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Get Those Pencils Moving

Get Those Pencils Moving

Writing is a great way for kids to express what they think, feel and imagine. It’s also an important skill.

By Sara Kendall

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Being able to communicate well using written words is essential for kids to excel in school. This is easier for some children than others, and for all of them -- those who struggle and those who don't -- parents can help.

Isn’t this the job of the school? you may ask. Yes and no. If Mom and Dad have time, their support can make a significant difference for their kids.

Extra writing practice improves skills and boosts overall school performance. All students, from a kindergartener to a high schooler, can become better writers by doing more of it. Here are six practice exercises for a range of ages and writing abilities.

Write a Picture Story

Ask pre-kindergarten and early elementary school-aged children to draw a picture on a piece of white paper without filling the sheet. Encourage them to write a simple basic sentence about what they have drawn on the open white space. Next time, gently encourage them to write more.

Prompt them by asking questions about their drawing. What’s going on? Who did you draw? What are they doing? How are they feeling?

>Hang the artwork to display this hard work. The skill of simple story telling about a drawing is a big focus in the early elementary school years and will help the kids connect words with stories.

In the Kitchen

Place a dry-erase board or chalkboard within easy reach in a high-traffic zone, such as the kitchen or family room. If your kids want you to purchase something or remember an event, ask them to write it on the board.

When you plan weekend menus (for example), let the kids write the names of the dishes on the board. If you pack your kids’ lunch, encourage them to write down their requests. It doesn’t matter if the words are misspelled; let them sound them out. Kids are usually willing to participate in anything associated with food, so why not make it educational?

Make Lists

Get the notepads ready. Dictate shopping lists to your kids. If you’re planning a trip, suggest they make lists of what they need to pack. If the week is especially hectic, let them write down daily schedules to help the family stay on track.

You will find that making lists is a great way for your kids to practice spelling and penmanship skills.

Use Writing Prompts

If your children are in the older elementary school grades, come up with starting points for creative writing exercises.

Read one of the following writing prompts and encourage them to write a paragraph (you could do it, too, to make the exercise more inclusive and fun).

Start with just one prompt at a time. After you’ve gone through them all, think about your child’s interest and come up with ideas more tailored just for them. It will be easier than you think:

  • If you could be any animal in the world, what animal would you be? What do you look like? What moves can you make like flying, running fast, or climbing trees? Where would you live and what would you eat?
  • Imagine you are riding on a flying carpet. This magic carpet can take you anywhere in the world. Where would you go? What would you see and do?
  • If you could fly like a bird or swim like a fish, which would you chose and why? What would you do if you were a bird or fish?

Pen Pals

Writing a letter on a piece of stationery and enclosing it in a stamped envelope seems quaintly old fashioned. Bring back this art form to help your kids improve their communication skills. Sending out a letter and waiting for a response promotes patience and when the awaited letter arrives, creates excitement.

Grandparents, relatives or a friend who has moved to another town are good choices to exchange hand-written correspondence. Buy your kid some stationery to motivate him or her to put pen to paper. Not only is it fun, it’s good practice for spelling, punctuation and capitalization.

Let It Out

Teens emotions are a whirlwind and so writing down their feelings provides a good outlet. The teenager does not have to make this public or even show his mom or dad, but the regular act of keeping a journal will make writing high school papers as well as a successful college application essay easier.

The college essay is an opportunity for teens to tell their story and so getting into the habit of writing about personal experiences makes the dreaded task nearly effortless.

Not all of the above six exercises are appropriate for all children. They are geared toward different ages and personalities. Even if you think one is slightly advanced for your youngster, let her try it anyhow. The goal is to challenge her skills and let her grow.

The more time your child puts into writing, the better he will be at it. Writing well is a valuable life skill that will benefit your children now as students and later throughout their lifetime.

Sara Kendall is a freelance writer and mother of two daughters.

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