“Writing is making marks that have meaning.” -Jennifer Hallissy
It is an exciting time when children begin writing. Young children make marks and scribbles on paper and imitate the letter forms they see around them when they start writing. As some children move from early childhood to childhood their interest in writing wanes and they loose the spark that was once there. Even young children can be come reluctant writers.
This post is about encouraging children to engage in writing through open-ended writing invitations. This means that the focus of the activities is to help the child “just write” without the pressure of completing a specific document, essay or project. When we invite children to write freely in a variety of ways, they relax and enjoy the writing activity as they did when they were making marks and scribbles on their paper.
I like to set up little invitations to write or create for the kids when they get home from school, during holidays and summer vacations. My kids attend a Montessori school for children in 1st through 9th grade and they are not assigned homework in the elementary grades. My daughter recently moved to a prep school for middle school and we are adjusting to having homework this year. Even with after school activities and homework, the kids enjoy finding these invitation to create or write. I think it is because they are open-ended activities that allow them to make their own creations.
If your child has a favorite author, book or characters, the author often has a website where you can find free printables related to the book. In the photo above, I printed our the “Make Your Comic” from the Narwhal and Jelly website. My seven-year-old loves Roald Dahl books. The Roald Dahl website has many resources for kids and teachers. There is an interview with Mr. Dahl about writing and photos of his writing hut. Mr. Dahl’s number one tip for writing fiction is, “You should have a lively imagination.”
Creating invitations to write can be as simple as providing paper, stencils, and a pencil or you can provide more creative and elaborate invitations. One of my favorite resources for activities that promote writing creatively is the book Journal Sparks: Fire Up Your Creativity with Spontaneous Art, Wild Writing, and Inventive Thinking by Emily K. Neuburger.
For parents who want to learn more about the stages of writing and how to support their child as they learn to write, The Write Start: A Guide to Nurturing Writing as Every Stage. from Scribbling to Forming Letters and Writing Stories, by Jennifer Hallissy is an excellent resource. Some children have difficulty with the physical act of writing due to their gross and/or fine motor skill development. In these cases, it is crucial that the child receive support from an occupational therapist to help the him build the muscles and skills required for writing.
I think it is important that we acknowledge that learning to write is a lengthy and sometimes difficult process. As children move from invented spelling and homemade cards to learning the conventions of writing we should continue to provide opportunities for them to write freely and creatively. We can observe and notice when our children are motivated to learn to write and support them as they seek to make their writing look like the writing in the books they love.