How to Plan for Writing SuccessSeptember 21, 2020
Ever get the feeling that you could do more to help your children with certain subjects? Writing can be one of those areas where the feeling is strongest if you’re not confident in your own capabilities. What can you do? Is there a way to plan lessons for the year so you can be sure your children are practicing a variety of writing types and relevant skills? Yes! Start with your grade level standards and go from there…
For a young student, start by scheduling writing tasks that address foundational skills and are best practiced every day. For example, you can have your child practice letter names and sounds; blending and substituting beginning, middle, and end sounds; and basic spelling. Handwriting may also be a part of your writing curriculum. If your student is ready, work on sentence building.
Once your children are comfortable writing sentences and paragraphs, your writing schedule can become more complex. Here are some ideas to make sure you cover it all.
Planning for Daily Writing Practice
One of the best ways to improve writing is to keep doing it. Plan a short writing assignment for each day of instruction. Here are some ways to do this:
- Journaling: A simple way to keep your children writing is to have them keep a daily journal. First thing in the morning, ask them to write for 5 or 10 minutes. To keep things interesting, you can vary the structure of the journal entries too. Try giving your students prompts on some days and letting them choose what to write about on other days. Mix in some personal stories, creative stories, descriptions, reflections, and opinion pieces — whatever may keep your children interested in writing.
- Freewriting: Freewriting allows your children to work on their writing skills while they learn about a specific topic. One idea: you can start every science or social studies lesson with a short freewrite. It could be about the current topic you’re covering or about a previous topic you’d like to review. You’ll extend your students’ writing lessons and, as a bonus, you’ll see what they’ve learned in the other subjects they’re studying.
- Skill Drills: To practice writing skills that your students find challenging, make use of daily or weekly skill drills. For example, if you notice that your child struggles with sentence structure, you can practice this skill in several ways. Writing can be fun when you move beyond just worksheets! Try editing the work of others, using alternate writing implements (e.g., markers, chalk, shaving cream), and incorporating game-like formats. Check out magnetic words and letters, educational board games and apps, and websites.
Planning for Longer Writing Activities
As your children move into the higher grades, spend some time with the full writing process. Plan short, daily writing assignments for most weeks; and then schedule essays or short stories for the remaining weeks. For variety, be sure to cover different writing styles in your schedule. To reinforce the writing process, try using the PAPER strategy, which works well with a five-day school week:
- P — Prewrite: Given a topic, your child uses a graphic organizer, outline, or some other form of brainstorming to get thoughts onto paper.
- A — Arrange: Your child takes the graphic organizer, outline, or other pre-writing tool and puts the ideas into a logical order.
- P — Produce: Based on the ordered pre-writing tool, your child writes a first draft of the paper.
- E — Edit: With proper resources (e.g., an editing checklist, access to charts/notes, editing strategies), your child edits the paper for errors and clarity.
- R — Revise: Your child uses the edits on the first draft to write a second draft. Repeat the editing and revision steps as needed; and then have your child submit, share, and/or publish the final product.
Planning for a Year of Writing
Depending on the grade level and your child’s writing abilities, you can plan the entire school year as a template. Then you can fill in the writing types and skills needed into the template. Perhaps you plan for two weeks of daily exercises and then a longer writing task every third week. Keep your student’s grade level in mind; lower grades may not be ready for a schedule full of long assignments, while higher grades can often handle more. Maybe you want to plan longer writing assignments around vacations and breaks. Don’t be afraid to make a schedule that works for your family! Consider your child’s interests, preferences, and abilities, and include enough variety to keep writing interesting.
Even though writing lessons can bring anxiety for both parent-teachers and students, having a lesson plan that empowers children to express themselves, and keeps learning fun, can be a big help. Create a writing schedule and then check in with your children. Set a routine, mix it up, and help your students find the joy of writing!
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