Throughout our 18 years of homeschooling, I have noticed many stressed out moms concerning how to teach writing to children. I’ve often heard, “I’m not a writer myself, so I really don’t know where to start.”
A common question in homeschooling groups is “How do you teach writing?” It can be overwhelming to think you are responsible for teaching your children to communicate clearly in writing when there is a blank page in front of them. And it is difficult to find a writing curriculum that fits well without spending so much money during the trial and error stage.
In this blog post, I want to share how to teach writing to children without a curriculum. Although I have tried various curriculums, this method was always my go-to when I became frustrated with the program, or if it seemed to be causing my children to hate writing. For the elementary school years, I eventually abandoned all writing curriculums because this way seemed more natural, and the results were great. Through this method, I have enjoyed much success in seeing my children’s writing improve through the years, and without them hating it! I am confident that it works because my older children have been successful in their college writing assignments, and my oldest son made it to graduate school! These are strategies that I also used successfully when I taught elementary school before my children were born.
The Problem With Many Writing Curriculums
Writing curriculums often have assignments that are not relevant to the child’s life. The writing topics seem meaningless to many children, and they lose interest.
I am not criticizing the authors of writing curriculums. It isn’t easy to choose topics that every child has experience with. And all of us must write about what we know. How do you fill a blank page with something you don’t know? And let’s face it, who really gets excited about writing a random story about a frog? Especially when there are so many other possibilities directly related to the child’s life.
A Great Solution for How to Teach Writing to Children
Each day in this writing plan is like a piece of the writing puzzle. The variety keeps it from getting boring. If you do these consistently, your children will grow as writers, and they will no longer be afraid of the blank page. I suggest you follow this plan for several weeks until you establish a rhythm, and then tweak it to make it work even better for you.
How to Teach Writing to Children: A 5-Day Plan
- Choose a passage found in one of the books your child is currently reading. It doesn’t matter whether it’s from a required reading or free time reading. As long as you know the book is well-written, you can even let your child choose the passage. The length can vary depending on your child’s age and writing level. Start small enough to ensure your child will be successful and build from there.
- Have your child study the passage first. Let them take a “picture” of the passage in their mind, especially spelling and punctuation.
- Practice spelling each challenging word out loud first. Call out the word. Then have them spell it out loud. If they do not spell it correctly, let them look at it again to take another “picture”, and try again. You can remind and briefly teach spelling rules as needed.
- Call out the passage to them one phrase at a time as they write it. Use a spiral bound notebook or loose leaf paper added to the dictation section of their writing binder.
- Check it. I suggest that sometimes you check it, and sometimes let your child check it with the book side by side to their writing.
Tuesday: Oral Narration and Copywork
For elementary age students, it’s a good idea to separate the composition practice (brain work of creating sentences) from the mechanical (physical hand work). Oral narration will help your child practice the composition part of writing, and copywork will take care of the mechanical practice. Here’s how:
- Read a passage aloud to your child or have them read it silently. This can be from your current family read-aloud, or from a book from any of their subjects. To save time, I often use a passage they are already reading, either for school work, or free time. You do not have to introduce a new reading just for oral narration. Use something they are already reading anyway.
- Have them tell it back to you in their own words, while you type it out. This way they are able to practice composing sentences without the added effort of physical handwriting. This is called oral narration, and the more a child does it, the better he or she will become at composing sentences. (As they get older, they will transition from oral narration to written narration.)
- Print it out and put it in the narration section of their writing binder. They can even decorate it later if they’d like. At the end of the school year, you can take the pages to an office supply store and bind them together into a keepsake book.
- Have them do a short copywork practice. This way, they are still able to get their daily physical writing practice in. Choose something simple from any book, or let them choose. The length will depend on their age, but it does not need to be long. Just enough to practice their handwriting a little. If you would rather use a handwriting workbook, we enjoyed A Reason for Handwriting during the early grades. Each week’s project was a polished Scripture verse to decorate and display. Another good choice is Handwriting Without Tears.
Wednesday: Photo Writing
Here comes the fun part! You will need a photo of something in your child’s life. I suggest starting a collection of these so that you can just pull one out for them to write about each week. Here’s how:
- Print the photo on regular copy paper in whatever size you want. 3×5 works great. In order to print in color at no extra cost, I highly recommend HP Instant Ink. You can read about it in this post.
- Start a conversation with your child about the photo. Just have them tell you about the photo. This is preparing them for the composition part of writing about it.
- Have your child write about their photo, using notebook paper or handwriting paper. Assist them with whatever help they need. Depending on the child, this may sometimes be the rough draft. That’s okay. If needed, they can recopy it in tomorrow’s “publish” stage.
- Put their completed writing in a safe place until tomorrow. Don’t place them near water!
Oh, let me tell you, my children had SO MUCH FUN notebooking during our homeschool years! Talk about memory making! And who would have thought you could actually make family memories with writing! Here’s how:
- Have your children gather around the table with notebooking supplies in the center. This can include writing paper, scrapbooking supplies, gel pens, stickers, etc.
- Have each child use their photo and writing from Thursday to create a keepsake notebooking page! This is a super fun time!
- Have the child cut out the photo and glue it onto plain copy paper or a fun notebooking printable. You can enjoy my FREE notebooking printable pack here.
- If they used notebook paper to do yesterday’s writing, have them cut out around their writing and glue it to their page. After gluing, they can decorate around their writing with a border or in any way they choose.
- Have your children use pencil colors, markers, and supplies to decorate their page.
- Place completed page into a page protector and add it to their notebooking binder. Instead of throwing away their writing, these pages will accumulate into a precious keepsake book that they will love to look revisit in years to come!
Friday: Break or Catch-Up Day
Use Friday as a day off from writing, or as a catch-up day for any writing they did not finish earlier in the week.
When these strategies are used, your children will progress in their writing skills day by day, little by little, and have some fun in the process. As a result, your children’s binders will become keepsakes from their childhood.
Even if you enjoy the security of using a curriculum, I would suggest taking a break from it now and then. Spend a week trying this more natural method. You will learn so many insights about writing, and your children will enjoy the change. You can always go back to the curriculum for busier weeks.
If you would like to learn more about how to teach writing to children, here’s the real key: Keep them writing every day. And here’s a fun tip: you can work alongside them with your own practical writing projects. Consider working on a family keepsake recipe binder with photos of your children helping in the kitchen. Or a vacation binder with photos from your favorite family trips. The possibilities are endless!
I’ve put together a free little guide for you, available below. I hope it will help you gain confidence in how to teach writing to children!
Be sure to download your free guide below: How to Teach Writing to Children…without a curriculum!
YOUR TURN: What are your biggest struggles in teaching writing to your children? Please share in the comments below!