Think back to the first time you ever held your newborn in your arms. That wriggling, tiny bundle of arms and legs felt so vulnerable in your grasp that you couldn’t help but feel your stomach tighten and your hands and arms tense up.
A young writer’s first efforts at turning his or her thoughts into words, sentences, and paragraphs aren’t so much different. Writing makes us vulnerable to judgment, criticism, and even possibly ridicule. It’s one of the most personal acts a person can attempt, and an elementary level writer’s first efforts can also make his/her stomach tighter and hands and arms tense up.
This feeling of insecurity can be compounded by the many rules that writing entails and complicated further if there are learning disabilities that affect a child’s writing growth. When you recognize the anxiety your child feels when learning to write, however, you can become a supportive ally. Knowing how to build confidence in kids as they write can not only help in the short-term but may even propel them toward a lifelong love of expressing themselves.
Model, Model, Model
What was your strategy for teaching your child to walk? Did you get the best how-to manuals and then follow them to the letter? Of course, you didn’t. Your child learned to walk by watching you, and all the people in his radius, and then making attempt after attempt to copy what you did.
This is just as applicable with writing. Children learn to write primarily from reading good writing! Make sure that you surround your home and your child’s environment with quality books and writings, and read to her every day. Are you writing something? Let your child see that, including any mistakes, you might make and then correct. Seeing you write regularly and reading the writing of others can strengthen your child’s confidence to try the skill for him/herself.
Build Writing Habits
If your child learned to walk, but then didn’t try again for a month or two, he wouldn’t become adept very quickly. The “practice makes perfect” cliché is never truer than with writing. Have your elementary student exercise his writing muscles as often as possible–especially when first learning. Perhaps you can establish an exercise of journal writing directly after breakfast every morning or before going to bed each night. Use writing prompts as short motivators in your daily schedule. And certainly, make writing instruction part of every homeschool day.
Avoid Grading Your Student’s Writing
When a parent applies a quantitative score to a child’s writing assignment, that child can’t help but interpret that score as a personal stamp of approval or disapproval. Because of the personal nature of the act of writing, it’s usually better to have someone other than a parent or close friend or family member grade a child’s efforts. When it comes to reasons not to grade your own child’s writing, look no further than the look of rejection on your son or daughter’s face when you find fault with something they’ve written.
Create a Strong Writing Foundation
The other key to ensuring that a student writer grows in confidence is by creating a strong foundation for all consecutive writing instruction to build on. You can’t write an essay until you’ve mastered paragraphs. And you won’t write a complete paragraph until you fully understand sentences. Plus, the writing of sentences, paragraphs, and essays all depend on grasping the basics of grammar and mechanics.
Time4Writing offers comprehensive student writing lessons in all essential areas of writing instruction so that students won’t have gaps that limit the effectiveness of their communication now or later in life. All of Time4Writing’s lessons, activities, and assignments are led by certified writing teachers who provide valuable and encouraging feedback after every writing submission. This personalized input is one of the things former students report that makes them want to take another course.