“Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on.”
— Louis L’Amour
WRITING AS A PROCESS
The first thing I establish with my students is that what they are writing is NOT the finished product. Therefore, they do not need to worry about their spelling, punctuation, or perfect handwriting. The important thing is to get the ideas down on the paper before they "float away." Then we can go back and revise to improve the details of the story. When the story is just as the author wants it (and I can see it is the best they can do with my suggestions), the FINAL step is to correct spelling, punctuation, and neatness. If you are not familiar, these are the steps of the Writing Process (they do vary slightly from teacher to teacher, but this is a general idea):
LEARNING STORY ELEMENTS
I work with students from K-6, with a few exceptions. In the younger grades, they have read and heard many stories that they have a basic idea of how a story goes. However, I still find it helpful to use mini-lessons to teach concepts about story structure and common features. Then they can practice each one separately and later try using it in their own story. For example, when we talk about the middle part of a story, where the problem or conflict comes in, I usually use a fun children's picture book that has a really clear problem with several attempts to solve the problem before everything is "happily ever after." I can ask the student to recall the problem and the solution attempts. We can discuss what the story would be like without a problem - or if the problem was solved right away. They can see how dragging out the problem was what made the story interesting, so they will try to put that into their own story! And suddenly - writing more is FUN!
MORE THAN STORIES
For the upper grades, or whenever the child is ready, it is time to introduce expository writing. If a student has never done this before, I like to start with a how-to or an opinion piece. Opinion can be done in one paragraph first if the student is a "reluctant writer." Then they can expand the idea out to a whole essay without much more effort. How-to writing can start by listing simple steps for making something. Sometimes we use something they know how to cook or make, like a sandwich.
When we begin more comprehensive reports, I still use the 5-step writing process. But I also provide guidance for each style of writing so students understand what is different from the others. My goal is always to customize for your child, so - along with you, the parent(s) - we will change things as needed.