Learning to write takes perseverance and practice. Young children can easily become frustrated and even fearful about writing. Often, writing tasks present the first opportunities for a child to utilise independent thought, so it can be quite daunting.
Preliminary findings from this year’s NAPLAN results indicate a decline in writing skills among school students since 2011, although the results have stabilised following last year’s significant drop. At Trinity, NAPLAN forms just one aspect of our formal assessment and reporting process. It provides just one form of data that we use to respond to student learning needs. However, it does paint a broad picture of the general climate in Australian education.
Regardless of NAPLAN results, there is always room for improvement and the practice of writing should be encouraged from an early age, particularly as we begin to rely more heavily on devices.
Writing is an art form, but the basic elements of good writing are skills that can be learned. It is an excellent tool for creativity, expression and independent thinking. Writing also helps us to communicate with clarity, and promotes productivity by activating neurons in the brain that prepare us to undertake tasks.
So, how do we encourage the written form amongst children? Here are seven tips to help improve writing skills:
1. Read often
Stephen King’s number one tip for writing is: “Read a lot, write a lot.” To develop strong writing skills, it is important that children read frequently. They should read everything, not just focus on acclaimed writing and the classics. Even poor examples of writing are beneficial as they can help build confidence and self-esteem. Establishing a solid reading routine from an early age will help to encourage a voraciousness for reading. You can start by reading to your child and progress to set times for your child to read aloud to you each night. As your child grows, you can encourage him to read critically – to study paragraph form, use of verbs and structure and see how they can apply those techniques to their own writing.
2. Write often
Children learn to write by writing. Like anything, practice makes progress. Encourage your child to write as often as you can. Keeping a diary is a great way to improve writing skills as well as practising mindfulness. Children can write stories about weekend and holiday activities or sporting achievements. You can set them writing tasks by using a particular word or picture as inspiration. They can even get involved with writing shopping and to-do lists or daily routines. If your child prefers a device to pen and paper, there are plenty of apps that can encourage the development of writing skills such as Book Creator, Wordflex and Read&Write.
3. Pay attention to punctuation
A strong grasp of punctuation is vital to developing sound writing skills. As children first learn to write, focusing on capitalisation and full stops is essential. Gradually, they’ll introduce question and exclamation marks and start to form an understanding of shortened form, commas and quotation marks. It’s a good idea to talk to your child’s teacher about what is expected at your child’s particular developmental stage.
4. Goal setting
Goal setting is a great way of keeping kids on task. It also helps build confidence as achievement levels improve. Setting small, achievable goals is a disciplined approach to learning allowing gradual improvement over time. You can start small with goals such as, writing one paragraph about your day each night. Eventually you can focus on improving writing techniques such as paragraph and sentence structure, story formation, action tense, using verbs and adjectives and referencing other work.
5. Constructive feedback
Sometimes it’s difficult to know when to step in and correct grammatical errors. Too much criticism can negatively impact a child’s self-esteem, however, leaving mistakes unchecked can develop bad writing habits. When offering feedback on your child’s writing, it’s important to keep the criticism constructive. Make sure you explain grammatical rules when adding in punctuation and proofreading written work – your child needs to understand why a change has been made to avoid the mistake again. If a piece is riddled with errors, it’s okay to hold back. Focus on one common rule (spelling or grammar) and work with your child to improve that one aspect. If you have concerns about your child’s writing, talk to the teacher about what students are working on in class and ask how you might be able to help at home. Try to avoid editing and just stick to fixing grammatical errors.
Writing is a skill required for all aspects of learning and is not limited to the domain of literacy. Students will utilise writing skills to complete science reports and observations, undertake history and economics essays and to create performance pieces and explain creative works. It is a baseline requirement for employment in organisations across most industries. It is, quite simply, a requirement for life.
Trinity Grammar School encourages your son to realise his potential, pursue his passions and discover his purpose all within the context of a supportive Christian environment. We have guided boys to grow in mind, body and spirit for over a century and we know what boys need to truly flourish and succeed.
At Trinity, we recognise the importance of making a good beginning. The myriad of opportunities provided in Kindergarten, the first year of formal schooling, lay the foundations for all future learning.
The International Baccalaureate Organisation’s Primary Years Programme (PYP), Trinity Grammar School’s chosen Primary curriculum framework meets the academic, social, physical, emotional and cultural needs of each child. Within this framework, from the beginning of your son’s education, proficiency in Literacy and Numeracy is fundamental and intrinsic to learning. Skills are introduced systematically and deliberately, based upon the individual development of each child.
To find out why we’re one of Sydney’s leading schools for boys and to learn more about Trinity Grammar School’s Primary Years Programme (PYP), download our PYP brochure.