Thursday, 11 February 2021

Beyond SPaG: Advice For Parents When Writing With Children At Home

Hoping for a more positive response, I tweeted the above after seeing a journalist hunting for authors who were 'surprised/angered by what their children are learning about grammar, English etc during home schooling or how they are being taught to write?'. And positive response I got. By all means, click on the above tweet and explore all the answers at your leisure, or stay here and read a summary of the advice that was shared.

Before launching into the advice though, I think it would be wise to give a bit of context. During partial school closure during lockdown, teachers have been providing a remote learning experience for children who are at home. This remote learning provision, however good, cannot mimic exactly the normal ways of working in a classroom that teachers have developed; it has had to be an adapted provision. As such, it would appear that many teachers have felt that SPaG-based activities have been easier for children to complete at home; the teaching of the creative aspects of writing relying more on teacher interaction.

So, what this blog post sets out to do is provide you, a parent at home, with ways of working with your child that will help you to help your children with creative writing rather than SPaG-focused English learning. The ideas below should allow you to work with your child in a way that mirrors more closely the work that their teacher would normally do with them at school.

Reading

Many people pointed straight to reading as the first step in helping children to write. Books can inspire children and they provide a model of what a good piece looks like so they make a great starting point. The theme of reading will reoccur throughout the advice under other headings.

Imagining

Children already have great imaginations - the task for parents is to channel this imagination into their writing. People shared ideas about how to prompt children to imagine things to include in their writing:

Inspiring

An extension of imagining is using pre-existing things to generate new imaginative ideas. If it is proving difficult to capture ideas from your child's imagination then they might just need a little prompting and there are innumerable ways to do that, here are just a few:

Experiencing

Further inspiration for writing ideas can come from the experiences that your child has - it could be everyday experiences, remembered experiences or you could do something a little different to prompt their writing. Whilst experiences are limited during lockdown, getting outdoors should provide some inspiration, especially if whilst out you activate their imaginations with some 'what if' type questions e.g. 'What if this tree were the home to an army of ninja spiders?'

Talking

Writing is about the written word but before the written word there was the spoken word. The spoken word is the best starting place as it provides an opportunity to play around with language, revise ideas and collaborate. Make talk an essential step prior to writing.

Imitating

Imitation can come in many forms and children can attempt to imitate all kinds of writing. You could also work on imitating language that children hear via other media forms: audio books and TV shows, for example.
Practising

Not everything has to be a fully-blown story or piece of writing. Short bursts of writing can be a great way to develop children's writing skills and their enjoyment of writing. Keep these fun and inspiring and your child will most likely happily have a go.

Planning

Planning isn't always the most exciting part of the writing process for children, but it can be made more enjoyable. Much of this can be done orally (see the Talking heading) and can be recorded in a number of fun ways (see the Recording heading).

Recording

Once all the ideas have been thought of, there's the sticky issue of the mechanical part of transcribing all the fantastic things that children have come up with. Some of this advice revolves around writing without concern for SPaG, other ideas are to do with where children write and there are even suggestions around transcription-free writing:

Reviewing

Even in school this bit can be difficult for teachers and children - often children need a break after writing before they are ready to return to what they have written, so bear that in mind. However, it should be possible to work through what has been drafted to make improvements.
Celebrating

This is so crucial in the writing process for children - if you want them to write for enjoyment then they need to enjoy what they have written. Seeing other people enjoying their work is a great motivator too so sharing is essential! Send a copy to Granny, read it over Zoom to Uncle, drop a copy round to a neighbour - the options are almost endless and are bound to cheer someone up!
Publishing

Having a purpose for writing is also a motivating factor - one that might be considered right at the very start of the writing process, rather than as an afterthought. If children know their work will be shared, published or entered into a competition even the most reluctant writer can be spurred on in their writing.
Other Resources

Thankfully, this blog post isn't the only source of advice in this arena. Several excellent experts have produced resources to help parents help their children with writing at home:

Supporting Children Writing At Home: https://writing4pleasure.com/supporting-children-writing-at-home/

Three Steps To Writing from SF Said: http://www.sfsaid.com/2017/01/three-steps-to-writing.html

It’s A Kid’s Life – Lockdown by Kerry Gibb: http://kerrygibb.com/its-a-kids-life/kids-life-lockdown/

Writing Prompts from Beverly Writes: https://www.beverleywrites.com/blog

5 Ways to Engage Reluctant Writers with Creativity from Now>Press>Play: https://nowpressplay.co.uk/engage-reluctant-writers-with-creativity/

Homewriting Workshops from the Candlewick Press YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLEqVZlLgos-WN7boUH8tsFWNihT745u9u 

Michael Rosen's videos: https://www.michaelrosen.co.uk/videos/

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