After years of working with children of all ages, sharing my love of reading, writing, and all things creative and beautiful, I have developed a few ideas for you, the parent/teacher.
1. Keep a journal. I love the idea of journaling and always encouraged (pushed) my children to do this simple activity regularly. See my post on the benefits of journaling:
The reality is that I find most children do not naturally journal. And to be even more specific, it seems that males journal less than females. (Girls are all about feelings that they can write about in their diary). Journaling does not have to be about writing. A sketchbook makes a great journal. A few minutes doing simple sketches in a journal can show how the student spent their day and can record a special event.
2. Write together. When it comes to writing, I encourage the parent/teacher to consider it a group effort. Writing together makes so much sense for students, especially under ten. Why not as a family write in a journal, scrapbook, or newsletter and together record events like holidays, etc.? Brainstorming on ideas for a funny poem or a story and writing it together will achieve a beneficial outcome and is so much fun.
3. Practice writing creatively with writing prompts or free writing exercises. Ask questions such as, "If you could be any animal, what would you be? Why? If you had 100 dollars, how would you spend it?" Using famous paintings or photographs, you have found, ask questions: "What do you think is going on in this painting?" Have a dialogue going where they are one person in the painting, and you are the other.
4. Create original stories. Ask questions like: "Who are the main characters in the story? When and where does the story take place? What is going to happen? Then what? And next? And finally, what happens?" A fun way to get a story going is to take a fairy tale or a nursery rhyme and change it all up to make it relevant, silly, or just different in some way. I like to sing "Row, row, row the boat gently down the stream...." and have others keep going with new words. The possibilities are endless.
5. Drawing encourages writing. Always. In my drawing classes, my students will at some point come up with a story. I encourage this by asking questions. "What is that bird's name? What does he eat? Where is his family? Who lives in that house?" Sometimes, in my writing classes, I will stop in the middle of what we are doing if I see it isn't working. I will have everyone draw an oval. Then I will have them turn the oval into a face. Next, I will start asking my questions. "What kind of person is this? I see they are wearing _____ (fill in the blank). What kind of shoes will they be wearing? Why? What kind of work do they do? What is their favorite food? Who is their best friend?" And before you know it, a story is born.
6. Find real-life situations where your child needs to write. Maybe they need to write a plan on paper to sell you an idea. Perhaps they need to write a thank-you note to someone. And yes, thank you notes are still in style! And grandparents LOVE getting them. So it is a win/win for them in helping them develop skills and in being thoughtful to a loved one.
7. Make a map. Robert Lewis Stevenson records that he drew a map first and then wrote Treasure Island.
Cressida Cowell, an English children's author, best known for her book series, How to Train Your Dragon, which has become an award-winning franchise adapted for the screen, says that map-making was an original key to writing. She sketched her first characters and maps in second grade. She kept that sketchbook and later used it for her books!
8. Model writing and reading for pleasure. Modeling is the most natural form of guiding our children. See my blog on tips for reading to our children:
The best advice I can give anyone is to authentically model to our children what we want to see in them and find others that do the same. Finding people that love learning and beauty are the best mentors for our children.