5 More Ways to Help Kids with Writing – Advice for Moms – Me Ra Koh
I’ve loved hearing how much you are enjoying 5 Ways to Help Your Kids with Writing (Part 1)! Ready for five more? Our kids possess ocean size imaginations. They are budding Hemingways and Jane Austens living under our roof. Kids just need their creativity tickled out of them.
Young imaginations thrive when we create space for them to explore and be messy. Forget about final drafts (for now). Let’s unleash the writer first! Here are 5 More Ways to Help Kids with Writing and set your child up for success!
1. Retell the Story, Practicing Sequence
A large part of storytelling is all about understanding the sequence of stories. There must be a beginning, middle and end, and there is usually a big problem that needs to be solved. Once we understand this as the basic structure for a story, everything else our child adds simply paints the picture even clearer.
To help your child hone this skill in, start by brainstorming a few favorite stories with your child. These can be bedtime stories, Bible stories, Frog and Toad stories, the simpler the better. Ask your child to re-read the story (or you can read it to them if they are younger) — paying attention to how the story begins, what happens in the middle, how it ends, and what was the big problem that had to be solved.
Now have them retell the story to you. Just like some of the other writing tips I shared, we don’t need paper. They can do this out loud with you. As they work at remembering the story, you will see their little minds working at remembering sequence. The more you do this, the more they will start to recognize the sequential structures of stories all around them from favorite television shows, movies and books!
2. Play the “What If” Game
This one and #5 are my favorite of five more ways to help kids with writing! Now that they are beginning to identify a story’s sequence, let’s do something super fun by focusing on the ending. Number a paper 1-10. Pick one of the stories that you brainstormed for “Retell the Story, Practicing Sequence”. Work together to come up with ten different endings.
The first few ideas may not be very creative. That’s why we have you thinking of ten ideas. Encourage your child to get out-of-the-box, be silly, be crazy. For example, what if Noah didn’t build an ark, but everyone had innertubs instead? Isn’t it funny to picture giraffes, monkeys and hippos floating in innertubs? What if Cinderella stepped through a time gate and ended up in the future with one glass slipper on her foot? What would happen? They can either do this out loud with you, or pick their favorite “What If” idea and focus on rewriting their new ending.
3. Read Together, but also Listen to Books on Tape
This idea isn’t for everyone, but some kids will thrive with it! For example, I personally have the toughest time following a book on tape, but Brian and the kids love it! It’s the same dynamic as reading to the kids because their imagination is having to visualize everything that is happening in the story. When we ask our children to sit down and write a story, we are asking them to use a specific muscle in their brain — the visual, imaginative muscle. Listening to books on tape helps exercise this muscle without them even knowing it!
4. Describe What You Love
If your child is a reluctant writer, one of the best exercises you can do is to have them describe what they love. Pets are a great choice for this. Stuffed animals work too, a friend at school, a grandparent, or even an imaginary friend. Let’s say your daughter picks the family dog.
Ask her to write down three descriptive details about the family dog (ex. Rosie’s fur looks like caramel is super soft and her nose is always wet.). Just jot down ideas. These don’t have to be complete sentences, in fact they shouldn’t be because we are just collecting ideas.
Now ask her to write down five or six things she loves about the family dog (ex. Rosie always comes to the door when we get home. She is good at obeying. She can fetch a ball etc.)
Pick Her Favorite Ideas
Now have her pick her favorite ideas (it’s always great to have your kids come up with more ideas than they need so they can see they have an abundance to write about versus a blank page). Have her transfer her favorite ideas into a single descriptive paragraph that 4-5 sentences long.
The first sentence is our Topic Sentence that introduces Rosie as the family dog. The second sentence describes what Rosie looks like. The third sentence tells us a few of the wonderful things Rosie does. The fourth sentence can add even ore detail. The last sentence restates how much your daughter loves Rosie, the family dog.
BRAVO! She has a solid paragraph that is not only descriptive but sequential! Put a few of these paragraphs together, and you are on your way to a five paragraph essay with no problem!
5. Take the Blind Test
This is one of my favorite editing ideas when working with kids. After I read their first or second draft, I “Take the Blind Test”. I ask them to read their story out loud to me, and I tell them that I’m going to pretend like I’m blind. I want to see if the story is descriptive enough so that a blind person could picture everything happening.
Your child can picture everything, whether they wrote it or not because they are seeing the story unfold in their mind. But the challenge is to make sure a reader can picture it just as clearly. When you add in the extra challenge that this reader is blind, kids seem to get it. What always fascinates me about this exercise is nine out of ten times, I don’t have to tell kids where they need to add detail. As they read it aloud, thinking of a blind person trying to picture their story, kids often jump in with what parts they need to beef up. To help them beef it up, focus on those fives senses!
Writing Starts Way Before You Sit Down with Pen and Paper
Throughout the last 20+ years of writing, and five books later, I’ve come to realize that being a successful writer starts way before you ever sit down to write. But we often expect ourselves to think of great ideas to write all at once with a blank page staring at us. The more you prepare, exercise, stretch your imagination throughout the day, the more equipped you’ll be to tackle that blank page.
You can do the “What If” exercise during carpool. Listen to books on tape on a family camping trip. You can ask your child to write down the sequential steps to making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. What if you sat in the backyard, closed your eyes, and asked your children to describe everything they see as if you were blind. All of these little exercises and creative games prepare your child for success when asked to articulate their ideas on paper.
I’m so excited for you to try these five more ways to help kids with writing! Let me know which ones resonate with you and what your results are! Picture me cheering you and your child on! You never know, the next Jane Austen may be under your roof!
5 More Ways to Help Kids with Writing first appeared on Disney’s Babble.
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