may not need to write for work, but a McDonald’s manager will, and the owner of a trucking company will, too.

 

 

Many standardized tests for college admission require writing, and these are timed! Correspondence with friends, family, colleagues, and others is often written. Unfortunately, a person’s inability to write well is sometimes used in the formation of others’ opinions about that person’s value…sigh…

 

 

Also, writing can show who you are. Personally, I find that taking time to organize my thoughts and compose an effective piece of writing (as I hope this article is) allows me to reveal much more about myself than I could in a face-to-face conversation, because I’m usually shy and reserved with my ideas when speaking with people. Help your students showcase who they are through writing. It’s a creative and satisfying endeavor.

 

 

Development of critical-thinking skills is achieved when a student writes in detail about his observations and experiences in the subject areas:

    • Literature. Give him a book and have him write about it before he reads it – what he knows about it already and what he wants to learn. Have him write his predictions from one chapter to the next. Have him write his ideas about the book, including what he learned, after he’s finished the book.
      How to teach writing skills - Several narrow test tubes each with a different color liquid inside and with a long-stemmed flower coming up out of it. Photo by rawpixel.com from Pexels
    • Science. Compose a paragraph detailing his observations of a science experiment or lesson.
    • Social studies. Write diary entries by pretending to be a character within a historical setting.
    • Art, music, health, math, field trips, home economics, etc. The ideas are endless. Ask your student for creative ideas.

 

When Should a Student Write?

The important factor for success is that writing occurs daily. This will instill the writing habit. It will lead to your student automatically “writing” in his head as he experiences daily activities, making him better able to write tomorrow. It’s a circular pattern.How to teach writing skills - A small red alarm clock reads 1040-39900How to teach writing skills - A small red alarm clock reads 1040-39900

  1. The child writes often.
  2. The child’s mind automatically “writes” when ideas about life occur.
  3. The child writes again.

 

 

If you are a homeschooler, you have a big advantage, because you can closely monitor how your student writes and identify his difficulty more quickly and assist more effectively than can a teacher of a dozen students in the classroom. Your lessons can, and should, consist of at least 30 to 60 minutes of uninterrupted writing instruction and practice daily, depending on the age of the child. This goes a long way toward becoming a skilled writer – regular, uninterrupted practice.

Note: Composing a piece of literature can be done through dictation of a child’s creation to an adult or older student who writes it down as it’s told. I alternate this strategy with having the child write himself. This often keeps the creative juices flowing for the inexperienced writer.

 

how to teach writing-Aerial view of a motorhome on a winding road with colorful autumn trees

One Way We Got in the Habit of Writing

One opportunity that helped my children develop the habit of writing was during our 52-Day RV Adventure. Every day before breakfast, each child was required to write at least one page in his or her composition book, and then consult with me on it to correct errors and to consider more descriptive “dollar words” to replace the vague “penny words”. There were four of them and only one of me. The first child who finished his or her draft was the one who got my input first, and he or she got to eat breakfast first. Each one chose his own writing topic from something we’d experienced in the preceding travel days from Florida to California and back. Some of the following photos are from their journals on that trip, which I will decipher in the post about The Writing Process.

 

 

Several things happened from this daily journaling experience.

  • The kids were motivated to write. (They like to eat.)
  • The kids’ content was of higher quality, because they got their thoughts onto paper quickly without undo attention to perfect mechanics.
  • The habit of writing was practiced; after our trip, they continued writing in the composition books.
  • Our adventure was chronicled from four differing viewpoints; I still cherish those composition books today.

Every entry in my children’s composition books was not corrected to perfection every day. Rather, I carefully monitored the frustration level, concentration level, and physical need of each child each day to determine how much critiquing and attention the child could tolerate at that point in time, because I value relationship above academics. I found a great deal on a stack of composition books HERE. You’ll definitely want more than just one or two!

How to teach writing skills - A teenage girl writes a whole page of prose while sitting at a table

Speaking –>Reading –>Writing

When I first began teaching, I was surprised that my children didn’t automatically know how to write well when they could already read well. Silly me! I soon came to understand a few things.

  • A child becomes a good speaker long before she can read well,
  • a child can become a skilled reader long before she learns to write well,
  • writing involves MUCH more than what a child usually does to get her ideas across, and
  • in writing, she must concentrate on correctly forming letters, correctly spelling
    words, correctly constructing and punctuating sentences, all without
    using her usual body language and vocal intonations.

So, we can expect a long lag time between when our children read well and when our children write well.

How to teach writing skills - Photo of two pencils next to a closed composition notebook-Photo by Miguel Ángel Padriñán Alba-sketchbook-and-pencils

A Note About Grammar

Good grammar is important, but if you try to teach grammar outside of the context of using it, students won’t retain the material. Yes, kids CAN correct the spelling, punctuation, capitalization, and subject-verb agreement for every sentence on a lesson worksheet, yet be unable to use those grammar rules in their own writing. Why? Because there is little motivation to perfect a worksheet sentence that someone else created; the student has no “skin in the game”. Motivation comes from ownership of a piece of writing. When a child creates a thing, there is an emotional connection between the creator and the creation. People want their efforts to produce quality results, so a writer is motivated to put in more effort to increase the value of his own writing.

How To Increase Grammar Knowlege

Read aloud to your child. Choose books with full paragraphs written with proper grammar. Very young children have a hard time looking at the book you’re reading without also tugging on the book. This, of course, makes the book hard to read aloud! So, read-alouds may need to be delegated to times when your little one is occupied quietly with something else – eating at the table, playing in the bathtub, lying in his bed, swinging in the swing, riding in the car. Read aloud to older children, too, especially books that are too difficult for them to handle alone. The goal is to have regular opportunities to hear what good writing sounds like.

Provide an abundance of quality books in your home for your child to peruse in his spare time. Select many from your public library for the subject matter you are currently studying. Place these books in full view in an attractive arrangement. (To minimize loss of library books, I keep them all in one place.) Ours stand upright on the floor against a wall in the living room, facing forward to attract my children’s attention.

Speak with your children in grammatically correct sentences. Talk a lot. This is an easy way to increase grammar knowledge. Rephrase your statements in other, grammatically correct ways, as well.

For example, while exploring the backyard with three-year-olds, I say, “We are exploring…We explore nature…Amelia How to teach writing skills - two preschoolers explore in the backyard in front of the wooden barn wall.is exploring…Austin is exploring…You explore together…We will explore the back yard, too.” In this example, I used the verb ‘to explore’ in three different tenses and in three different persons. I don’t have to name the tense or the person. I just model proper usage all day long. Believe me, these lessons will stick when you talk about what’s interesting to the child at that moment!

Restate your child’s incorrect statement back to him correctly, and encourage him to repeat it. Make this casual and unobtrusive. Keep it conversational and playful, so he doesn’t feel like your correction is a punishment. I don’t insist a child repeat my correct sentence if he doesn’t want to. I know he heard it, at least. Sustain a delightful grammar-learning experience, and don’t turn it into a chore.

Teach Grammar with a Quality Curriculum

Age 9 or 10 is a great time to master most of the basics of grammar. Our family used Easy Grammar Plus for one year of concentrated grammar instruction. I posted an article about our use of Easy Grammar Plus. (See my full review HERE.) After that, we did not need another course on this subject. Rather, we continually increased our children’s grammar skills by practicing them within their own written compositions.

 

 

These pictures are of my ten-year-old’s journal entry. He just let his thoughts flow onto the paper. During the Revision Step, his original “penny words” were expanded or replaced to give more descriptive “dollar words”.

How to teach writing skills - 10-year old's journal entry

The Writing Process

This is just a fancy name for a method that guides both student and teacher from Point A to Point B. Point A is “Something needs to be written.” Point B is “A quality piece of literature has been produced.” The steps in the writing process go by a variety of names. I choose to keep it simple.

  1. Pre-writing – gather ideas and get them organized; specify the intended audience
  2. Writing – put pencil to paper and produce quality content without getting slowed down by mechanical perfection
  3. Revising – keep what is relevant, discard or rewrite what’s not, create smooth transitions, and expand the details with interesting, descriptive words
  4. Proofreading – correct spelling, grammar, and punctuation mistakes
  5. Publishing – present the final product to its intended audience

How To Teach Writing - photo of the second page of a hand-written journal entry

How To Teach Writing - photo of the last page of a hand-written journal entry

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I will expand on the writing process in my subsequent posts with tips and ideas for seamlessly incorporating all five steps.

Encourage Quality Content Over Mechanical Perfection

Writing is one form of communication. Many children don’t understand that. Some believe writing is torture, but I want my students to think of writing as a great way to share their imaginations, their experiences, their thoughts, and their ideas. I want them to know that their opinions are important and that others want to read about them.

So encourage kids to write their ideas on paper, with a real pen or pencil (develops brain integration for better learning), without stopping to figure out how to spell or punctuate every word or sentence. Those mechanical elements can be corrected later in the Revision and the Proofreading. Just let the story flow onto the paper before it gets lost.

That is my big tip on gaining high-quality content for anyone who writes.

 

This video exemplifies good, flowing content from my 7-year-old who used invented spellings.

Wrapping It Up

Over the last ten minutes, you’ve gotten more ideas on how to teach writing skills. I’ve shown you some things we did for learning to write well, and you took a look at writing samples from my children. We’ve talked about why and when writing should take place. How to use writing to develop critical thinking within the other subject areas was presented. I have shared how I came to understand the relationships between speaking, reading, and writing. You’ve acquired tips on how to teach grammar, and you discovered that we used Easy Grammar Plus. Acquire your copy HERE. (Or read my full review HERE.) Additionally, I gave you my big tip for encouraging high-quality content within your student’s writing.

My next post explains in detail the first step in the Writing Process, as well as why it is important. I think you’ll like my tips and strategies from 25 years of teaching writing. That link is just below this article.

Conclusion

Please don’t stress over teaching writing to your children. Bring good literature into your home, and read it aloud, and they will fall in love with books. Talk to your kids a lot. Incorporate writing as part of your lifestyle of learning. Be diligent and be patient. The rewards will come! Here’s what I always tell homeschooling friends: STOP trying to make your school look like the public school! You can do better than that! Our homeschoolers became excellent writers, and they continue producing great writing all the time. Yours will, too.

How to teach writing skills - A preteen girl in a dress and hat sits on the shady grass and reads a book.

So, did you like this post? Have you found value here? Please comment below
with your suggestions for improving my written piece or with questions
you have.

Comments are GREATLY appreciated; they keep my website active and available to more people looking for valuable information.

Picture of Laura smiling at the cameraRelax and enjoy the journey,

Laura

 

 

Laura

18 Comments

  1. Hi laura
    I was truly interested and engaged in the wealth of information you shared here. I am an ex- school teacher and I know that teaching will always be in my DNA. I have a son at university and an eleven year old daughter in grade 5. She is very interested in writing and sees mommy writing articles for WA and she wants to do the same. Your tips and advice is most welcome and I will certainly drink from your well. I love how you have product links in your article and I hope to advance to that level too as I go through the training at WA.

    • Hi Charlene. I am so encouraged to hear that you’re being a great example to your children, and specifically, your daughter who wants to follow in your footsteps. I hope my little article will benefit you both.

      Regarding the links, two of them link to valuable writing resources for purchase. The 4 other links take you over to other articles I’ve posted relating to homeschool and writing. Hopefully, folks are helped through my stories and recommendations.

      And I know what you mean when you say teaching is in your DNA. Once a teacher, always a teacher…a noble profession!

      Blessings,
      Laura

  2. Hi Laura,
    This is an amazing article, packed with useful information. I had been looking for some ideas of how to motivate my daughter, who has been brought up bilingual, to engage in writing. Whilst she is taught writing skills at school, I know she needs more help with her second native language. I think reading lots of books is one of the best ways to improve writing skills. But, unfortunately, books have gone out of fashion with the young generation. I really like your suggestion of making writing a habit and I will try that with my daughter – ask her to write something every day, but maybe less than a page to start with. Do you think it’s important what time of day to do that – could it be right after school?
    I look forward to your reply.
    Sammy

    • Hi Sammy,
      Here’s one strategy I used to get my son to read a book. First, I chose one I thought would interest him, making sure it was on his reading level. Then, I read the first one or two chapters aloud to him during our reading time. I read it with expressive voice and conversational style — you know, to help him “get into it”. Then I’d purposely NOT find time to continue to the next chapter. The result? If he was interested, he’d pick up the reading on his own. If he wasn’t interested, I usually switched to another book. Kids get motivated to read when they discover an interesting topic or story within a book.

      I’m very excited that you’ll ask your daughter to write something every day. I suggest you purchase several composition books (link is in my article) so everything she writes stays in one place. I think any time of day can work, as long as she’s feeling relaxed and happy. She might need you to help her through the first several writing sessions. Perhaps they can be cooperative compositions so you can model good writing. Encourage her to share her creations with others, if she wants to. Don’t be discouraged if your daughter initially resists writing. Celebrate every small success.
      Good luck, good mama!
      Laura

  3. Hi Laura!
    Thanks for your wonderful post on writing skills. As an upcoming writer I find your article very helpful, I believe if I was lucky to have such knowledge some years back my writing work would be easier but I am determined to continue learning so that I could become a good writer in future. Thank you very much, you are a good writer and I was very impressed with your writing. Keep it up!

    • You are very welcome, Tito. If you will write every day, like I recommend in my article, you will definitely improve. The spell check and the grammar check on today’s word processing programs are very helpful, so take full advantage of them, if you can. What I do is write my content ideas quickly, without correcting anything along the way; it helps keep the words flowing. Later, I run spell-check and re-arrange and improve on the content.

      A grammar learning curriculum might be worth your time and money – Easy Grammar Plus. I posted an article on it, if you’re interested.
      https://mycoolworldschool.com/easy-grammar-homeschool-curriculum-english-grammar-exercises-for-adults-too

      I appreciate your kind words, Tito. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask.
      Blessings,
      Laura

  4. Hi Laura, What an interesting take on teaching children about writing. So refreshing. How I wish I had the opportunity to homeschool my children. It just wasn’t done then. If I had my time again, that is exactly what I would do.

    • Hello, Jill. Homeschooling isn’t for everyone, of course, but our family found it melded well with our values and our situation. I feel blessed that it’s part of our lives. It especially aided my children to become excellent writers through sustained, supervised, encouraging writing practice. Perhaps you’d like to pass this post on to someone who is wondering how to teach writing skills to a child. I would appreciate it.

      Thanks for visiting. Please come again.
      Laura

  5. I absolutely love the tips you have given me. My daughters love to read and write. They are 19,13 and 10.
    I will bookmark this so that I can continue to refer to it when I need to reflect on the tips you have given.
    I need to learn this myself, before teaching it to my girls. I will be gathering up the appropriate books to start my journey with.
    I can’t say enough, how happy I am that with your help, I can teach my girls to become excellent writers.

    • Dear Lee Ann,

      I am honored by your glowing opinion and by your intend to bookmark this article and visit again. Thank you so much!

      My desire is to help as many people as I can by sharing tips and techniques I’ve found valuable. The teacher part of me loves guiding, leading, encouraging, etc.

      I’m sure you will be a strong, positive influence for your daughters on their journey to becoming excellent writers. Great job, Mom!

      Enjoy the ride,
      Laura

  6. This is absolutely a necessity! Writing is one of the most important things anyone could improve or get better at. Love how you have facts and the reader will know exactly what to do and how to improve on helping young ones write!

    • I’m so glad I met your expectations for learning a step-by-step process to help our kids (or anyone really) improve writing skills. I think writing is great fun, because I get to craft a piece that displays my personality and passion. And hopefully, help others along the journey. Let’s teach our kids that it’s fun, too!

      Laura

  7. Hi Laura, really such great information and inspiration, not only for kids, but also for adults who wish to learn how to write better. I will share this with my daughter to help with her kids’ reading improvement.

    • I appreciate your kinds words, Mariette. I truly hope you and your daughter’s kids find value in my ideas. If she doesn’t already understand the value of giving a child easy access to quality literature, on the reading level of the child, in her home, perhaps this post will help with that. That’s what I’m here for – to help.

      Did you like my strategy of reading aloud the first couple of chapters to my son to help him get into a story, leaving him hungry for more? Hehe…grin.

      Have a great day,
      Laura

  8. I’m glad you’re finding an outlet to share all that you’ve learned over the past few decades. We’re looking forward to more great content!

    • Thanks, Mary. I am glad, too! I hope my love of teaching and homeschooling overflows and encourages other parents, so their experience can be awesome, like ours has been!

  9. Wow I’m so impressed by all of this on here already! You know I’m going to be referencing everything here as Maya comes of age to do things… and maybe even before that because you know how I like to push for excellence 😀

    • That’s awesome, Hannah, that you’re excited to homeschool your little one. As long as Maya is onboard and excited about learning new things, go for it! Watch for learning opportunities all day long, because children learn best when the learning relates to their current interest. For example, when she’s interested in her books, help her sort them by color or shape, then count them. Please remember that the best learning for little children is in their play, so blend learning seamlessly into her play and she’ll rock this homeschool adventure!

      Thank you for taking time to share your excitement!
      Laura

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