Follow your child by following their interests: Use your child's interests to inspire writing.
That seems pretty straightforward and it is, really...
The only thing is that as adults, we tend to overthink this and we try to get them to still have their interests be something that seems remotely educational.
As adults who want their children to write, you have to let go of this to really encourage your child to write. You have to model writing and editing, both for work and for pleasure, so that they see that writing is what you do.
In the 3-6 Montessori-inspired environment, writing tends to flow from what the child is interested in learning how to spell...they enjoy using the movable alphabet and get very comfortable with beginning to write.
But from our homeschool experience here with the boys, as well as my experience with older than 6 year olds when I was in the classroom, sometimes, as the child goes from 3-6 to 6-9, there is a change of sorts.
They all of a sudden may become more reluctant as writers.
Some children get the sense that adults want them to write about something educational. When the child feels this, they will write to please the adult, not to please themselves.
Really, a child should feel free to literally write about anything that pops into their heads. As far as modeling writing to a young child, adults should consider what presents itself in a child's life that is multi-sensory and interesting to the individual child, not whether or not the actual writing topic is educational, part of the core, part of the scope and sequence, or any of these sorts of things.
Case in point:
Big Bro loves building sets by Mega Bloks called Halo.
The best way to describe these sets is "soldiers vs. aliens"...
Maybe not one of my personal favs for a toy set, but he loves them and gets very creative in his play. They are fun for him: he can build the sets, can create his own ideas for the interaction for the various soldiers and aliens, from how they are positioned to the sound effects and languages for each of the toys.
These would not be a toy set that you would find in any classroom, so to think "Yes, go for it"! and then, to encourage him to write about these toys may seem like a contradiction, but this is what is motivating to the child.
The same is true for something like candy.
Big Bro loves Lemon Heads, Altoids, and Bubble Tape Gum.
Are these snacks that he eats all the live long day?
But when he does eat them, it is a multi-sensory experience right off the bat, as he can taste, touch, and smell them. He enjoys eating them. So writing about eating these treats is something that will be fun versus writing that would be done dutifully to try to please an adult.
So try this: embrace what they love for the sake of writing, even if it is not your favorite topic...be they toys, movies or silly stuff.
#2. Their handwriting cannot possibly keep up with the pace of their ideas.
Now, you may have a child aged 6-9 who can deal with the fact that their writing cannot keep up with their ideas, but for many young elementary aged children, this begins to create some frustration.
They might have an amazing story all set in their heads or that they could orally relay, but to get their ideas onto paper takes them way more time than the speed at which their ideas freely flow.
In many cases, it is not an issue of writer's block, but writer's frustration that there is some asynchronous development: they are much more advanced at generating a complex story than they are at physically mastering their cursive or print.
Now, in the 3-6 classroom, where a movable alphabet is used for writing, a child can usually deal with this. But when a child moves into the realm of 6-9 and their ideas come at lightening speed, regardless of whether trying to lay out sentences using a cursive movable alphabet, or using paper and pencil, is a huge challenge for some children.
So, what to do? Encourage the child to try dictating their stories. They dictate, then, they write.
Whether you have a karaoke machine, a tape recorder, a dictate feature on your cell phone, or a dictate program on your computer, giving a child the option to dictate their story can be a huge help.
Some people hold the belief that that is not doing justice for a child who needs to learn how to write, but why not break the writing task into two components:
Developing the actual piece of writing
as well as actually handwriting or computer typing of the story...
There are real world advantages of teaching a child at a young age to get their ideas down via dictation and then, to go back and manually write or type the story.
Case in point:
One of my amazing Mayo Clinic doctors, Dr. Rivera, dictates everything into his computer. During my first office visit with him a few months ago, he welcomed me into his office, but then, instead of just pouring over the huge pack of medical records and anecdotal notes (all of the written materials I had come with), he interviewed me and then, following our conversation, he picked up his phone and dictated his entire set of notes into the phone.
He had me sit there and listen as he dictated from his recollection of our conversation.
He did not miss a thing, even adding the comment "Patient is happily married" as that is how I had answered his question.
Now, if one of the world's best and brightest physicians uses daily dictation, then why not teach that skill to a young child???
That has really inspired us to do just that here at Sunrise Learning Lab.
We have pulled out an old recorder for the boys. They have it available to record their stories, to sing songs, or just to be silly...but all of these times with speaking into a microphone and then, going back to listen to their recording is teaching them in a fun way about dictation and audio recording.
We also use my iPhone in this manner.
Using either the Voice Memos app or else the Video Camera feature on my iPhone, the boys can record their stories and then, from these recordings, they can translate them into their writing.
So they are getting practice with both audio and video recording along the way...
You will find that some children are amazing spellers as well as writers, but in many cases, a child's actual vocabulary is so far beyond where they are with their spelling or formatting of their writing, such as indenting paragraphs, spacing of words, etc.
So again, a child might have one amazing story but they get sidetracked because they have to spend time with the mechanics and the spelling.
What works to help a child in this scenario?
Get them to get comfortable with not only using dictation, but also, with the concept of writing and rewriting...and sometimes, re-writing yet again...
Learning that editing is a natural part of the writing process is a huge step in the right direction.
What can an adult do to show this to a child? Model...then model some more!
Case in point:
Many times, as I am working on my blog posts, my sons see me writing and rewriting (and in some cases, rewriting yet again...yes, multiple drafts at times).
They also see their father doing the same thing as he has some writing that goes along with his job.
By them seeing us writing, rewriting, editing, and then, sharing our writing, they see that this is just what people do. It is a part of the writing process.
Just as meals wrap up here with dishes going into the sink and then, into the dishwasher, writing wraps up here with rewriting and editing.
Let them be present as you dictate, then write, then rewrite / edit your own work.
Make writing something that is a pleasurable daily life experience that is just part of what they do and you do in your family, not a big chore.
If there are days that they don't choose to write, try to encourage (but do not force) them to share something aloud that they created, whether it is a song, poem, riddle, or puppet show.
On many nights when we may have not gotten writing into the day, we do shadow puppet shows as part of that night's bedtime routine.
We are also huge fans of puppets, especially hand and finger puppets.
Puppets are wonderful, multi-sensory toys that give a child confidence with sharing their thoughts and ideas.