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Teaching Writing to the Child Who Struggles

Suggestions for Teaching Writing or Composition to Your Homeschooler

It is not that difficult though it might take longer for your struggling writer to learn composition.

Teaching Writing to the Child Who Struggles

Learning to write involves a combination of skills: grammar, spelling, handwriting (or typing), and writing. For some children, it might be difficult to coordinate all those skills at the same time to produce a paragraph. In fact, it is quite common, I think. How to teach writing is one of the most frequent questions parents ask me. The questions I ask them are can your child:

  • Tell you a story in the proper sequence?
  • Correctly describe how to do a task?
  • Tell you in a convincing way why someone should read a favorite book?

If your child can do this, then he or she can compose. Getting it on paper is another task involving the skills I mentioned earlier.

Excellent writing is also related to choosing well-written books to read. A child can read the books or listen to a parent read aloud, or listen to audio book. Reading or hearing great writing downloads the author’s writing style for your child’s brain to absorb. Reading a variety of authors works will help a child to develop a personal writing style. I like to think it is by osmosis—absorbing good writing styles just as a child learns to speak by hearing (absorbing) conversations.

That’s my theory based on what I’ve seen with my children and on the way my English teacher mother taught me to write. It is a lot easier to teach composition skills when there is something on which to build—that would be the writing style patterns gleaned from reading good books.

A practical way to help your struggling writer is to record the oral version on your smartphone or tablet. Then, transcribe it on the computer for your child to copy on paper. That way the composing process is separate from the physical handwriting, spelling, and English skills. Life will be much easier for both the student and the teacher.

Older students can transcribe the recording directly into a word processing program on the computer. Teach them to use the grammar spell checking features of that program or get the free Grammarly app for your computer at Grammarly.com. It is limited, but helpful for beginners. I recommend getting the paid version if you have high school or college students. It can be a lifesaver. You can set Grammarly to check for different types of writing such as general, academic, business and more.

You can use these suggestions with just about any writing course. To sum it up, here are my tips:

  • Choose well-written books—For reading aloud, silent reading, or listening to an audio book.
  • Record your child’s oral composition. Transcribe it for younger children. Older children can copy it for themselves.
  • Before you look at a paper, let your older children correct their papers with a grammar and spell checker such as Grammarly.com.
    • Mark grammar mistakes they missed, but let them figure out why and how to fix them.
    • Note it just as you would a spelling error with “gr” instead of “sp.” 
  • Teach your regular composition curriculum and wait for it. Honestly, I’ve not seen too many children who can write interesting compositions until they are at least upper elementary. For some, it comes later.
  • Keep teaching, but be patient.

Hope this helps someone today.


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