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Wednesday, January 30, 2013

How Kids Really Learn to Write


Patricia Zaballos shares some radical notions about how kids can become writers in her article in Life Learning Magazine. These notions share little resemblance to what writing looks like in schools today. 

Though she has extensive experience as a public school student and teacher, her insights are drawn from her fifteen years spent homeschooling her own kids and watching them become writers as well as more than a decade of facilitating writer’s workshops and the twenty years she spent becoming a writer.  

In her article Zaballos explains what kids do and don’t need to become writers.   You can read the thinking behind each do and don’t at the original article or on her blog.  Below are the highlights.

What kids DON’T need to become writers:
Here is what is not necessary for kids to become writers.

  • Kids don’t need to master the mechanical skills of writing before developing voices as writers.
  • Kids don’t need daily, or even weekly writing practice.
  • Cartoon History of the Universe.
  • Practice writing in various formats.
  • Kids don’t need to write to develop as writers.

“The good writers I see in college have often developed their skill in self-sponsored writing projects like journals or epic, book-length adventure stories they wrote on their own.”-Thomas Newkirk, writer, researcher and English professor
How to help kids develop into writers
If you hope your child will become an effective writer tomorrow, concentrate on making writing a part of your child’s life today. Here are some ideas.

  • Raise them in a literature-rich, word-loving home.
  • Talk about what interests them.
  • Make the distinction between getting-words-on-the-paper skills and written expression.
  • Let them write about what interests them, and in genres that they enjoy.
  • Explore intriguing nonfiction.
  • Help them find meaningful, authentic reasons to write.

Zaballos explains that to become writers, kids need something to say, the means to say it, and a reason to say it. Schools tend to focus on the means—the how-tos of writing. If you concentrate instead on what kids have to say, and helping them find real reasons to express that on paper and screen, the rest will fall into place over time.

Read the complete article at Life Learning Magazine or on Zaballos’s blog.