Ten Tips for Getting Kids to Write – by Bruce Coville

Chapter 3 of  In the Course of My Work…

Last year, I had the amazing fortune to be a part of Sharjah Children’s Reading Festival, providing content for the English media. In the course of the 12 days (plus the 2 days before that for inaugural UAEBBY), I met and heard some brilliant teachers and writers and those who do both, artists and illustrators as well as people who give their all to the cause they believe in – and each of them left an indelible mark on me. As a teacher, writer and a human being, it was a humbling experience.

This is a continuation of my attempt to pass on what I learned from the experience – something I had ventured into more than a year ago, and was unable to pursue. Before these get lost in the rubble of time, let me spread it around.

 Bruce Coville is an American author of children’s and young adult novels. He was born in Syracuse, New York and lives there currently; he has spent most of his life there, leaving to attend Duke University and then to live in New York City.

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 Ten Tips for Getting Kids to Write:

  1. Provide time. Good writing takes time to develop.
  2. Provide freedom. Let the writing come from within.
  3. Provide a role model (namely yourself). Modeling is the single best tool we have as teachers. If children don’t see you as a writer, you’ve sent them a powerful message about how much value you really give the subject.
    • Journal with them.
    • Freewrite with them.
    • Show them/read them your own work.
  4. Read to them. Writers need models of language to work from. The more language we pour into their heads, the deeper the well of words from which they can draw.
  5. Read to them. I’m repeating the point, just so you will know I wasn’t kidding.
  6. Respond at least as much to content as technique. Writing is about communication. Skills are necessary to communicate properly, and so the technical aspect of writing must be taught. But correct spelling and grammar do not indicate that communication has occurred. Writers need feedback.
  7. Provide an audience. Journal writing is meant to be private. Any other writing that does not have an audience lacks a reason to exist.
  8. Make it a daily event. Having the children write DAILY not only provides the practice they need to grow as writers, it send a powerful message about how much to value the skill.
  9. Encourage journaling. A journal is a gift from the self to the self-to-be. Having your kids keep journals is a gift from you to them.
  10. Explore forms. The more kinds of writing you work with – poetry, journaling, essay, fiction – the more apt the writer is to find the form that fits.

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