writing, Writing Support

How to make writing less painful (for younger students)

I get it. Not everybody likes to write, and that’s ok. However, I have found that usually this dislike for writing starts somewhere. Your job as a parent or as a teacher is to figure out what the sticking point is, and alleviate the tension. Figure out what exactly it is that make writing so unappealing.

For younger students, is it physically handwriting? Often times holding a pencil, remembering how to draw the letters, putting the letters together (and forgetting which one you’re on in the middle of the word) and knowing that you’re probably spelling something wrong really makes writing difficult! How fun would it be if you had to string together random squiggly lines that were supposed to mean something, but by the time you write one down, you’ve already forgotten what you wanted to write?

Here are some tips for those younger students 

Disassociate physical handwriting and completing the assignment. If this is a struggle area it’s not worth it. Work on handwriting as a separate skill from sounding out words separate from sounding out words and writing down those sounds and separate from telling a story or “writing” a letter.  At this age they are not the same skills. If writing has become a struggle, this might be why.

Here are some tips, try some, and see what works best for you and your student depending on where they’re at (and don’t be afraid to try one now, and if it doesn’t work, try it again in a week or two. They can learn so much in such a short time!)

If they’re trying to sound out a word – write out dashes for each sound. At this age, they’re usually still just sounding out words, not really “spelling” them, so spelling isn’t the focus. It’s better to get the word out, than to sit there and not write because they’re afraid of spelling it wrong. Ask them, “What sounds do you hear in the word blanket?” and they may say: b-a-k-t (that’s ok!) you can prompt them to hear a few more of the sounds b-l-a-n-k-e-t but even if they miss a few, it’s ok!! Usually, as long as they get the first sound, the last sound, and a vowel sound in there they’re making progress. This is for really beginning learners, but it’s also to assure you that it’s ok! Every time you work on this skill with them, you can expect more and more, but don’t be afraid to start off really simple.

Write what they tell you on a sticky note. (Sticky notes are my favorite.) You’re not making it “too easy” – you’re scaffolding their story telling skills so they are successful. Later, when they can do this easily, you can leave out words by drawing a line so they have to fill it in themselves, or only write one sentence, then they write the next.

If they tend to leave out words when they’re writing, have them tell you their sentence, and write lines on their paper for each word. “The dog is sitting on the rug.” That’s seven words, draw seven lines where those words should go.

Draw a picture first, then write a sentence about the picture. Obviously, the point here is to draw a quick picture, and not a masterpiece that takes up the whole 30 minutes you have for writing 😛 But sometimes seeing what they want to write about first helps give them a place to start.

Share the writing process. If you take turns writing words or sentences, it will make the task both more enjoyable, as well as less intimidating.

Model what you’re expecting, and explain you’re thinking out loud. They won’t know what you want them to write, until you show them what you want them to write. Especially if you’re just teaching your child, make sure to model what you know they’re capable of (not just the grade-level). If you’re reading this, and you’re child isn’t in love with writing, seeing what he/she “should” do might be intimidating. But instead, USE “kid-spelling.” Forget your periods. Forget your capitals. Then go back and “realize” your mistakes.

And my favorite, use a timer. It can be a timed race if your child is competitive. It can be used as a reward so your child knows when he/she’s done. But it lets your child know that it’s time to work, even if it’s difficult, and when the timer goes off, he/she’s done. And practice using it in 1-minute or even 30-second intervals and work your way up! If your child is less than fond of writing, setting the timer for 10 minutes will draaaaaaag on, he/she’ll get distracted, you’ll get mad trying to keep them writing. Work on that stamina by starting on small attainable goals first 🙂

And that’s it for now! Some ideas to help you work with your reluctant writer 🙂

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