Teaching Writing in the Right Order
I like this meme! I think it does a simple yet good job at listing the writing modes. But what I really like is that they are in the correct order! By "order", I mean that this is the order in which writing should be taught.
When teaching children to write, start out with narration. The first step of narration is talking, so start having quality conversations with your little ones. Ask them about their day. What did they do? Ask for details, so they must add descriptions. What did they like? What did they dislike? Why! Why! Why! Keep asking questions. Don't settle for descriptions like "cool", "fun", "pretty", "nice". When you read stories together (you're doing that daily, right), ask your children to retell parts of the story. Or, tell it with a different ending, or from the villain's point of view. That's all narration!
At least once a week, scribe for your child as he narrates. Yes, YOU are doing the writing, but it's still his writing. It's the first step. Physically writing is a different skill from composing written thoughts. Don't let the physical skill of writing letters on a page, using that fine motor skill, hinder the development of your child's inner-writer. They will, eventually, write for themselves. They will, eventually, get tired of waiting around for you to write for them and start writing down their own stories...if they have learned the joy of putting thoughts on paper, and have acquired the confidence to do so.
Level 1 of writing is simply getting what is inside your head out and onto paper.
Narrating moves naturally into descriptive writing, as parents and teachers simply ask questions. What did the boy look like? Where does that story happen? Is it cold or hot? What are the characters wearing? What sounds do they hear? Children can write character sketches about characters from books they are reading (or you are reading to them). Have them draw a picture to go along with their words.
Level 2 of writing is getting what is inside your head into the head of another person. That is done through good descriptions. When the reader can see what you see, that is success! Children naturally want you to see what they see, but they don't realize how to do that...so help them...with questions!
Here comes the scandalous part of the blog... I do not teach expository writing before age 12, and I don't teach persuasive writing until the other 3 modes have been developed. If I have a child who wants to write something expository or persuasive (like why she should get a puppy or why he should get an xbox), I certainly allow and encourage that, but I don't push it or formally teach it (unsolicited) before age 12.
The most persuasive writers are also great narrators! They move us through stories then come in for the kill with their logical and descriptive point of view.
Level 3 of writing is using your written words to change the thoughts of another person.
The trouble with some of our state standards in writing--and yes, this includes Common Core--is that they dictate that children learn all 4 modes of writing from an early age. Children as young as 3rd grade (that's as young as 7 years old) are required to write reports and expository paragraphs. Yes, they are simple assignments, but that doesn't matter. When children are asked to do expository writing, before they have experienced the joy of narration and descriptive writing, they develop a hate of writing. They come to view academic (school) writing as something completely different from the writing they do for enjoyment and to get their deep thoughts out onto paper. We don't want that! Because when they are ready to do expository and especially persuasive writing, we want them to be passionate about it. We don't want them to do the minimum to get a passing grade.
The other concern I have is that creative writing (narration) is phased out around middle school. Students need to return to creative writing from time to time, to keep the juices flowing. They need to learn how to incorporate narration and even fictitious creative writing into persuasive writing. So, even as students progress and new modes are added, we should still return to the previous modes periodically.
Here are some ideas for young writers...
Set a timer (just 5 minutes is fine to start and work up to longer) and just write! It doesn't matter what they write. You (parent/teacher) should be doing this right along side them, in your very own writing journal.
Nature makes a great subject for developing descriptive writing. Without naming a plant or animal, can your child describe it so well that you know what it is?
This sounds so tedious, I know! But copy work helps children who are still learning good writing form to imitate it without the pressure of creating it themselves. They can copy anything! A funny poem, a funny part of a story, a recipe, instructions for a game...get creative!
Take pictures and make a book with your child and let her add the narration to go along with the pictures. Family vacations or just an ordinary day...both are fun for kids to narrate.
Letter Writing & Cards
Thank you to grandma for that gift. Get a pin pal. Make cards for friends. Write out their own invitations for parties.
Wish lists. Christmas. Birthday. Pros & Cons for a choice. Plan for getting something they want.
Above all, remember, your priorities are:
Creating joy and building confidence in writing, not grooming the next Shakespeare.