5 Surprisingly Easy Ways to Encourage Your Writers
This is a guest post written by Sharon Watson – https://writingwithsharonwatson.com/
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Have you ever walked into your kitchen to start cooking a complicated meal only to find last night’s pots, pans, and dishes piled high? Before you can dive into all the work it takes to complete the meal, you first have to clean up. Soon, your enthusiasm for cooking the meal has evaporated.
This discouraging setback is similar to how our children feel when they face a writing assignment. Hurdles are making the task of writing even more difficult than it already is.
What can we do to encourage them without piling extra work on ourselves?
Provide an Environment That Invites Writing
Where do your children like to write best (or hate it the least)? On their beds? At a desk? At the kitchen table surrounded with family? Next to a window with an inspiring view? Every child has his or her own happy place. Let them discover it so they can write there.
The family vehicle is not the best place to write essays. A setting with fewer distractions and that allows for thinking on a deeper level is better.
Good lighting is a must, as are writing supplies available nearby: pens, pencils, paper, dictionary, thesaurus, and so on. Would your students enjoy designing and decorating their own writing spaces?
Allow Enough Time to Plan and Complete Writing Assignments
Our children can become discouraged if they do not have enough time to plan, write, and proofread an assignment. When they are up against a ticking clock, panic takes over and they cannot think well.
As a general rule, allow at least one hour for every hundred words in the assignment. For instance, if your students have a 300-word essay to write, make time in their schedule for at least three hours during the week.
Also, instead of assigning a due date for the whole essay, compile a writing schedule for them: brainstorming due the first day, points in a logical order the next, and so on. To download a sample writing schedule, go to http://writingwithsharonwatson.com/writing-schedule/ .
Give Your Writers Keyboarding Lessons
Some middle or high school writers, especially kinesthetic learners, have real trouble with the physical aspects of writing. It hurts their hands. Their handwriting is horrible. The physical act of writing discourages them.
These writers may benefit from keyboarding lessons. First, the keyboard is a gadget that does not require fine motor skills. Second, keyboarding (typing) is a valuable skill they’ll use for the rest of their lives. While there is a cognitive benefit to writing by hand, there is no need to work on handwriting during a writing assignment.
If keyboarding lessons only frustrate your writer, allow the hunt-and-peck method.
Write with Them on Writing Assignments or Prompts
Writing with our children makes writing seem legitimate in their eyes. If a parent writes with them, it takes on a new importance. Plus, it can be fun to write from a prompt together and then switch papers to see what others wrote.
But your writing time does not have to be all about writing. It could be about planning an essay they’ll never write. Choose a topic that’s on their radar. Then brainstorm ideas together, pull three to five ideas from the list, and finish by arranging the ideas into an order that makes sense.
You’ll find a whole slew of ideas here: http://writingwithsharonwatson.com/how-to-overcome-a-reluctant-writers-resistance/ . At the bottom of that post, you’ll find links to other helpful articles.
Could you use some fresh writing prompts for this experiment? Find Middle School Prompts here: http://writingwithsharonwatson.com/middle-school-prompts/ . High School Prompts are here: http://writingwithsharonwatson.com/high-school-prompts/ .
Point Out Something They Did Well
It’s very easy for us as homeschool moms to focus on all the mistakes our children make in their essays, especially mechanical mistakes like spelling and punctuation. Instead of being instructive, as we had hoped, it only shuts our writers down.
No matter how frightened or sketchy your writers are, they could use some encouragement. Find one or two things your writers did well and tell them about it. A small reward for meeting the assignment deadline may be welcome, too.
Which one of these ideas will work best for you and your writers?
Sharon Watson is the author of Jump In, Apologia’s easy-to-use middle school writing curriculum featured in Cathy Duffy’s 102 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum. She was forced to retire from homeschooling after 18 years when she ran out of her own children, but her enthusiasm for teaching permeates her writing and literature courses. Her popular course The Power in Your Hands: Writing Nonfiction in High School, 2nd Edition is based on her sought-after writing classes and is the sequel to Jump In.