A Dozen Writing Leads


Have you ever wondered why children, who generally love to talk, have a hard time translating their vibrant, imaginative chatter into quality writing?

I can spin several explanations. First, the physical act of writing is still difficult for young elementary students, and tends to slow down creative juices. Cutting corners is attractive when penciling each word is laborious.

Second, although the children have been practicing speaking for years, writing is a new skill for them, Every aspect, from vocabulary to sentence structure, tends to backpedal several years’ worth of maturity while they get the hang of things.

But third, nobody is conversationally reciprocating, asking ongoing questions when they run out of words to say. Children aren’t great at monologue, which is what writing is. They are used to lively interchange, a sentence or two at a time.

As educators or parents, we may offer writing leads to get young writers started, such as “Today at school I…” but they tend to peter out after “did math and English. It was hard.”

Here are some writing leads with additional questions to get children thinking.

My favorite part of my house is…

(Where is it? What does it look like? What do I do there? How do I feel?)

When I have free time, I like to…

(What? When? How often? Who does it with me? What supplies do I need?)

One of my daily chores is…

(What? Do I enjoy it? How long does it take? Am I the only one who can do it?)

The oldest person I know…

(Lives where? Is how old? Looks like what? Wears what? Says what to me?)

If I were cooking my dream meal, I would make…

(How many foods? What kinds? Do I know how to make them? What do they look like? Why are they my favorites?)

Three things I like about my friends are…

(What draws me to them? Do we share interests? What are my happiest memories with them?)

If I could ask God one question, it would be…

(What would I ask Him? How would I ask Him? What do I think He would answer?)

Some things you should know about my mom (or dad) are…

(Her favorite things? Her hobbies and habits? Her best creations? Her evening activities?)

On a normal Sunday at church…

(Who do I go with? Where do I sit? What do I learn? Who teaches Sunday school? What is my favorite part of the service?)

One thing I wish did not exist in the world is…

(What bothers me the most? What seems most unfair or annoying?)

Five of the best gifts Jesus gave me are…

(What me I most grateful for? What would I have trouble living without?)

If I could help one poor child in another part of the world, I would…

(What would I do first? What does he need most? What can he have that is mine?)

Writing, like so many other skills, cannot be learned in theory, only in practice. The more enjoyable we make it, the more quickly our children will master it.

Do you think questions like these would help? Give it a try and let me know how it goes!

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Jonas Sauder

6 years ago

Your suggestion of providing a list of questions is excellent. That approach serves to provide some of that “conversational” feedback that you noted children respond to well. After they’ve responded to the first question, they can follow up by reading one of the others, which, in essence says “Tell me more about…”One additional suggestion I would add is to provide children with a model of whatever type of writing we expect them to write (such as “what I like to do when I have free time”). That way they also have a style to imitate to get them going.

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