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Even for the most creative or artistic students, creative writing can be challenging. Many students struggle with a blank sheet of lined paper, not knowing where to begin. Will the topic be enough to write about? Do I have anything interesting to say about this? My advice for parents trying to inspire children to write creatively – openly, is to offer smaller digestible writing exercises. Thank you cards, for instance, are perfect. Along the same line, postcards offer a terrific way to fold in some writing skills without having it become overbearing. As an alternative, have your child describe the picture on the front side of the postcard. He/She can make up a story or describe a recently visited place. Then they can be mailed for sharing… or not, but it’s really about making writing feel less intimidating.
Another writing trick is to incorporate lists but in such a way that the child is expanding on each bullet point. This of course is the start of an outline, but that already is projecting too far. Keeping the concept simple allows for freedom and eliminates unnecessary pressure. Outlines will come later but for now we’ll look at my example below about summer break. Again the idea isn’t to “teach” your child how to write but instead allow your child the freedom to write. Normally a child would jot down 3 to 5 favorite places he’s been in the summer. Instead encourage a string of thoughts, not necessarily not complete sentences. Once the child has written a few points, then he can pull them together into a small paragraph. For me, I don’t worry about the spelling, grammar and punctuation… I just want to see well constructed thoughts expressed in a simple paragraph or essay, depending the age/skill level.
A third option for getting the creative juices flowing is using a tool like Daybook of Critical Reading and Writing by Great Source. Using small passages, this resource prompts children to dig deeper into the story to answer open ended questions, look for clues, draw inferences and in some cases write an essay in response to the lesson. It will be awhile before Victoria is ready for the copy I picked up at a second-hand shop. In the meantime, we have a book called Monkey Business (Road to Writing) by Sarah Albee that incorporates doodles into simple writing exercises. For instance, one activity is to create an ad for skunk perfume… super silly, colorful and engaging story prompts to build the child’s confidence and creativity.
Before long, the essays and research projects will creep into our children’s routine. Let’s empower our children to feel confident about writing. Let’s help them overcome writer’s block and fear of written expression. A small prompt can kick off a full discussion and plenty of insight… and afterall that’s the gold, right? Knowing what’s going on inside their minds.