Updated: Dec 15, 2018
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Teach them How to Write
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1. Establish hand dominance - this one might seem pretty obvious but it is also important in the early stages of writing. I once observed a student, upon the request of his teacher, who was struggling with some fine motor skills (including writing). One of the things I was looking for during my observation was to determine his hand dominance. I noted which hand he used to color, which hand he raised to answer questions, which hand he used for cutting, eating, and so on. We determined that this student used his left hand for the majority of the tasks he performed. We got him a left-handed scissors and encouraged him to use his left hand to write and soon we began to see improvements in his fine motor skills.
The first time I tried to teach my 4 year old how to write numbers, I had him use his right hand. As he sat on my lap, I drew a number on the mini white board and then had him write it. At first I thought he was trying to be funny or that I had my work cut out for me because his numbers looked nothing like mine; in fact, they were completely illegible! Then I had him try writing with his left hand and immediately saw a 70% improvement! I then created some fun monster math number writing mats for him to practice writing his numbers more.
2. Take it slow - students can quickly become frustrated when writing is laborious and hard for them. It's important to take it slow at the beginning until they begin to get the hang of it. One program I really love to use for students who struggle with writing is Handwriting Without Tears. I love how this program gives students wooden pieces to learn how to build and form the letters correctly before transferring that knowledge to paper. It is great for the kinesthetic learners or those that just need more concrete examples.
3. Supply them with the right tools - a student with cerebral palsy whose hand shakes while writing may need a weighted pencil. Other students may benefit from different types of pencil grips. Checklists can be helpful for students who struggle remembering all the mechanics of writing. Some students may need to use a computer or other device with spell check. To foster a love of writing it is essential that you equip your students with the tools they need to be successful!
Show them What and Why to Write
4. Give them something to write about - find a topic that your students are interested in to write about. If your students struggle to come up with ideas for writing use writing prompts like my Build-A-Story Writing Center or use one of these picture prompts from my Pinterest writing prompts board.
5. Set goals and don't worry about the rest (for now) - decide what it is you want your students to focus on in regards to their writing. Do your students dislike writing because they struggle with letter reversals? Then spend time learning tricks or songs to help them remember the correct way to form each letter. Do your students lack creativity in their writing? Then spend time brainstorming ideas or searching for writing prompts. If the mechanics of writing are bogging them down, spend time mastering one area (such as punctuation) at a time. Have students dress up like mechanics and fix up some broken down sentences (see my Greasy Grammar Writing Mechanics blog post here).
6. Make it a "get to" not a "have to" - writing should not be a chore even if it is difficult for your students. Check your own attitude toward writing. Are you stuck in a rut doing the same writing activities each day or rushing through your writing time so you can get on to some other subject area that is more fun to teach or easier for your students to learn? If you don't enjoy writing, your students will quickly pick up on that and it may affect their attitude toward writing. Did you ever have a teacher that was extremely passionate about the subject area that you were not particularly fond of? Did her love for that subject area inspire you to think twice about it? A big step in fostering a love of writing in your students is to first develop a love for the subject yourself! How?...
7. Make it FUN and meaningful - besides picking topics of interest for your students to write about, there are many ways you can make writing more fun. Start by using fun decorative papers for students to write on or find an object to use as a writing surface instead! Make signs or posters that actually mean something/are useful. Have students write a letter to their favorite singer or actor. Write out a recipe and then make it. Give writing a purpose!
8. Reward them (with writing-related rewards) - add to the fun by rewarding your students when they make progress toward their writing goals. Gather a stash of colorful or wacky pencils, mini erasers, pencil grips, stationary paper, and/or other writing-related rewards. They will be excited to receive a reward and just as excited to use it the next time they "get to" write!
I hope you find these writing tips helpful! Sign up for my newsletter for more teaching tips and freebies each month.