Teaching the Process of Writing



Would you mind sharing how you teach writing to your children? Not grammar or handwriting but the process of writing.


Whenever someone asks me how we teach our children the process of writing (a term paper, an essay, fiction, etc.), I cringe.  Writing is one of those things I don't teach.

There are lots of reasons for this, not the least of which is the fact that I learned to write well because my mother is a good writer, as are my brothers.  One of them is twice published.  In spite of the paltry education the government provided, I learned to write by having my family read my writing and offer suggestions and corrections.  My mom also read aloud to us while we were growing up, so good literature was something with which we became familiar.  My high school English teacher told me I was better read than he was, which says a little about me but a whole heaping lot about the public high school I attended, known for its "high academic standards".  Hmmm.  That's not entirely fair; I had two stand-out teachers who required much in the way of writing and offered copious correction, but these were teachers in the "gifted" program and it bothers me greatly to think of how many kids not labeled gifted didn't receive good writing instruction at all.

When it came time to delve into teaching my own children, I didn't bat an eyelash concerning the teaching of writing.  It's natural.  It just flows from who we are.  Do you see why the question of how we teach writing makes me cringe?  I have no concrete answer.

I will tell you what exercises our children have done to strengthen their writing ability, and I'll be happy to answer your questions.  The easiest way for me to organize my thoughts on this subject is to go child by child, so I apologize in advance if this becomes tedious and boring.

10th Grade Boy- Strong natural writer.  Worked his way through English for the Thoughtful Child and Rod and Staff English books from first to fourth grade and then I let him go (this won me many Brownie points).  Has done upper level writing programs "for fun".  Listens to Andrew Pudewa workshops I pick up on CD and enjoys them. Wrote a novel using Learn to Write the Novel Way and The One Year Adventure Novel.

8th Grade Boy- Antithesis of the above.  Started with English for the Thoughtful Child and Rod and Staff English.  Cried.  A lot.  I ditched the grammar books and just required heaps upon heaps of copywork until this year when he is working through Rod and Staff English 8.  Would cry if he knew he wouldn't look like a sissy.  Not really, but he finds it utterly distasteful.  However, he has a lot of required writing for Veritas Press Omnibus II, so we continue to plug away, refining and correcting and improving.

6th Grade Boy- Quite a good natural writer.  Started with English for the Thoughtful Child but not Rod and Staff.  I'm so confident in the 8th grade text that I am waiting to toss that his way next year or so.  He has loved Matt Whitling's series of books called Imitation in Writing, and I have loved the results so much that these are now a permanent fixture on our curriculum scene.  For fun, he's been working through How to Write a Story this year.

4th Grade Girl- English for the Thoughtful Child.  Copywork, copywork, copywork.  Dictation, too.  When we write notebooking pages for history, she either copies several sentences I write on the white board or she composes her own.  She's not a strong writer and finds spelling a challenge, but she's young yet and I think we'll start the Imitation in Writing series in the next year or two.

2nd Grade Girl- Same as above, except her spelling ability is excellent.  She's super right-brained (creative, verbal) so I suspect we'll see some neat things flowing from her pen one of these days.

I wish I could give you "Ten Steps for Producing a Good Writer", but I can't.  Keep your eye on each student and see where their weaknesses lie.  There are so many excellent resources on the market these days that it shouldn't be too difficult to find ways to challenge your young writers.

If you're looking for a writing mentor for your students, Patrick Henry College has a program for you:

Patrick Henry College Writing Mentors