Developing your child's Writing Skills
Writing and reading are part of every aspect of your child’s life and while children do lots of literacy based activities at school (e.g. writing, reading, handwriting, phonics), there are lots of ways that you can support your child at home. Below I will try to give lots of suggestions and ideas for making writing fun and meaningful at home and improving achievement levels at school.
General Tips and Ideas
The basis of all good writing is dependant on knowing lots of words and being able to join them together in interesting ways.
Encourage your child/ren to: -
- explain a game or activity
- describe a person, place, picture or thing
- retell stories
- talk about things they have done e.g. visits, day at school - encourage detail
- predict what might happen next in a story, TV programme or sequel to a film
- play word games
I'm not sure what activities to do, what things can I do at home?
- Be a reading model and read to your child (e.g. stories, poems, factual information such as timetables, magazines, newspaper reports, letters, emails, adverts, instructions) – discuss the ways authors use words to shape their ideas.
- Be a writing model and encourage your child to write alongside you for real purposes e.g. shopping lists, birthday/Christmas lists, labels, invitations, thank you letters, emails to friends, postcards, cards for relatives, scrap books of holidays/hobbies/special events, diaries, posters for real events, short stories or poems for family members, menus, texting, bedroom or house rules.
- Have an exciting selection of writing materials available e.g. a range of pencils, pens, coloured crayons, writing icing, writing soaps for bathtime.
- Praise your child for trying and don’t dwell on mistakes. Focus on content and enjoyment of writing for fun and for purpose.
- Continue talking about experiences. This remains the key to good writing. Talk about what has been seen, heard, smelt, tasted and touched with as many details as possible.
- Play word-building games to develop descriptive vocabulary such as Boggle, Scrabble, Guess Who, ‘What am I?’ (one person thinks of something to describe. They give clues by describing it, without saying its name. Other players have to guess what it is with as few clues as possible.)
- Create silly sentences or tongue twisters using alliteration (a group of words that all begin with the same sound) e.g. Sad Sid slipped on Sam’s salad sandwich.
- Encourage your child to rehearse their sentence out loud before they write it down. Also encourage children to punctuate their sentences with a full-stop and capital letter. Celebrate what the writing says first of all rather than focusing on errors. If a tricky word has been used in an interesting way, this should be praised even if it is spelt wrongly. Remember, it is difficult to get everything right when you are learning!
- Let children write part of shopping lists and then let them be responsible for carrying the list and finding certain items.
- Make up fun ways to remember how to spell difficult words e.g. Big Elephants Can Always Understand Small Elephants = because, what has a hat, when has a hen.
- Play ‘I Spy’ and ‘Hangman’ which encourage use of sounds and spellings.
- Encourage your child to learn weekly spellings and phonic group spellings. Write the spelling in sentences with accurate punctuation and practice high frequency words and handwriting. Also ensure your child completes homework on time, take an interest in what they are doing, and praise effort.
- Read books to, and with, them that are at a higher level than their own reading to expose them to ambitious vocabulary and complex sentence structure.
My child doesn't like writing and wont write at home what can I do?
- If your child has barriers towards writing, or low self esteem as a writer, praising and valuing your child’s writing is very important. Your child may need support when they write and may need you to talk through their ideas first and help with composing and structure.
- Help your child go over problem spellings. It is extremely frustrating for children to have to battle with spelling and handwriting when they want to get their ideas down on paper. Knowing high frequency spellings will aid the flow of writing and enable the use of a vocabulary rich language. (Consider being trapped into writing ‘big’ when you really wanted to write ‘enormous’). Encourage children to sound out and have a go at more tricky words or give them the spellings.
- Remember that writing does not have to be lengthy or boring!
- Writing for real purposes is more meaningful and rewarding for children and creates a fun and interesting way for children to develop their writing skills.
Ways to make it real:
- Help your child write a letter to their favourite author. Details can be found on the internet.
- Children can be involved in writing – shopping lists, cards, phone messages, notes to friends, invitations to family occasions, emailing friends, blogging, texting (be aware of e-safety).
- Write information pages or booklets about a hobby or something they find interesting e.g. dinosaurs, class topics, sports stars etc. Illustrate and label. Encourage use of paragraphs for blocks of information.
- Write postcards from holidays and record holiday events in a diary that can be shared with friends or family.
- After making a cake, doing a craft activity or playing a game, challenge children to write instructions for someone else to follow.
Online games you can use online with your child