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Writing Doesn’t Have to Involve Kleenexes®

Sharon Watson | November 16, 2016

Writing is hard. At least, that’s what students tell me. Writing makes their hands hurt. They don’t know where to begin. They don’t know how to construct paragraphs. If they’re not interested in the topic, they can’t think of anything to write anyway. The list goes on and on and is pretty much the same in all the workshops I teach. A number of moms confess to me that they’ve given up teaching writing. Some say that whenever they give their students writing assignments, crying is involved. (I assume it’s the students doing the crying.) Even in the weekly writing class I teach for high school homeschoolers, at least two students have cast off all dignity and consideration of peer ridicule and burst into tears. And I teach a fun class! I understand how these students feel, but I can give you a few tips that will make writing less painful for your students and for you.

Help Them Plan Papers They’ll Never Write 

Some of the dread of writing occurs because the task is too large. So why not break it down into achievable steps? Here are some examples.

Give Them Practice in Taking Notes

Taking notes is a complicated skill required to do almost any type of writing. So ease your students into it. Try the following approach for one month.

Do Not Grade Everything They Write

I know, it sounds crazy. Shouldn’t everything they write be graded? Not necessarily. Often, it is the evaluation virus that incites fear in students and turns off their writing gene. Just as a young bride might quit cooking if her husband critiques everything she makes, so will the young writer regard the evaluation process as demoralizing and stop writing. This is unfortunate, as it is preventable and even fixable. Consider letting your students write occasionally just for fun. Give them an interesting writing prompt and tell them they can write for only ten minutes. Let them keep these gems in their own folders. If you need help developing prompts, you can find a whole year’s worth in the teacher’s manual for Apologia’s Jump In. Some days, slip something of interest into a paper bag and ask your students to smell, touch, or taste it and then describe it in writing. Or distribute intriguing pictures and ask them to write anything that comes to mind. Consider writing when they write. Your bravery might melt their fears.

Final Thoughts

Here are some important facts about writing I found under my bed:

Writing is hard, but you can make it easier. Implementing these and other practical ideas can lead to more writing and less crying.

Sharon Watson is the author of Jump In: A Workbook for Reluctant and Eager Writers. Sharon homeschooled for 18 years. She teaches middle school and high school composition, fiction writing, and literature to homeschool students. Sharon blogs at Writing With Sharon Watson.