When I taught a basic English class to high school students, I would never lie to them. I always told them the honest and brutal truth: writing is hard. It’s hard work to think of ideas, plan and organize your thoughts, and then write them down in a way that other people will understand.
Kids often find writing difficult for a number of reasons: lack of interest in the topic, difficulty getting organized, trouble expressing ideas, vocabulary, spelling, grammar, handwriting, or typing, just to name a few.
And when the students go home, the writing struggles don’t disappear.
With many schools closed due to COVID-19 and kids now learning remotely at home, chances are you will find yourself in situations to lend a hand with writing more often than you normally would. Especially if you’re working from home as well.
Picture this – you’re sitting at your kitchen table with your child, helping them with their writing homework. Your child gets frustrated, doesn’t know where to start, and eventually wants to give up. You’re not sure how to help with writing assignments and end up feeling just as frustrated as your kiddo.
If this sounds like a familiar scenario at your house, read on! No matter where they are in the writing process, I’ve got you covered.
As a Special Education and English teacher, I’m here to help you help your kids with writing assignments.
These writing strategies have helped my former students and hopefully, they will work for your young writer as well. If your child struggles with writing, here are some strategies that will help them at home.
9 Tips to Help Make Writing Easier for Kids
1. Make the Topic Interesting
I don’t know about you, but when I’m not interested in something, my motivation level goes way, way down. This is exactly the same for our kids! If your child has a writing assignment due and they don’t seem even remotely engaged, see if you can find any detail to grab their attention. You may have to dig deep to do it, but if you can find something related to the topic that sparks their interest, it might be enough to fuel the fire and help them get started!
Brainstorming before you begin writing is half the battle! Brainstorming helps make connections between ideas and can determine what the main points and supporting details will be. I would recommend generating ideas in the way your child learns best. Is your child a visual learner? Get out some art supplies and draw! An auditory learner? Talk about it! Use lists, webs, sticky notes (these are great because you can physically move ideas around), picture stories – there is no “right way” to brainstorm and record ideas. Your writer can brainstorm the whole paper at once, work section by section, or add additional thoughts later.
3. Graphic Organizers
I love, love, love a good graphic organizer! They are so helpful for kids. A graphic organizer is a visual way to organize your thoughts. They can range from simply arranging ideas to a line-by-line breakdown of what the writer wants to say. If your child’s teacher didn’t send one home to help, reach out and ask if they have one they recommend or use often in class. Or, a quick online search should bring up tons of examples. Print some out and see what works best for your child. Older students can use a blank outline in word document form to help them organize their ideas and remember the parts of an essay.
4. Assistive Technology
Using assistive technology is beneficial for all students when it comes to writing. https://www.edutopia.org/blog/assistive-technology-can-benefit-all-students-jenny-grabiec The Co:Writer app is great and works well for students having difficulties with grammar, vocabulary, and spelling. I also really like Read and Write for Google for Chrome which features speech-to-text, text-to-speech, word prediction, speech and picture dictionaries, and more. Google Docs’ voice typing is easy to use and I’ve often suggested this to students, as well as used it myself!
5. Proofreading Reminders
One of my favorite ways to help with proofreading is to create a reminder. You can make this fun by decorating a bookmark or index card and then adding a proofreading list. Include the basics and anything else your child struggles with: commonly misspelled words, punctuation, grammar, capitalization, and more. This reminder can be used at home and at school to help.
6. Use the Right Tools
Sometimes writing the draft on colorful paper or using a cool new pen or pencil can turn a writing assignment into something really fun, especially for a younger child. Using wider lined paper can help kids who are working on their handwriting, and also makes the task seem less overwhelming by having fewer lines on the page.
7. Set Small Deadlines
Breaking down the writing assignment and setting small deadlines is another way to make an overwhelming task seem more manageable. This is one of the most important writing strategies for kids. Have your child set their own due dates based on the number of days they have to work on their writing. They can also proofread in chunks, which should help relieve stress.
8. Breaks and Procrastination
I know I always need a good break here and there when I’m working on something challenging! Helping kids with writing homework means allowing your kids to have breaks, too. Building breaks and time for procrastination into the writing process will make the assignment seem less daunting. Use a timer if you have to! Taking a break also lets them return to their work with fresh eyes, which is helpful for noticing if something is missing or spotting changes that need to be made.
9. Share Your Writing
When your child has finished their rough draft, encourage them to read it out loud to themselves, as well as to someone else. It helps to have a second (and third and fourth!) set of eyes and ears on what has been written. It’s a great way to catch errors. I’ve found that many kids want to be finished with their writing the moment their first draft is complete. Reminding them to slow down and go back over their work, preferably with someone else, will make all the difference.