AUGUST NEWSLETTER

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How To Improve Creative Writing At Home

The ability to write well is vitally important in order to do well in school and in a career, as many jobs require writing, even if only to communicate via email. Traditionally, little teaching of creative writing has been done until the upper primary grades, and even then, it often takes a back seat to other subjects. It is possible, though, to improve your child’s creative writing skills through encouragement, supporting the teacher’s efforts at home, and teaching them some writing skills yourself. The following steps provide you with ideas and methods to help make your child a better writer.

  • Read to and with your child

Reading and writing go hand-in-hand; good writers are well read, not just in grammar and usage, but in various subjects also, and well versed in various writing styles. Your child’s teacher and librarian can help you select books that are appropriate to your child’s age and interests. In addition to reading to your child, have your child read to you, and, if you have more than one child, have the older children read to the younger ones.

  • Play games with words                   

Word games include not just commercially available board or card games, but brainstorming games as well. The following are some examples of both commercial and brainstorming games you can play with your child, some of which you can follow with actual writing projects:

– Word games such as Scrabble and Unspeakable Words are great vocabulary building games. With Unspeakable Words, which requires players to keep a list of already used words, you can use that word list as a list of story prompts.

– Games such as You’ve Been Sentenced provide opportunities for sentence building. In addition to playing the regular game, you can have your child take a group of game tiles and try to come up with the most ridiculous sentence he or she can think of.                                                                                                   – For young children, you can bake biscuits or cookies in the shape of letters or words and then have them “eat their words” when they recognise them.

– Write instructions on slips of paper, then attach one to a ball or Frisbee (or stuff it in an old sock to play indoors). One player throws the ball to another, who then has to perform the action on the paper before attaching a slip of his or her own and throwing it to the next player.

  • Provide your children with a place and materials for creative writing

Just as children should have a quiet place to study and do their other homework, the same is true for their writing assignments. Ideally, this would be a desk in the child’s room, away from the television. A child’s writing area should include the following materials:

– A notebook or journal.

– Pens, pencils, and erasers.

– Stationery (writing paper and envelopes). As the child gets older and has access to a computer, he or she will want to write on the computer. Encourage this, but also encourage the use of the stationery to provide a personal touch to thank you notes and other such correspondence.

– An age-appropriate dictionary. Special purpose dictionaries such as a rhyming dictionary aren’t warranted unless and until the child shows a definite interest in rhyming poetry or whatever form of writing can be assisted with a special purpose dictionary.

– Consider a thesaurus. A thesaurus isn’t necessary until your child starts working with synonyms to add colour to his or her writing, at which point it can be a big help.

  • Encourage daily writing

The best way to improve writing skills, no matter the writer’s age, is through regular practice. If you’re homeschooling your child, you’ll want to include regular formal writing lessons, but you can also suggest your child write about his or her day at school or about a trip to the store after coming home. You can also provide writing prompts in the form of pictures clipped from various sources or picture books without words.

  • Get your child to think about a writing project before doing any actual writing

Most writing begins by planning the story, article, or poem before actually putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard. You can use any of the following approaches to encourage your child to think about the structure and content of a writing project:

– Ask your child questions about the project. For story writing, questions can revolve around the story’s setting, main conflict and action/resolution.    For a report, appropriate questions can revolve around the journalist’s “who, what, where, when, why, and how.” If your child expresses difficulty in deciding what to write about, ask questions about things he or she has done in the past and particularly enjoyed, someone he or she particularly admires, or something else centred on the child.

– Play stenographer. Write down your child’s thoughts and read them back. You can do this with very young children to help them learn to connect spoken and written words or with older children to help them focus on their assignment.

  • Write along with them     

While it’s okay to help with the actual writing if asked, “write along with them” actually means doing the writing assignment yourself alongside your child. Doing the assignment yourself and showing the results to your child shows him or her that you value creative writing skills.

  • Review your child’s work 

Look over your child’s writing and gently suggest places where he or she can make the work better (e.g., “You might want to check the spelling of these 3 words.”) Overall, though, you should be looking for writing skills your child has displayed proficiently and point them out.

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