From Speaking to Writing: How to Help Your Child Write Short Sequences
Parents often tell us that they can't get their children to write at home. Their children will sit with paper and pencil, or in front of the computer monitor, and just stare. In fact, this seems to be the written version of parents asking their kids "What did you do in school today?" and, invariably, the kids say "Nothing."
So here is a technique that works virtually every time. Start with pencil and paper; lined paper. First, write a title on the top of the paper, such as "My Day at School" (or camp), or a title for whatever your topic is. Make sure your topic is a review of what the child just did that day. The more removed a topic is in time, the harder it is for your child to both talk and write about it. As your child improves in this area, you will find that s/he will be able to talk and/or write about events that happened a day ago or a week ago; but not to start with.
This technique is very low tech and very effective. On the paper where you have put the title, write the numbers 1 to 5. (If your child is younger than 5, write the numbers 1 to 3.) Then, hold up one hand and say "We are going to write about five things you did today; five things, one for each finger. Here is our title, 'My Day,' so tell me the first thing you did today." (Point to your thumb as you say this and, for every sentence that follows, point to the next finger.) Either your child will tell you and you will write it down and say something very reinforcing like, "Great job!" or you may hear, "I don't know" or something like that.
It is important that your child not struggle to think of what to say. We don't want any negative feelings aroused by this activity, so give your child choices. Giving your child choices also improves his/her ability in the area of self expression; it improves vocabulary and conceptual development. If need be, say something like, "Did you sleep late or wake up early?" or "Did you wake up on your own or did mom wake you up?" Say anything to keep the verbal/written ball rolling. So if s/he hesitates for 5 seconds or more, give your child choices.
It is helpful if you have spent the day together so you can ask "or" questions and you know that one answer is correct and one is quite incorrect, but of course that is not always possible. You might also find that drawing a picture is helpful. So many of the children we work with are artistic.
Once you have your child readily telling you about his/her day, it is time to add sequencing words. Words such as "first," "then," "afterwards" and "finally." Then, when you write down your child's five sentences, begin each with one with a temporal (i.e. time related) word. If your child is expressing concepts that are not time related, you may need to show your child how to use other kinds of words. There may be words like "because" if your child is talking about causality, for example.
Practice these with your child until s/he begins to use these terms without your help (often, several weeks to several months).
Now, it’s time for writing a paragraph. Use the words your child has put in list order, and put them in the form of a paragraph.
Once it appears that your child has the idea, skip writing the sentence list altogether. Start with writing a paragraph from the beginning. Soon you'll find your child can write narrative paragraphs that are not only about his/her own life, but other things as well. You can start practicing fictional versions of "My Day" or begin writing about real events and ideas, such as "President's Day" or "The Moons of Jupiter,” for example.