Wicked Smart

How to get your primary students writing

English advicejudith aitken


“She just won’t put pen to paper”.

“It’s a shame as she has such great ideas”.

“Boys – they just don’t like writing”.

Comments like this can be heard up and down the country, whether children are in Reception or Year 6. We want to tackle these comments head on and have created a list of suggestions to get them all writing! (And yes, we refuse to believe that gender has an impact on your ability to enjoy the writing process).

1. All you need is a little mix

Unfortunately, the girl band won’t be able to help you here, but a range of writing materials will. Create a writing area in your classroom or house, where children can independently choose from a variety of writing tools. Offer pens, pencils, crayons, poster paper, envelopes, cards, post its, shopping lists – anything you can possibly think of that will inspire your child to write.

2. What’s the point?

Writing needs to have a purpose. Write a thank you letter then take a trip to the post office, write a wish list of things you would like to see and do, design and write a poster advertising the dance show you will be performing (in your living room to an audience of Mum and Dad) or write a postcard to your family members, describing your holiday adventures.

3. Strike a pose

Children need to see writing happening all around them, and as adults we should be modelling writing at every opportunity. Enlisting their help in writing the shopping list or writing an email can assist children in recognising the value of writing.

4. Don’t let SPAG bog you down

When reading reluctant writers’ work, it’s important to look past spelling and grammatical errors and focus instead on the fact that they have put their ideas onto paper. Generally speaking, it’s best to have one focus during a writing lesson as this will help children to stay on task and avoid becoming disheartened.

5. Treat them as authors

If they’ve written anything at all, then they are a fully-fledged author. Children should see themselves in this light as it avoids the notion that writing is only for adults, or those who have wonderfully descriptive language. If your child has written a particularly creative piece, laminate it or frame it to show them that their work is valued and is something to be proud of. Publishing work by putting it beside the other books on the bookshelf will further reinforce a sense of ownership and pride.

6. Writing isn’t just about creativity

Parents and teachers alike can tend to focus on the development of creative writing, but other forms of writing should be given as much attention. If your child has a tendency to be, shall we say ‘bossy’, then they may be excellent at instructional writing where they put their knowledge of officious verbs to good use. Alternatively, your child may be a budding politician and be a dab hand at persuasive writing. Children who enjoy Art or Humanities may prefer report writing, where they can combine their research skills will annotated drawings.

7. Quit playing games…

Please don’t listen to the Backstreet boys. Never stop playing games when it comes to developing writing. If your child has a restricted vocabulary, “BINGO” synonym games are great. Similarly, “Guess who” is a super way of adding description to characters. Pie Corbett is one of our favourite writing experts who lists a wide variety of games on his website: http://www.talk4writing.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/Jumpstart-Imitation-Games.pdf