The Red Pen: Tips To Get Your Children To Write Effectively
Writing is an integral part of our life. When we write we are in essence communicating, whether we write emails, letters, presentations, posters, what’s app messages, blogs and social media posts. Books, movies and plays entertain and educate us, and engage our emotions. While many of us learn to write in school, much of the focus is on writing as an academic endeavour, fulfilling curricular requirements. Most students do not have the opportunity to learn or practice writing that is reflective, critical, analytical or persuasive.
Effective writing is a skill that will help your children in many facets of their life; they are able to convey information and get the point across clearly to the reader. In a recent conversation with an acquaintance who works as a data services consultant, he mentioned how he regretted the fact that his education hadn’t trained him to write effectively. He realized that while trying to convince companies to buy his technology solutions, strong business writing abilities were just as useful as his knowledge of the technology.
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Like reading, effective writing is not intuitive to everyone – it is a habit that needs to be nurtured and starting early can help tremendously.
It is a skill that you can start developing at home. Here are some tips to help your children learn to write:
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- When your children are really young use picture books - Look at picture books together and get your children to frame their own stories. This gets them to start thinking in a structured way in preparation for putting their thoughts on paper.
- Make up a ‘writing’ game. My children and I often play a game where I start a story (I write 3 sentences on paper), then my son continues it (he writes 3 sentences) and then my husband will finish it (he writes 3 sentences to end the game). It’s so much fun to play this game and it gets them to write! This allows them to be creative but also helps them slowly develop logic and sequencing as they build on the story.
- Ask your child to summarise a book they have read. Get them to write what they think are the main events of the story in their own words. This helps them build comprehension skills as they share their ‘understanding’ of what has happened in the book.
- Encourage them to keep a journal. Whether they want to write in it every day or whether they just take it when you go on holiday, encourage your children to pen their thoughts about their activities, friends, what they did on holiday, their observations and feelings. During our summer vacation, my 6 six-year-old son wrote about what he did every day while my 4-year-old daughter expressed her experiences through pictures. Don’t worry so much about spelling and grammar – it’s more important for them to just write.
- Motivate them to write letters. While what’s app and email have become the preferred methods of communication, there is something special about sending and receiving letters. For example, when on holiday, have your children write and send postcards to their grandparents, cousins or even friends.
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With older children, it is harder to get them to start writing out of the blue because they are influenced by their peers and have so many others interests and priorities they juggle. You can encourage them to -
- Enroll in creative writing/storytelling workshops during the summer or other holidays
- Keep a diary/journal – this a great way to express their thoughts and emotions, record their observations at a time of so many changes and growth
- Write for a school newspaper
- Start a blog if they are passionate about a topic (e.g. travel, fashion, food, animals, music, etc.)
Writing often will help children develop logical thinking skills. It will encourage them to reflect on their life, be more in touch with their emotions and help them communicate more effectively.
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