Speech Buddies Parents’ Corner – 5 Activities that Encourage Writing Skills
As a writer, putting words on paper or the screen is as natural for me as talking to myself (which I do a lot of, too). However, for countless kids there are hurdles, frustrations, and challenges when it comes being able to write – to say nothing of being able to actually enjoy it. Serving up activities that encourage writing skills in bite-sized portions and not blank loose-leaf paper is one of the first steps to encouraging reluctant writers to become authors in their own rights.
Encourage Writing Skills with Story Starters, Codes, and More
Story Starters from Scholastic
My youngest loves this free online tool for getting creative with his writing. It adds in just enough bells and whistles to make it feel like a game, but the end game is still a creative writing activity. Kids can choose from different genres of writing, enter their first name and grade level, and then spin the wheels to create crazy concoctions of ideas for story prompts. Then they choose from a notebook, letter, newspaper, or postcard format. Once they have typed their story they can print it – but fair warning – there is no Save option for kids who are sharing computers or won’t have enough time to finish in one sitting.
Exposing kids to different types of communication can help them build appreciation and awareness. Try introducing Morse code with this free Morse Code Machine. You’ll need to have speakers to make it worthwhile (and maybe headphones if you don’t want to hear the constant beeping). Users type in their words and the machine translates them into Morse code. There are also two simple test options to see how well you know your code.
Writing Prompts and Title Suggestions
Sometimes the hardest step for a struggling writer is the first step – just know about what to write. Writing prompts and title suggestions can help those first steps – giving direction and creating a theme. You can create your own prompts and suggestions; just write them on slips of paper and put them in a bowl. Kids can draw out their prompts from the bowl and the first step is done.
Halloween Writing Prompts
- I walked into the haunted house and…
- A person in a mummy costume answered the door and then I realized…
- At the Halloween party we bobbed for apples, carved pumpkins, and…
- I rang the doorbell and…
- My favorite costume is _______ because…
Fall Writing Titles
- The Lonely Leaf at the Top of the Tree
- The Hayride
- It’s Raining Apples
- The Dance of the Scarecrow
- The Day I Forgot to Turn My Clock Back
Modeled and Shared Writing
Success for struggling writers has been found through modeled writing, where you model writing by speaking as you write, and you write on something such as butcher block paper that is large enough for the children to easily see (if you’re in front of a classroom). Then leave this writing example visible while the children take turns writing their own. Another option is to try shared writing, where you physically share the writing space and tools, and you both speak aloud as you go through the writing process. This is an effective tool for creative stories, building off of each other’s imaginations and abilities.
Think of all the things your child or your students can tell you how to do or try – how to play video games, dribble a basketball, or play a favorite game. Turn these experiences that kids know well into their basis for a writing project. It removes the pressure from having to create ideas because they already know the steps by heart. Perhaps it is my Technical Writing background that really draws me to this activity, but I’ve seen kids who felt overwhelmed and frustrated by writing become confident and capable when they were asked to write instructions. Numbering the steps helps to organize thoughts and key words such as then, next, and finally are great clue words to use. For an engaging twist, have kids switch papers and try to actually follow the instructions, step-by-step, to see if the order and the detail are enough to complete the task (keep tasks very simple for this version of the activity).
As author Isaac Bashevis Singer once said: The wastebasket is a writer’s best friend. Activities that encourage writings skills for kids can serve as waste management – reducing frustrations and increasing energy for the writing process.