Following on from my recent article about how to teach young people to read, I decided to pass on my top tips regarding teaching writing. For me, as a teacher and writer, these two things are very important. Being able to write is a powerful skill which can easily become unappealing if it isn’t taught well.
You may wish to check out my article about encouraging reading too.
Writing is something that not only opens doors, but provides an outlet for worries, dreams and memories.
Creating A Buzz
As with anything, motivation is a big part of the writing process. I was definitely losing interest in writing fiction when I got to Year 10 at school and then a wonderful teacher called Mrs S joined the school and reinvigorated my fascination with composition.
Mrs S was so enthusiastic and knowledgable. She made us feel like her creative team, shared her process of planning creative pieces, acted out scenes from plays excitedly and generally stirred up a buzz in all of us to write fiction.
So if you are a parent wanting to support your child to learn to write or a tutor trying to spark enthusiasm, you need to start by showing that you genuinely care about the written word. The students will then be fascinated by what makes you happy and want a piece of that particular pie.
– Be visible enjoying writing. Whether writing a shopping list, composing a speech or simply jotting down a joke, make sure you are clearly seen doing it. Children will be intrigued by a parent or tutor visibly enjoying writing something down.
– Guide the writing process. Any task is more fun when done collaboratively. So why not write something together. Unpicking the process as you go along, draw them into the magic of writing something.
Writing with a partner is fun. It involves sharing ideas, overcoming challenges together and ending up proud as punch of a piece of work that is the result of a team effort.
– One of the hardest parts of teaching writing is getting started. Don’t be afraid to get the learner off to a good start by feeding them possible routes into a text. So what if you have to provide them with the prompt or initiate the first paragraph? Often a beginning is all that is required to kickstart the unfurling of a work of fiction.
– Make sure that spelling is no object. Writing can be by hand or on a screen. Either way, dictionaries, word banks or spell checks on devices can be utilised to support spellings and speed things along. You as the tutor can encourage them to create a draft without worrying too much about spellings. These things can be fixed later on.
– Demonstrate how you come up with sentences. Make transparent the thought process and let them know that it is OK to make mistakes.
Every author starts with a first draft. They may have completely changed the whole thing by the time they publish a book. Editing is part and parcel of writing successfully.
For me, writing enables me to spout my ideas and thoughts on anything and everything. Nothing beats the feeling of creating a short story or writing a meaningful letter or note.
Hopefully some of the suggestions for teaching writing that I mentioned above will help you to think about the way you encourage writing. The most important thing is generating a love of writing by showing how much passion you have for composition.
As a teacher and tutor for many years I came across a variety of students who had different attitudes to reading. I also came across parents with very differing approaches to getting their kids to read. One thing I realised early on was how powerful and important being able to enjoy books can be.
Don’t Push It
In my experience, if you force anyone to do anything, they will come to resent it. I was forced to play football at school, during lunchtimes and when I got home (as my neighbours always wanted to play it) and so I started to resent the sport.
Being forced to be a goalkeeper all the time made me dislike anything to do with football.
So being made to read and treating it like a punishment is generally off-putting. Also, having to suffer for not reading is a massive turn-off.
You have to teach reading using a tiptoe method. Step by step you shine a light on the reading experience and make it feel comfortable and fun.
– Read yourself regularly and where your child can see you absorbed in that activity. They will be fascinated by what is holding your attention and hopefully making you smile.
– Share a book with them. Learning to read starts with phonics but the love of reading comes from a shared experience. If you read to your child every evening, with expression and interaction, your audience will start to become interested.
– Don’t force a ‘type’ or genre of books onto them. Find some topics they like. Yes they may appreciate Roald Dahl but they may also crave stories about skiing or travelling or even prefer factual books about insects. Whatever they are drawn to, go with it.
– Use the pictures to get them involved in the narrative.
“Can you spot a picture of someone running away from something? What do you think made them run?”
– Work with poems and rhymes early on so the student then begins to know the patterns and jump in with the endings of each line.
– Most of all, make learning to read fun. This will make a lasting impression on the young reader and may foster a love of books which will stay with them as they grow up.
I remember my Mum taking the time each night to read me a story and I was totally absorbed. I became curious about what was so exciting about books and soon became a keen reader.
If you don’t use books as punishments and try not to limit the types of books that a child reads then a love of books should develop naturally. When a child doesn’t want to read something, never force them. Instead, give them some space and ensure you are seen enjoying a book. Later on, try a different book with them or find a fun way to make the reading session more like a game.