Want kids to write? Make it fun.
Getting kids to write isn’t rocket science. It isn’t any other type of science either, for that matter. Writing is art, and art should be fun. As with all things, however, it is a lot more fun when you know what you are doing. With just a few skills, young writers are able to play and explore, turning their already vivid imaginations into written word.
In my work as a professional writer, I have commented that writing often looks like doing laundry or making a snack. In truth, however, it most often looks like reading. When teaching writing skills to children, it can be very beneficial to begin the process by engaging their imaginations with a book, a short story, or a poem. Picture books are great examples of good writing, and even older children still enjoy them. When read aloud, stories that use vivid imagery and simple language give children the building blocks of story-telling.
Have a discussion about the way the book’s author describes things, then ask them to give you examples of adjectives, similes, and metaphors from the story. You can also have them describe things around the room in a similar way, reinforcing the vocabulary. Walk outside and ask them what they see, what they hear, what they smell, or what they feel. Ask questions like “is it loud,” “is it soft,” “is it striped,” and “is it big”.
Now that your students better understand how to use words to convey sensory experience, they are ready to write their own story. The focus of the lesson, up to this point, has been on imagination and story, but skill and grammar were learned as well. When they finally sit down with pen and paper they feel fully equipped, and are ready to write.
Even very young children can be writers, especially if imaginative play is incorporated. Dress-up and pretend help them to create stories in their minds. Reading a book, holding a book, flipping through the pages and looking at the pictures, are all steps in the process. Ask them to read a few words, and then ask them to write one sentence like one of the ones in the book. Dictate for them, if necessary, using brightly colored pencils and paper. It can all be very exciting and rewarding to a child.
Blank pages can be scary for writers of any age. But if you first take the time to open a child’s mind with imagination, give them ideas and examples, then teach them a few skills, they are eager to start writing when finally given the chance.
Dana Robinson has been writing and editing professionally for 9 years, with her first article appearing in print publication in 2007. She has edited or co-edited several published books, and is currently writing her first full-length work, a personal memoir.
Dana received her formal education at the University of Houston–Downtown, where she majored in professional writing, minored in creative writing, and was the recipient of the Upper Division Writing award for best essay. She completed internships with Writers In The Schools, working as a teaching assistant in creative writing summer camps for students in Pre-K through 6th Grade; and The Bayou Review, helping publish this student-run literary magazine.
Dana’s most recent works can be seen in Houston Family Magazine, The Bayou Review, as well as Dateline Downtown. Dana has also lent her talents extensively to non-profits she cares about, creating newsletters for after school programs and family services organizations.
Dana is the Children’s Workshop Instructor at The Fig Writer’s Studio, where her passion for education and the arts will culminate in a dynamic and fun experience for all of our young students. She believes there is a seed of creativity inside each and every one of us, but some just need an encouraging gardener to see it grow