How to Help Your Child with Writing Topics
WHEN MY CHILD IS ASKED TO WRITE,
HOW CAN I HELP?
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Here are some simple guidelines. Try to follow in sequence.
Teachers say, “Make a plan”. In my view, that is not the first step.
MAKE A LIST
Tell your child to “Make a list”. The list is his thoughts and ideas on the topic. Don’t use the word ‘brain-storm’. It’s just a cliché that does not make much sense to a child. Write ideas, opinions or information in a list as they come to him.
GROUP THE IDEAS
Using a different coloured pencil, help your child to put ideas into a sequence, or common ideas together. You are bundling thoughts together in some way. From about eight to ten points in the list, he may end up with four groups. These will be the basic form of the whole text.
ORGANISE THE GROUPS
Your child will start to see his writing project taking shape. Each group of ideas will form a paragraph.
Draw a rectangle in a different colour around each group.
Discuss each group in turn with your child. Does he have anything else to add? Does anything need to be taken out and put into another group?
HOW TO START THE INTRODUCTORY LINES
It helps to begin with a noun. This is the subject of the first sentence. Make the first sentence GENERAL and SHORT.
It helps to use words from the topic that he has to write about. His topic is: “Fast Cars are the Best Cars”. His opening sentence could be
“Fast cars can be the best cars but not always.”
It could be “Fast cars are always the best cars.”
That is now the topic sentence. All other sentences that follow in that first paragraph are based on that statement.
Make the introductory paragraph quite short.
TWO OR THREE MIDDLE PARAGRAPHS
Again, begin each paragraph with a short and general statement. He is getting into the DETAIL of the writing project. Try to begin with a noun. For example,
“Fast cars are well built. They have powerful engines and so they have safe design in the body.”
The rest of that paragraph may only have three or four sentences but each sentence will revolve around the ideas of speed and good construction. These points are in the topic sentence.
The next one or two paragraphs will each make a further important point in the topic sentence. Again, start with a noun so it’s easy for the child to get going. For example, “Good cars can’t keep you safe all the time. A bad driver in a good car is not safe.”
WRITING THE CONCLUSION
Use the analogy of a hamburger to explain the structure of his writing task to your child. The bread roll, top and bottom, is the introductory paragraph and the concluding paragraph. The hamburger and the salad in the middle is what really matters.
In a couple of sentences, depending on the topic, show your child how to draw the threads of his text together.
The conclusion should depend on what his hamburger tasted like. Ask him what he thinks about his topic after writing it. Avoid writing what has already been written in the opening lines. But rather, draw on the middle paragraphs to inform the concluding paragraphs.
Use short sentences. Start with nouns if that helps. Use words from the middle paragraphs to write the ending.
Think of it this way. Your child is not going around and ending back at the beginning. It seems to me that many teachers give children the notion that they begin with ‘the introduction’ and when they get to ‘the conclusion’ they re-state what is in the ‘introduction’.
I suggest that you explain to your child that he is going forward not around in a circle. After eating a hamburger he feels so much better. He enjoyed it. It tasted great and he just loved the sauce. So the concluding paragraph should be more about the middle paragraphs in the same way that eating a hamburger is about what’s in it.
That was the draft.
Your child should leave it overnight and come back to it at another time.
Read it again slowly and aloud.
At the end of each paragraph ask him if he spotted any errors in spelling or punctuation.
Then you look over it. Underline any problem you see and give it back to him. Ask him if he can see the problem as well. Let him think about it without giving him the answer. If he can’t see it, then tell him.
Copy the draft carefully into a final piece. The practice does the child a lot of good.
Finally, ask your child if he is happy with his work.