The best way to improve children’s writing skills is, like any skill, to practise. However, children who are not particularly good at writing are reluctant to write. So, it’s a ‘chicken and egg’ problem. Here are five easy strategies for encouraging reluctant writers to put pen to paper. The trick is to keep the writing activities short and quick.
No Speaking Day
Have a day (or an afternoon or an hour) when no-one is allowed to speak. All requests and comments must be made in writing. Prepare for the event by taking your children to the shops and allowing them to choose the book they will be using to write their messages. Also make sure that you have a supply of pencils and pens.
Keep a ‘shopping list pad’ on your fridge. Every time you need an item added to the list, ask your child to write the item. Provide lots of support in the spelling of the word. First, help your child to identify the syllables and the sounds in the word. Then say the sounds as your child writes. Make connections to their existing knowledge and tell them the information they haven’t learned.
For example, if the word was ‘butter’.
- First clap the two syllables.
- Next identify the sounds – /b/-/u/-/t/-/er/
- As your child writes, say, “/b/-/u/-/t/- double the letter to keep the vowel short-/er/ as in flower.
Exercise Card Pack
Purchase some index cards. It is preferable to use ones containing lines. Younger children can use two or three lines at a time so the letter size fits their fine motor skills (see picture). Using two lines also allows them to use the lines as a guide to letter size.
- On each card write a different action (e.g., Walk around the room with a book on your head. Jump over the mat.). Do this with your child, so you are both contributing ideas. Provide your child with the necessary support to write the words correctly (as described in point 2).
- Once you have written a variety of ideas (you can add to them over time), everyone in the family can take it in turns to pick up a card and roll a dice. You must do the activity written on the card the number of times shown on the dice.
This is a good activity if your child has friends or cousins visiting. It needs some planning and again it is important to do the activity with your child rather than expecting it to be completed independently.
- Together purchase an appropriate ‘treasure’. It doesn’t need to be expensive.
- Hide the treasure.
- Now write a clue explaining where to find the treasure.
- Decide on a location to hide the clue.
- Now write another clue explaining where to find that clue.
- Continue hiding and writing clues until your child’s (or your) interest wanes.
- Place the last clue written in an envelope. This is the clue given to the visitors to start the game.
Family Joke Book
Help your child purchase a notebook, perhaps one with coloured pages. It is preferable that the book has lines, but if not your child can write the joke on lined paper, cut out around the joke and glue the joke into the notebook.
Your child can ask different family members (parents, siblings, cousins, uncles and aunties, grandparents or family friends) for a joke to contribute to the joke book. Ask the person providing the joke to help your child write the joke.