Breaking writing down
Most children will be able to access the writing that is set for them at their level. Here are some ways that you can support if it seems too tricky.
Talk, talk, talk!
Before writing comes speaking! If children can’t speak it, they will always struggle to write it.
- You will help your child’s writing by doing lots of talking. Talk about the activities that you do together, talk about the books that you read together, talk, talk talk!
- When your child is talking make sure that they are using all of the words to make their sentences. If they are missing words out, shortening words or running words together, speak back to them what they have said, the way it should be.
- For any of the writing tasks that your child has been set, if they are struggling, talk it through with them. There is value in getting them to say it and you write it for them – as long as you write exactly what they have said – make sure they say it properly!
Sentence by Sentence
If you find that your child’s writing ‘runs away with them’ so that as they write, their sentences don’t make sense, help them to break it down. Make them take one sentence at a time.
- Think the sentence
- Say the sentence 2 or 3 times
- Write the sentence
- Read the sentence pointing to each word to check it is there
- Don’t move on to the next sentence until you know that this one is correct
Section by Section
If your child is finding it too daunting or difficult to write an extended piece. Break it down by sections. Encourage them to draw a picture for each section and then write one, two or three sentences for each picture. That way they can keep track of what they are writing and see that they are progressing through it.
Making a comic strip is a good way of doing this.
In school, we support children with the spelling of keywords for their writing. These are often words that could be tricky to spell or words that will reoccur several times in their writing. E.g. characters names, places, good adjective ideas. By supplying the children with these key words, it allows them to focus their attention on structuring each sentence correctly.
If your child finds spelling hard, we would suggest you form the list of keywords together. The children could even draw a picture next to each word as a reminder of their meaning.
Here are some activities that you can do either to support, or instead of the writing activities that have been set by your child's teacher.
Sentence building activity
When generating ideas for a sentence, we always encourage children to say their sentence aloud first. This allows an adult to check it makes sense before they attempt to write it down.
For this particular activity, the adult would write the child’s sentence down, cut up the individual words and shuffle them all up. Then the child would have to put the words back into the correct order.
Handy hint! Children are told to look out for a word beginning with a capital letter and the word that is followed by a full stop. This can be a useful starting point for putting the sentence back into the correct sequence.
Adjective work - Fill in the Gap activity
When working on making our sentences more interesting, we often start by adding an adjective. Adjectives help the reader create a picture of what we are writing about in their mind. This is a great opportunity to expand and develop children’s vocabulary. Therefore, we do not worry about generating the whole sentence to start with. We give children a sentence with a missing word and pose the question ‘What adjective could we add to our sentence to make it more interesting?’
For example, The ____________ trees swayed in the wind.
You could ask your child for ideas of what would make sense in the gap and support them with using their phonics to spell it. Feel free to challenge their suggestion if you think they could make it more exciting! For example, we challenge the children for better word choices when vocabulary such as ‘big’ or ‘nice’ are given.
You could give the children 5 word choices to choose from. Ask them which word do they think is the best adjective for the sentence? By doing this, you can help expand the children’s vocabulary by carefully selecting words that they may not have normally used. If possible, try to use decodable words, so children can apply their phonics skills when trying to read them.
Whether it is a task to write a description of a setting or a person, the task can be simplified by completing a labelling activity first.
Give children a picture of what they need to describe and identify all the ‘nouns’. (A noun is a person, place or thing.) Label them using one colour.
Then ask the children how might they describe the nouns? What do they look like? Generate some adjectives together. (Adjectives are describing words.) Using a different colour, get children to add one adjective to each one of the labelled nouns.
Then ask them to put their adjective and noun into a sentence. Encourage them to say it aloud before writing. It does not matter if it is a simple sentence, but it must be punctuated properly! No excuses for missing capital letters at the start of a sentence and a full stop at the end.
To help children sequence a story, we often ask the children to start by drawing a storyboard. We usually add 2-3 key words to each box. This helps with the children’s retelling of the story and supports them with key spellings.
Once the storyboard is complete, we often rehearse telling the story aloud using the pictures. This then gives the adult the opportunity to remind the child to use the keywords they have written down. We would encourage children to write one or two sentences for each box. Here is an example of a storyboard for ‘Little Red Riding Hood’.
Sometimes writing the whole story can be a challenge, so children could just write part of the story. For example, the beginning or the end.