Tuesday, February 3, 2015

If You “Know” You Should Be Doing More Writing

I love to write. I blog, I make lists, I teach writing to high schoolers. My 2nd grader does not like writing. It is easy to see why. Every writing activity used to come with “Write neater, Write more, You spelled that wrong!” I came to the realization over winter break that I had to take some of the suckiness out of it. This series of blogs will record the steps I am taking to  increase the amount and quality of writing instruction we do as part of our day.
Step 1: Stop Criticizing
I stopped commenting on his handwriting during all activities except, handwriting. We started Handwriting Without Tears this year. This is the only time of day that I stress neatness and teach letter formation. I stopped any other handwriting criticizing cold turkey. I had to bite my tongue, chew gum, and resist with all of my heart. I also stopped commenting on spelling except during spelling. During all times that he is composing from brain to paper, I do not worry about spelling. I do not even comment on it. If he happens to self correct himself, I say “great job noticing that!”.

Step 2: Make it interesting, engaging, and daily.
I bought a cheap primary handwriting sketchbook from OfficeMax. Half the page is blank for pictures and the other half has lines on it appropriate for his grade level. I started out by offering a subject and writing down words he might need. After day 4 we dropped this, as he did not need suggestions and since I wasn't commenting on spelling there was no anxiety about it. He chooses if he wants to draw a picture or not.
If we run into problems with the “what to write” I have seen lots of good ideas for idea generation on Pinterest and created a Pinterest Board to store them. So far, so good.
Each day, he writes the date and has to fill half a page. If he can not fill half a page, then he writes his name over and over. He has only chosen this option once. He writes about whatever he wants to write about. So far he has written about barf, his dog, being sick, Nerf guns, Disneyland,his friends, playing Monopoly with his Grandpa, and a dream he had.
I use this time to do my own writing.
I may write down my schedule for the day, work on my blog, respond to emails or make a grocery list, but I write.
Finally, he reads it out loud to me. Reading it aloud allows him to notice his own mistakes. If he wants to fix it, we fix it. If not , we let it go. We celebrate what he wrote. If it is supposed to be funny, I laugh. If he writes about how much work he has to do each day and how mean his mom is, I look at him with a serious face and nod. I don’t criticize or suggest. I make positive comments, “I like how descriptive it is” or “That sounds just like what happened!”
The results?
So far we have increased his self directed writing by 100%. It has become part of our daily routine. The benefit has been the ability for me to see his strengths and weaknesses. Before this, it was difficult to know exactly what to work on with him. From his daily journals, I have been able to find direction. This has lead me to integrate the 6 Traits and mentor texts. Doing this has been easier than I thought and I am already seeing the changes. Next time I will share the easy way to start working with your kiddo's writing.

If you have found ways to increase your student's self directed writing, please post below I would love to hear!


  1. Another PACT mom shared with me the idea of picture writing prompts. My child blows me away with the creative places she can go with just a picture.

  2. Love this post, Kirsten! Those primary writer's notebooks are awesome and our first and second graders use them too. :) Write everyday about stuff you know about and care about? Awesome!!! You are an amazing writer and teacher and these are great strategies and tips no matter the age of the writer. Can't wait to hear more!

  3. Next year, you have to have him NaNo with the group! He'll love the insanity of creative writing and the double dare to never edit in the month of November. Plus the pre-writing FREE workbook is pretty awesome too. Who doesn't want to create a supervillan?