How to Improve Writing Skills for Kids
It’s Not Just Writing
Writing is an activity which requires the involvement of a lot of aspects. A child must bring together vocabulary, grammar and mental processing, and then rely on the physical aspect of handwriting or typing out the words. That’s why it requires ample practice and extensive exposure to language for kids to develop strong writing skills. And because young learners can’t just sit down and write the perfect draft, they need to learn the art of revision too.
Writing is intricately linked to critical thinking. It also has implications for performance across all areas of the school curriculum. Writing is how a child shows what they know and what has been learned. Students need to be good writers in order to do well in exams, complete homework assignments and eventually compose longer essays and reports in higher levels of education.
7 Ways to Help Kids Develop their Writing Skills
For students to improve their english writing skills they need to practice as often as possible, learn how to type so they can write quickly on a computer, and be introduced to strategies that will help them develop their skills.
Good writers tend to be avid readers and there is a reason for this. The more a child reads, the more they will be exposed to new vocabulary in context and the more words they will learn. Once a word is part of their receptive vocabulary, it is a lot easier for it to make the transition into productive use. Reading skills also expose kids to different ways of using words and a variety of sentence structures that they can use while writing.
Help them get started.
A blank page can be intimidating, even for the seasoned author. Children may do fine once they get started but you often need to help them get the first few words or sentences down. Ask them a thought provoking question, make a list or mind-map of ideas that relate to the topic they are writing about or work with them to organize an outline they can turn into a draft.
Taking away the stigma of writing the perfect sentence is also key. Once they have some text to work with, it can always be re-shaped and revised. The trick is to encourage free writing skills from the start, in order to record whatever thoughts come to mind.
Teach working in drafts.
Brainstorming, putting ideas down on paper, ensuring the language and thoughts flow and revising for typos and errors are all different steps to develop writing skills. Children need to understand that a perfect sentence doesn’t just come out of nowhere, it develops through a back and forth process as the writer writes, reviews and revises his or her text.
This is one reason it’s helpful for kids to write on a computer as it saves erasing and allows children to make multiple attempts at getting their thoughts down, until they find the phrasing they want. Word processors also make it more efficient to reorganize longer pieces of writing, to help information flow better.
Ask parents to help outside of school.
Kids learn to write through examples. Completing an initial draft alone is sometimes important, particularly if the task requires sharing personal thoughts and experiences, but it also helps to have someone else to review it. Parents can make a huge difference in how their children’s writing skills improve by agreeing to read early drafts. Use the child’s words to suggest optimized phrasing and/or help them pinpoint what they are trying to say through conversation.
Allow the use of spell and grammar checks.
It’s easy to dismiss technology-use as being lazy, but spelling and grammar feedback can actually be extremely helpful for a child who is learning how to write or trying to improve. This is because sometimes there are multiple suggested corrections that force a child not only to notice the awkward phrasing or misspelled word, but to spend some extra cognitive energy thinking about how to correct it.
Incentivize free writing at home and school.
When children learn to write well they are not just cultivating academic skills, they’re also opening up a new avenue for self-expression. Creative tasks foster positive associations with writing, so children see it not just as an activity for learning and reporting information at school, but a way of getting their thoughts across. It doesn’t matter who reads what they are writing or even what it is about, it’s just a good idea if it becomes a regular activity.
Parents might suggest keeping a personal diary with a journal entry a day resulting in a special treat at the end of the week. It’s also important for teachers to encourage any and every opportunity for writing, as the more kids write, the more they will improve their writing skills.
Suggest copying activities.
Copying or memorizing favourite poems, quotes or any other pieces of written language can help children focus their attention on form, use and meaning and incorporate new structures into productive use. While no parents or teachers would advocate plagiarism, borrowing sentence structures for your own ideas is how children learn to write and improve their writing. They will lift phrasing from everything they read and you can help encourage the process by providing them with specific materials to work with.
Learning Difficulties that Delay or Affect Kids’ Writing Skills
While no two children with dyslexia will have exactly the same symptoms, the dyslexic child often struggles to cultivate reading and writing skills. If they have a hard time learning to read, vocabulary will be impacted, which makes writing more difficult. Try out different teaching strategies as it’s crucial to help these kids before they fall behind in early literacy skills development.
For some children and adults, the act of handwriting is actually physically painful or can cause mental strain. Everything from forming the letters to deciding on the spacing between words requires so much cognitive energy that very little is left over for thinking about the ideas, flow, spelling and/or punctuation in an assignment. It’s almost always advised that kids who have dysgraphia learn to write on a computer using touch-typing.
Similar to the handwriting difficulties experienced by children with dysgraphia, dyspraxia has to do with difficulties with fine motor skills. This can make holding a pen or pencil difficult. It also impacts on planning and organization skills, something that’s essential for children who are learning how to write. Brainstorming ideas in charts and filling out outlines can help these kids.
Children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder may struggle to focus and pay attention to how the idea they are working on relates to the larger text. It can be helpful to take the help of some literacy educational toys with reading and writing activities that don’t make it look like a school task to them. You can also give them an opportunity to move around the room or stretch every few minutes. Many kids are successful writing in their heads, that is working out their thoughts before sitting down to record them.
Parents and teachers can help by going over the task instructions multiple times, giving children an opportunity to talk about the topic in order to generate ideas, and then allowing enough time to write. Neatness and spelling can be corrected later once the child has learnt the skill of writing. And so initially, it’s better to give students or children shorter tasks to help them become acquainted with the practice of writing.