Help Your Child Learn to Write Well
Written by: United States Department of Education
This is a resource courtesy of the United States Department of Education that
parents can use to help their children learn how to write. Included are
helpful hints and tips, and pointers for parents so their children can look
at the world with an eye for expression and thought through writing.
American children must be ready to learn from the first day of
school. And of course, preparing children for school is a historic
responsibility of parents.
Should you help your child with writing?
Yes, if you want your child to:
- Do well in school
- Enjoy self-expression
- Become more self-reliant
You know how important writing will be to your child's life. It
will be important from first-grade through college and throughout
- Most of us make lists, jot down reminders, and write
notes and instructions at least occasionally.
- Professional and white-collar workers write
frequently--preparing memos, letters, briefing papers, sales
reports, articles, research reports, proposals, and the like.
Most workers do "some" writing on the job.
- Writing helps to provoke thoughts and to organize
them logically and concisely.
- Most of us write thank-you notes and letters to friends
at least now and then.
- It can be helpful to express feelings in writing
that cannot be expressed so easily by speaking.
The Office of Educational Research and Improvement
(OERI) suggests that you help your child with writing. OERI
believes you, a parent, can make a big difference. You can use
helping strategies that are simple and fun. You can use them to
help your child learn to write well--and to enjoy doing it! This
leaflet tells you how.
Things to Know
Writing is more than putting words on paper. It's a final stage
in the complex process of communicating that begins with
"thinking." Writing is an especially important stage in
communication, the intent being to leave no room for doubt. Has any
country ratified a verbal treaty?
One of the first means of communication for your child is through
drawing. Do encourage the child to draw and to discuss his/her
drawings. Ask questions: What is the boy doing? Does the house
look like ours? Can you tell a story about this picture?
Most children's basic speech patterns are formed by the time they
enter school. By that time children speak clearly, recognize most
letters of the alphabet, and may try to write. Show an interest
in, and ask questions about, the things your child says, draws,
and may try to write.
Writing well requires:
- Clear thinking. Sometimes the child needs to have his/her
memory refreshed about a past event in order to write about
- Sufficient time. Children may have `stories in their heads'
but need time to think them through and write them down.
School class periods are often not long enough.
- Reading. Reading can stimulate a child to write about
his/her own family or school life. If your child reads good
books, (s)he will be a better writer.
- A Meaningful Task. A child needs meaningful, not artificial
writing tasks. You'll find suggestions for such tasks in the
section, "Things To Do."
- Interest. All the time in the world won't help if there is
nothing to write, nothing to say. Some of the reasons for
writing include: sending messages, keeping records,
expressing feelings, or relaying information.
- Practice. And more practice.
- Revising. Students need experience in revising their work--
i.e, seeing what they can do to make it clearer, more
descriptive, more concise, etc.
Pointers for Parents
In helping your child to learn to write well, remember that your
goal is to make writing easier and more enjoyable.
Provide a place. It's important for a child to have a good place
to write--a desk or table with a smooth, flat surface and good
Have the materials. Provide plenty of paper--lined and unlined--and
things to write with, including pencils, pens, and crayons.
Allow time. Help your child spend time thinking about a writing
project or exercise. Good writers do a great deal of thinking.
Your child may dawdle, sharpen a pencil, get papers ready, or look
up the spelling of a word. Be patient--your child may be thinking.
Respond. Do respond to the ideas your child expresses verbally or
in writing. Make it clear that you are interested in the true
function of writing which is to convey ideas. This means focusing
on "what" the child has written, not "how" it was written. It's
usually wise to ignore minor errors, particularly at the stage
when your child is just getting ideas together.
Don't you write it! Don't write a paper for your child that will
be turned in as his/her work. Never rewrite a child's work.
Meeting a writing deadline, taking responsibility for the finished
product, and feeling ownership of it are important parts of
Praise. Take a positive approach and say something good about
your child's writing. Is it accurate? Descriptive? Thoughtful?
Interesting? Does it say something?
Things to Do
Make it real. Your child needs to do real writing. It's more
important for the child to write a letter to a relative than it is
to write a one-line note on a greeting card. Encourage the child
to write to relatives and friends. Perhaps your child would enjoy
corresponding with a pen pal.
Suggest note-taking. Encourage your child to take notes on trips
or outings and to describe what (s)he saw. This could include a
description of nature walks, a boat ride, a car trip, or other
events that lend themselves to note-taking.
Brainstorm. Talk with your child as much as possible about
his/her impressions and encourage the child to describe people and
events to you. If the child's description is especially accurate
and colorful, say so.
Encourage keeping a journal. This is excellent writing practice
as well as a good outlet for venting feelings. Encourage your
child to write about things that happen at home and school, about
people (s)he likes or dislikes and why, things to remember or
things the child wants to do. Especially encourage your child to
write about personal feelings--pleasures as well as
disappointments. If the child wants to share the journal with
you, read the entries and discuss them--especially the child's
ideas and perceptions.
Write together. Have your child help you with letters, even such
routine ones as ordering items from an advertisment or writing to
a business firm. This helps the child to see firsthand that
writing is important to adults and truly useful.
Use games. There are numerous games and puzzles that help a child
to increase vocabulary and make the child more fluent in speaking
and writing. Remember, building a vocabulary builds confidence.
Try crossword puzzles, word games, anagrams and cryptograms de-
signed especially for children. Flash cards are good, too, and
they're easy to make at home.
Suggest making lists. Most children like to make lists just as
they like to count. Encourage this. Making lists is good
practice and helps a child to become more organized. Boys and
girls might make lists of their records, tapes, baseball cards,
dolls, furniture in a room, etc. They could include items they
want. It's also good practice to make lists of things to do,
schoolwork, dates for tests, social events, and other reminders.
Encourage copying. If a child likes a particular song, suggest
learning the words by writing them down--replaying the song on your
stereo/tape player or jotting down the words whenever the song is
played on a radio program. Also encourage copying favorite poems
or quotations from books and plays.
OERI's strategies for helping children learn to write well are
helping youngsters throughout the country. We hope they will help
© US Dept of Education
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