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Copyright 2006 Julie Shepherd Knapp
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Copyright 2006 Julie Shepherd Knapp.  All rights reserved.
The Homeschool Diner's Guide to
Homeschooling by Subject
Language Arts


Homeschooling Reluctant Writers
and Children Who Hate to Write

by Julie Shepherd knapp, copyright 2006, 2008


Pre-expressive writing activities and strategies to help reluctant writers
become interested in words and writing...


Some children are naturals at writing -- the words practically flow
from their pencils as they write lengthy stories, create poetry, and
enthusiastically write book reports and research reports.  They write
frequently (because they enjoy it), even choosing to write in their spare
time, and enjoy sharing what they have written with others.  If you are
reading this article, however, you are dealing with the opposite end of the
spectrum --a reluctant writer.

Reluctant writers come in two varieties -- those who enjoy writing
projects of their own choosing, but need to be persuaded to do assigned
writing... and those who are reluctant to write at all, because they have
very real difficulties with writing.

Children who enjoy writing, but balk at writing assignments are the easier
to help of the two types.  Often, a change in the type of writing you
assign will gain their cooperation and inspire them to write. Children who
have difficulty with all types of writing are much more challenging
because they may actually have a developmental issue or a learning
disability that interferes with their writing. These children will need a great
deal of help with the writing process.

If your child doesn't mind some types of writing, but is reluctant to
do assigned writing, maybe a change in writing programs would help  --
take a look at the
Creative Ideas for Writing section where you will find
assignments that are more fun and more interesting than the writing
prompts included in most writing programs.  

Remember that children (like everyone else!) are more willing to write
about topics that interest them, and are happiest when they have several
choices and a real say in what they write about. Also, keep in mind that
some children prefer creative writing while others prefer factual
writing
, so keep your child's preferences in mind as you look thru the
many options for writing activities.

Some reluctant writers just
need help to become comfortable with
writing.  They need to be eased into the idea, need help finding
inspiration, and benefit from the chance to do fun writing projects.  
Parents should take care with such a child not to make too big a deal of
writing-- or they may end up with a student who decides they hate to write
and who resists all writing assignments.  

Some reluctant writers are actually just
late-bloomers who will become
quite good at writing when the time is right for them.  As homeschoolers
we can afford to give them the time they need.

Some 4 to 6 year olds may just be
too young or too immature to
manage the whole writing process.  Luckily, homeschoolers have the
luxury of waiting another year or two to begin writing lessons with a child
who just doesn't seem ready for formal writing instruction.  Explore
pre-writing activities that may help develop the muscles and dexterity
that will be needed for the act of handwriting.

Sometimes a child's
learning style makes writing a struggle.  Take a
look at the
Visual-Spatial Learner page if you suspect that your child
has a very visual way of thinking that may make working with words a
challenge.

However, if you have a child who seriously struggles with handwriting and
also with composition it is possible that he or she has a disability of
written expression, called
dysgraphia.  You can read more about
dysgraphia and other learning disabilities in the
Special Needs section.

Children who have very real difficulties with writing -- difficulties
that lead to tears and tantrums, and writing that seems to be way below
the level you believe they should be capable of -- need special attention
and, probably, at some point, professional assistance to overcome their
troubles with writing. There are a lot of different reasons for a child to
have such a hard time with writing.  

Expressive writing requires a lot of different skills and kids can
have trouble with any one or more of them!
 Just think about it -- in
order to write a paragraph -- children need to choose what to write about,
decide what details to include, organize their thoughts into a logical
sequence, think of what to say and how to say it and what words to use,
hold the thoughts for each sentence in
short term memory as they
write, try to remember proper spelling, spacing, grammar, and
punctuation, all while using their fine motor skills to form each letter!  

Writing is a very complicated process, but
most children gradually get
better at writing as each year passes
.  If your child doesn't seem to
be doing any better there may be a medical reason behind the difficulties.

If you haven't already, you should bring up the writing trouble with your
child's
pediatrician and ask for his or her input.  If your pediatrician
thinks it may be more than a matter of age or immaturity he or she will
likely provide a referral to a specialist who can help identify the issues.

You might be referred to an
Occupational Therapist who can assess
your child's motor development and prescribe exercises and treatment
routines to help with hand dexterity and muscle strength.  

You might want to make an appointment with a
Developmental
Optometrist
to see if your child has any unusual visual problems
(more than just fuzzy eyesight) that might affect his or her writing.  

You might be referred to a
Speech-Language Pathologist who can
help your child with word retrieval (thinking of what to say), organizing
thoughts, and planning out what to put on paper.

Maybe you'll be referred to a
Developmental Pediatrician or Pediatric
Neurologist
or Pediatric Neuropsychologist who can medically
evaluate your child for signs of a learning disability or other disorder.   

Perhaps you will also see an
Educational Psychologist, who can give
your child educational assessments to pinpoint exactly what your child's
strong and weak areas are.  

Any of these visits may lead to a diagnosis of a learning disability in your
child or they may just reveal isolated weak areas that your child needs
help with.  For more information on
possible learning disabilities that
might affect your child's ability to write, check out the
Homeschooling
Special Needs page and take a look at the information on learning
disabilities, beginning with
Dysgraphia.  Also known as "disability of
written expression", dysgraphia can be a component of several other
common learning disabilities and disorders, such as Dyslexia,
ADD/ADHD, NVLD, Aspergers, Tourettes, and others.  

If you'd like to work on your child's writing skills at home, in
addition to whatever other avenues you decide to pursue, take a look at
the activities in the following sections.  I'm not a professional -- just a
mom who's done some research and detective work.  I've tried to figure
out some ways to get kids more in tune with words and begin to enjoy
using words -- two things that certainly help set the stage for effective
written expression.  

My approach is to try to "grow" an interest in verbal expression,
written expression...  and eventually in writing, but without much (if any)
actual writing, until your particular child seems
ready to write.  I also
encourage teaching your child to use the
keyboard as soon as he or
she is wiling and able -- to  reduce the stress and discomfort of the
writing process (by typing, instead).  You may still want to continue with
handwriting practice... but keeping it separate from the composition
process may help free up your child's ability to get thoughts on paper.  

Here is a
review of typing software for kids  Do check that the older
software will work on your computer, though -- for example Mario
Teaches Typing 2 is a great choice for video game loving kids... if it will
work on your system.  

To work on writing at home... I'd suggest making one or two of the
following activities a part of your normal daily life, and work thru the
activity lists over a period of several months to several years, depending
on how your child responds to them. Keep playing the basic activities
until your child outgrows them, then add new ones.  Be on the lookout for
new word games that might grab your child's interest. :-)  Having fun with
words is the key.


Strategies and activities to exercise word skills in reluctant
writers, kids who hate to write, and late bloomers:

Help for Kids Who Hate to Write: Word Retrieval and
Narrative Activities

Narrative Activities to Exercise Your Child's
Storytelling and Writing Skills


Related Resources

Scored Writing Samples -- for grades 3, 5, 6, and 8 -- four types of
writing are analyzed for various elements and scored from low quality to
high quality, with explanations and comments, useful as a sample of
typical work at different grade levels.

The English Assignment that Ate the American Economy by Margot
Carmichael Lester -- how teaching the 5 paragraph essay is ruining the
development of real-world writing skills in American children
(back to)
writing resources
(back to)
dysgraphia
(back to)
visual-spatial learners
(back to)
special needs
If writing were easy, everybody would be doing it. ~ Andy Rooney
Copyright 2006 Julie Shepherd Knapp.  All rights reserved.