Reinforcing Writing Skills for Back to School
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We’ve all heard the phrase “practice makes perfect.” This is definitely true for writing. The more kids write, the more comfortable they become. With practice, they are able to get their ideas onto paper more easily, tell more about their topic, and better use writing to communicate. Here are a few fun ways to help children practice writing sentences, stories, and expository and narrative essays to keep their writing skills sharp for when they return to school.
- Have your child draw a picture, then write a sentence telling about the picture. Help him write the sentence, or write it for him if needed. Then read it together.
- Read a book together, then have your child draw a picture of what happened in the beginning, middle, and end. Guide her to write a sentence about each picture to retell the story.
- Ask your child to write a list of things he wants to do this weekend, or before school starts. Choose one of his ideas, and write a question about it. For example, if he writes, “I want to go to a movie,” you might respond by writing, “What movie would you like to see?” Continue asking questions until he has written several sentences about the same idea.
- After an exciting outing, have your child draw pictures of three things that happened, then write three sentences about each picture. If she gets stuck thinking of details to write about each picture, ask questions such as, “Why did you like watching the monkeys at the zoo? What did they do that was funny? What happened when the zookeeper gave them bananas?”
- Help your child find a friend, relative, or even a neighbor to be a pen pal. Encourage him to write or email regularly. For a fun twist, have your child to imagine he is a favorite book or movie character. You can write letters to the character, and your child can write back responding as he thinks the character would. This is your big chance to ask Superman what it is like to fly, or find out how princesses walk without breaking their glass slippers.
- Encourage your child to keep a journal to record the fun things he is doing while away from school. The journal can also include lists of books he read, movies he saw, places he went, and friends that visited. These lists are great story starters when your child wants to write a longer piece, but is having trouble deciding what to write about.
- Going on vacation? Help your child research your destination, then write about what he wants to do or see there. For example, if planning a trip to Florida, your child might write about visiting a theme park, watching the sunset at the beach, and touring Thomas Edison’s home. Remind your child to include reasons explaining why he would like to do each thing on the list.
- Chose a topic to write about, sit with your child, and write your own stories. Stop every few minutes and share what you have both written. Then, add more to the stories. When you read your story aloud, it models good writing for your child, and sparks ideas that he can add to his own writing. Be sure to praise and encourage your child by saying, “That’s great! I had forgotten that Spot went swimming in the lake during our picnic. How about when Dad fell in trying to get him? I’m going to add that to my story, too.”
- National Board certified teacher Erika Acklin suggests, “Leave notes around the house on post-its. Have your child respond to the note with a note of their own. You can ask more personal questions that might be more difficult to discuss face to face.”
- Have your child keep a vacation scrapbook where she can write the events of each day. Leave room to add postcards, photos, and other memorabilia once you return home.
- After a trip to the movie theater, have your child write a movie review, then share it with friends and family to persuade them to enjoy the same film. He can also write book reviews explaining why this was or was not a worthwhile read.
- Help your child create a family newsletter. She can write articles telling about your weekend camp-out, her sister’s dance recital, and little brother’s progress in swimming lessons. Those book and movie reviews would be a great addition to the newsletter as well. Print and mail the letters to family and friends, or share them using email.
In addition to these activities, help your child become a better writer by making sure he reads every day. According to literature teacher Tara Barbieri, “Reading helps to build essential vocabulary, and students who read often are usually the best writers.”