So what do you do for kids who simply have nothing to say on paper? I hear from parents and have even had students when I tutored and ran classes for homeschoolers that simply had no idea what to put on paper.
At least that’s what they would tell me.
I beg to differ. Everyone has something to say. Everyone has thoughts, beliefs and ideas. And everyone should be afforded a voice to express themselves.
The problem comes when a student feels paralyzed, either with fear or with a lack of skill. It’s our job as parents and teachers to show our kids how to express themselves comfortably in writing.
The first key is to create a safe environment for kids to express themselves. Sometimes that means allowing them to free write without the thought of judgment or grading. Other times that means they can write and only share what they want to with you. Journaling or free writing for fifteen minutes at the start of the day or after a thought-provoking lesson accomplishes this nicely. You can also create writing prompts or pre-created pick topics from a hat.
You should note that writing with your students not only models good writing practices but also makes for a safer writing environment. You can also model what to share by reading parts of your writing. You might be surprised how effective this is in encouraging your children to write.
The other part of the equation is making sure your child has the skills necessary to write well and to express herself. This is where lessons, practice and reading great examples comes in. Make sure you are not only providing but pointing out good writing. Maybe study the OpEd section of the newspaper, read selected essays from the greats or pick up a magazine and read personal essays on a variety of topics.
Just as it’s important to read good writing, it’s equally important to discuss what makes it effective. Does the writer clearly state his purpose? Does he back up his opinions with relevant examples, interesting stories or statistics? Show your child how to transfer this to his own writing.
Of course practice makes perfect, so get those kids writing and implementing these tips. Slowly but surely your child will improve and become more confident in his or her own voice. The ability to express one’s self in writing is powerful. That’s why I put in the effort every day to help my own kids and yours to learn how to wield that power. The pen really is mightier than the sword.
Let me know what you think, and don’t forget to sign up for my free newsletter as the next issue will contain lesson plans to put this topic in action!