When you think about all the facets involved in teaching a child to write well, it can be overwhelming!! The subjects handwriting, punctuation, spelling, grammar, and vocabulary are just the start. They need to learn the challenging skill of expressing their thoughts clearly in written form. Add to the list the writing process, writing styles… writing a research paper, writing to persuade, writing personal letters… it can feel like a lot!
How can we teach our kids to communicate effectively? There are many excellent writing curriculums out there, but I have also found that there are simple writing habits that can be used regularly to cover a lot of ground. Kind of like a multi-vitamin or an all-in-one. In observing the positive results I have seen from these practices I have become so convinced of their effectiveness that they HAVE BECOME our main writing curriculum!
In short they are these:
- Literacy- Reading quality literature of many genres, memorizing, and engaging in conversations.
- Copywork- Copying the best pieces from great authors.
- Narration- Reading or hearing a short story, verse, concept, or idea and expressing it back to someone in your own (first oral, then written) words.
- Notebooking– Journaling as a regular habit for life.
HABIT #1- Creating a literate environment.
How can you express something that you don’t possess? Children should have a vast mental “library” of written ideas before they will be able to clearly express their thoughts in written word. I wrote more on this concept in the post Teaching a Child To Read.
Every child should be read to-A LOT! This can happen in small, scattered moments throughout the day, but it should be lathered frequently with pleasure.
We should be reading aloud to our children- A Lot! In addition, as soon as they begin reading on their own, we should maintain for them a quiet space and quality literature on which they can feast their imaginations. This is providing for them a bank, if you will, from which to draw as they attempt to formulate their own ideas about the world around them.
Here are some ideas to help cultivate a literate environment for your children.
- Read a variety of fiction to them including fantasy, historical fiction, folk tales, mystery, etc.
- Read non-fiction to them. What subjects interest them? What do they ask about or spend a lot of time doing? Get books on these topics and look through them together.
- Read biographies. Stories of great men and women of history inspire them to do hard tasks, overcome challenges, and be different.
- Read poetry. I like to read poetry by poet. When I find a poet I like or that I think the kids will like, I read some of their best poems over and over. Poetry should be read more than once to fully appreciate the meanings behind each word.
- Memorize together. Memorize Scripture. Memorize famous poems of history, historical documents like The Declaration of Independence or snippets from famous historical speeches. Memorize the planets, books of the Bible, Presidents of the US, states and capitols, planets, continents, oceans, and more!
- Engage in conversations that make them think. Ask them questions. When they ask the questions, on the other hand, use their curiosity as an opportunity to start conversations that help them express their thoughts and feelings clearly.
A child can only express what they possess. Give them a broad foundation of knowledge and experiences with oral and written language. This will be a great starting place for communicating their thoughts in oral and written form.
Are you looking for help in teaching writing? If you have found a writing curriculum that you LOVE, then continue with what works for you and your kids! On the other hand, if the multi-faceted work of teaching spelling, handwriting, grammar, punctuation, writing form, etc. is adding too much to your plate, know that there are simpler and equally effective tools that can be used to help your children communicate well.