Writing for Kids: Is it better for Kids to focus on Writing Concepts or Grammar? Writing

Writing for Kids: Is it better for Kids to focus on Writing Concepts or Grammar?

When I say writing, what do you think? Do you think of self-expression, art, creativity, or even fun? Or do you think grammar (cringe), punctuation (who really knows how to use a comma anyway?), and essays (please stop, you’re going to give me nightmares)? If you’re part of the group that thinks of the former, I’m celebrating. Writing has so many benefits and rewards and it’s such an important part of communication. But if you’re part of the latter group, I completely understand.

Writing for Kids: Is it better for Kids to focus on Writing Concepts or Grammar? #kidswritingactivities

In our attempts to teach writing, we tend to stick to the concrete. Here’s a formula you can follow to create sentences. Here’s one for where to put punctuation. We even try to create concrete ways to describe plot. Concrete is easier to teach, especially to young writers. Unfortunately, the result is a majority of the population viewing writing as arduous, boring, and confusing. Now don’t get me wrong, these things are important. Without grammar and punctuation, everything becomes a confusing mess. It would be about as clear as an artist that wanted to paint a forest and just dumped a bucket of green on the canvas and called it a day. But if you’ve ever watched an artist work, they might start out with a bunch of green blobs that don’t look like much. Then they add another layer or two of green blobs in a little lighter or darker shades. After that comes little needles of brown. Then they add a smear of dark blue. Then layers of blue, purple, red and orange. After that a lot of blending, touching up and smearing. Suddenly the artist has a beautiful painting of a lake and forest at sunset.

Writing works much the same way. Our first draft might look a lot like the canvas blotted in green paint. There’s a bunch of words and ideas, maybe a few periods and maybe you thought to hit enter a few times to start a new paragraph. But it’s messy and unclear. And that’s okay. If the grammar and mechanics side don’t come naturally, that’s okay. Most of our children possess enough of the basic skills to just get started. The nit-picking of grammar and mechanics are the blending, touching up and smearing that come at the end. So what about the steps in between? Here are a few concepts that you can work on with your child so they don’t get bogged down in thinking that writing is all about mechanics.

Writing for Kids: Is it better for Kids to focus on Writing Concepts or Grammar? #kidswritingactivities

Use Details

Just like a good painting is composed of the small details that make it seem real or whole, so is writing. Writing for kids is just painting a picture with a different medium, words and a reader’s imagination. Most of the students who come through my door will tell you an entire story in about two to three sentences tops. We went to the beach. We went swimming. It was fun. Honestly, it’s usually a little messier than that, but you get the idea. We all know more happened than that, but those details are missing. What about the big gust of wind that took the beach umbrella for a spin? What about your little brother eating sand only to find out sand didn’t taste as good as he thought? What kind of beach was it? Sandy or rocky? Warm or cold? Lake or ocean? There are so many more pieces of information there to make their painting complete. They just need a reminder to use them.  

Writing for Kids: Is it better for Kids to focus on Writing Concepts or Grammar? #kidswritingactivities

Utilize the Senses

A huge part of adding detail is using the 5 senses. This is where writing for kids transcends painting a little bit. Writers get to utilize more than just visual cues. We get to immerse our readers in all five senses. I can take you to a cool shop with glass fronts filled with rows of cupcakes and pastries topped with swirls of pink, green, cream and brown frosting. Plates adorned with swirls of chocolate and mint leaves. The taste of sugar mingling in the air with the scent of cinnamon and cocoa. These senses help our mind paintings come alive.

Be Specific

If your child is writing about soccer, encourage them to use specific examples from their own games or practices or something they saw in a game on TV. Encourage them to use the proper names of the positions. Generalities don’t paint vivid or clear pictures. Specific details let the reader know that the writer knows what they’re talking about.

Writing for Kids: Is it better for Kids to focus on Writing Concepts or Grammar? #kidswritingactivities

Organize

Believe it or not, the world is full different methods of organization. We have chronological order. When we look at something, our eyes follow a path along the object we’re inspecting. Plants grow in certain arrangements. Rivers flow specific directions. So it only makes sense that as we’re describing truths of the world in our writing that we follow some method of organization as well. Whether that entails starting generalized and moving toward specificity, least important to most important, left to right, top to bottom. The method you pick will be determined by your topic and the mood you want to create, but getting all those details in the right place can make a world of difference in effect and clarity.

How to teach it

Teach your children how to observe. Point out the fresh earthy smell when you go camping. Teach them to notice how the sunset reflects off the water at the pond down the street. Comment on how strange the clattering sounds when you’re on a bridge beneath a train. If you can teach them to marvel at their sensory input, they’ll be better prepared to apply those details when it comes time to write.

Writing for Kids: Is it better for Kids to focus on Writing Concepts or Grammar? #kidswritingactivities


Integrated Learning Strategies is a Utah-based center dedicated to helping mainstream children and children with learning disabilities achieve academic success. Our services provide kids with non-traditional tutoring programs within the Davis County, Kaysville, Layton, Syracuse, Farmington, and Centerville areas. Areas to find Integrated Learning Strategies include: Reading tutors in Kaysville, Math tutors in Kaysville, Common Core Tutors in Kaysville, Tutors in Utah, Utah Tutoring Programs

Comments

  1. Thanks for the helpful tips! I have always loved writing. But now that I homeschool my son I realize trying to teach writing is a whole different animal.

  2. Your writing strategies are spot on! Back when I was in elementary school, students began writing assignments with a basic outline. Then we filled in all the juicy, interesting details. The final step was glossing up our rough drafts by paying attention to grammar, spelling and punctuation. I may be aging myself here, but my teachers were very big advocates of having their students diagram sentences. It was probably the single most important writing exercise I engaged in. It helped me understand sentence structure in a very deep and detailed way.

  3. These are excellent suggestions! I am a bit of a grammar lover so I’m always editing anything I’m reading.

  4. Great tips!

  5. Thank you for the tips! My daughter has just started writing little stories, and I am always looking for ways to help her expand.

  6. Writing first–for sure! I would much rather focus on a young child’s thoughts, expressions and creativity than grammar! Grammar can be addressed during the editing process!

  7. Love these tips! So helpful now that the kiddos are back in school!

  8. I think that story telling ability trumps grammar–learning and fixing grammar is far easier than trying to teach a child to find their own narrative voice.

    • Absolutely! And it’s important for them to express themselves before we pressure them to know the details of grammar and punctuation. This helps them learn to enjoy writing before they focus on the mechanics.

  9. I think it’s important to learn how to organize the story first, then work on the nuances. That’s not to say grammar isn’t important but it’s we’ve all seen how the “grammar nazis” can have an inhibiting effect.

    • It’s so true! We find that kids with learning challenges get so frustrated with the grammar and mechanics that we have to focus first on the concepts before critiquing them on the punctuation and grammar. Both are important, but the creative side helps kids enjoy writing first before they have to focus on the details.

  10. Great tips! Using examples for their experiences is a great way for them to really to learn to like writing.

  11. This is a very interesting read. Whether I enforce the rules or just let my daughter be creative depends on what it is for. If she’s writing to someone, I insist that she spell their name correctly. And when it’s for her schoolwork (we homeschool) I also insist that she try to do things correctly. But when she’s writing for fun, I just let her have fun. This has seemed like a good balance for us, so far.

    • I think that is wonderful! A combination of both is perfect for helping them learn while inspiring them to be creative too. I think both writing concepts and mechanics are equally as important when learning to write.

  12. My daughter is a fabulous reader but struggles with writing. This is fantastic! Thank you!

  13. Teaching creative thinking & expression seems to be lost in out school systems!! I wish that they would focus more on that 🙂

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