Monday, July 29, 2013

{Guest Post} Encouraging Young Learners to Write


I'm excited to share with you a guest post by Nikolas Baron regarding the importance of writing for young learners.  Enjoy!
Encouraging young learners to write
One of the huge drawbacks of the public school system is the requirement for students to work at the same pace as their classmates. While this can cause frustration and impede progress in all subjects, it becomes especially problematic when it comes to written work. What if my oldest child was drawn to print, and fell in love with reading and writing at a young age, yet my youngest shows no interest in the written word and prefers listening to stories or talking about pictures?
Make it personal
Homeschooling is wonderfully flexible. You can introduce writing in whatever way most interests your child and leave out the methods that don’t get good results.
Some little ones will love tracing and coloring letters on worksheets, and there’s no shortage of great online resources for those! Twisty Noodle and Enchanted Learning are two popular sites offering more worksheets than you could ever need.
Other kids will learn better if you give their writing a purpose. Lapbooking is a great technique for this. A lapbook is a large project book on a particular subject, containing lots of smaller booklets inside. Each booklet explores a different area or category within the main subject. For example, a lapbook about food could contain booklets on fruits, vegetables, meat, health and nutrition, farms, fast food... the possibilities are endless! Children can experiment and include pull-out sections, photos, magazine cuttings, drawings, and so on, to create a unique piece of work that reflect their abilities and interests. Even the most reluctant writers will proudly label their carefully drawn pictures, and write sentences to explain concepts that excite them.
Make it fun!
How about starting a diary? Use a hands-off approach so that writing in it doesn’t become a chore but employ lots of subtle techniques to encourage the kids to write in their diaries. For example:
- Read stories in which the main character keeps a diary. These really capture the imagination and get children excited about following in the footsteps of Adrian Mole or the Wimpy Kid!
- Pay attention to the materials you provide. A variety of sparkly gel pens or twisty pencils can make all the difference!
- Let your child pick out a really nice notebook or diary to write in. Better yet, buy a plain one and help them to design their own cover for it.
- Remind them about the diary when they’re talking excitedly about something, and suggest that they write it down so they can remember it all.
- After a special event or trip, give them a little memento to glue into the diary. Ticket stubs, receipts, photos, a shell picked up on the beach... anything that will help illustrate their story.
- Don’t worry too much about correcting their spelling or grammar. This diary should be for them to feel safe and free to express themselves, and to become comfortable and happy with writing as a fun project rather than a chore.
- Keep your own diary! Nothing will encourage your children to write more than seeing Mom or Dad doing the same.
Use technology
Banish the idea that grammar is difficult and boring by using technology to make it fun. There are lots of online games designed to teach and practice spelling, grammar, and punctuation. Use them! There are lots of online games designed to teach and practice spelling, grammar, and punctuation. Use them!
Encourage your child to take responsibility for their work by showing them how to proofread and correct their own mistakes. You can do this by reading over it with them and prompting them to think about what might be wrong. Eventually, you can let them try it by themselves before you read what they’ve written. Teach them how to use a grammar check program like Grammarly, where they can submit their writing and have their mistakes explained and corrected rather than just underlined or autocorrected. This is a particularly useful tool for those who really enjoy writing, as it can help them to develop their vocabulary, improve their writing skills, and learn from their mistakes.
However you choose to incorporate writing into homeschooling, you can make it fit with your child’s needs, skills, and interests. Writing can be fun - spread the word!
By Nikolas Baron


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