Help! My Kid Hates Writing! What should I do?
When children come into my classes saying they don’t like writing, it’s often for one of three reasons:
- They don’t feel they have any ideas, or they feel their ideas aren’t good enough
- They aren’t allowed to write the type of stories they want to at school
- They struggle with spelling and grammar, so they constantly feel they are doing it wrong.
I approach the first two problems by talking the story through with children. Give your child a writing prompt (you’ll find some in the blog section of my website here or google “writing prompts for children”) then ask them questions, and talk through their ideas, to help them formulate their story before writing it down.
They don’t need to have the full story in mind before they start writing–often more ideas will come during the process of writing and you can always pause and talk it through some more once they’ve got their beginning on paper. Make it clear there are no wrong answers–they can write a funny story, a fantasy story, or one that doesn’t entirely make sense. At this stage, it doesn’t matter so much about the quality of the writing, as long as they are enjoying what they are doing.
If your child is really stuck on how to get started, begin the questions with the absolute basics: a story needs a character–is your character a boy or a girl? How old are they? Ask your child how the character relates to the situation in the writing prompt, and ask what happens next. You can make suggestions–your child likely won’t take them, but it may help them come up with other ideas that do work for them.
When it comes to the third problem, I keep the focus on storytelling, rather than spelling or grammar. I don’t correct children’s work unless they ask me to and if they don’t want to show it to me, they can read their story aloud instead (or pass completely in group classes.)
Now this is a recommendation that makes a lot of parents nervous. “You mean you’re not going to mark their work?” they say. “How will they ever learn to spell?” Spelling and grammar are important, but they are hard to learn when your child is afraid to pick up a pen or pencil. As I said earlier, improving writing takes practice, and the same goes for improving spelling and grammar. Increasing children’s enjoyment of writing won’t immediately help with their spelling and grammar, but I’ve seen it trigger massive improvements long term.
Finally, here are a few writing exercises you can try doing with your children. Yep–WITH them. That means that you’ll need to get out your pen and paper and do some writing too.
Make a list of excuses as to why you cannot possibly do any writing. They can be as silly or as serious as you like–everything from “I’m allergic to pens and pencils” to “A crocodile bit off my hands.” See who can come up with the most!
Chose five words to include in a story. You’ll find a list of examples at the bottom of this post. Write a story using the same five words yourself. For a variation of this exercise, each pick two words at random out of a hat, but don’t show each other! Once you’ve finished your stories, try and guess each other’s words. If you’d like to keep score–give a point every time someone correctly guesses a word, and a point to the author for every word which DOESN’T get guessed, as that will mean the words have been included in a way which feels very natural in the story.
Set a timer – one or two minutes to start with, though you may be able to build this up to longer over time. Write continuously until the timer goes off, i.e. don’t let your pen stop moving for the entire time. If you’re not sure where to start, you’ll find a list of first sentences you can use at the end of this post.
Writing with your child can help change the focus from it being a task they feel like they are being forced to do, to it being a fun activity and bonding time.
~Helen Vivienne Fletcher
Author – www.helenvfletcher.com
Creative Writing Tutor – www.brainbunny.co.nz
Helen Vivienne Fletcher is a children’s and young adult author, spoken-word poet and award-winning playwright. She has a background in performing arts, and has worked in many jobs, doing everything from film editing to phone counseling. She discovered her passion for writing for young people while working in youth support and now helps children find their own passion for storytelling through her creative writing classes business, Brain Bunny Workshops. Overall Helen just loves telling stories and is always excited when people want to read or hear them.
Words for Five Things
- Ironing board
- A watch
- Light bulb
- Pot plant
- Fire truck
- An alien
- A Mirror
First Sentences for Freewriting
- I knew I had to get out of there when…
- As soon as I saw her, I realized something was wrong…
- It all started when I saw the box…
- No one expected it, but last Tuesday…
- The door creaked open and I saw…
Thanks, as always, for reading, and writing!
All photos courtesy WordPress Free Photo Library, Pixabay, or H.,V. Fletcher.