Thoughts on Teaching Writing

To teach writing, it’s helpful to see how professional writers do what they do.

So, with the background of having written or contributed to 17 published books over nearly 30 years, let me share a few tips:

  1. “Write what you know” is great advice.
  2. A well-written piece, like a delicious stew, requires “simmering” time.
  3. Learning this skill grows step-by-step and experience-by-experience.

Write What You Know

Writing, no matter what your age, is hard work. So, with that in mind, ease the difficulty by having your children write something they find interesting, motivating, or a-story-worth-telling:

  • How the dog knocked over the lamp;
  • Why I like eating cookies;
  • What it felt like to ride my bicycle. . .

For very young children, capture the emotion and excitement of their story by recording it on a phone or computer. Then, if you will type out a basic transcript for them, they suddenly will see how their spoken words translate to the written page!! It’s a magical moment, worth the effort.

For children who are comfortable with holding a pencil, writing words and sentences, try recording the story first. Then, together, make a basic outline of the elements—narrowing it down to the most important parts that need to be told. With this outline, let your students try writing a sentence for each point.

This leads to the next tip:

Simmering Time

Once you’ve written something, it’s important to walk away. Give your brain a break, think about something else, take a walk, or even sleep on it. When you come back to what you’ve written with fresh eyes and an invigorated brain, it will be much easier to see how to edit what you’ve done—and EVERY piece of writing will require editing!

This is as important for beginning writers (from preschool and up) as it is for professional writers. Don’t require your child to “finish” a writing piece (unless they are merely copying something) on the same day that they started it. Let it simmer for them, too.

Which brings us to the final tip:


When it comes to writing, your child will be impacted by frustration or enjoyment, by pressure or freedom, by the sense of failure or success. So, be very aware of your child’s experience in each writing exercise. If there is frustration, stop and analyze what is causing the frustration. If there is pressure, figure out how to reduce it. If a child feels like a failure, recognize that something about the experience needs to change—whether an easier topic, more interaction and discussion with you, using pictures for part of the story, whatever causes their eyes to light up with the possibilities.

This is not a race. This is not a competition.

Remember, stay relational.