Teaching Writing Skills 1st – 8th grade – Organization is Key

Teaching writing to a multi-level group, at home or in co-op, does not have to be a challenge. Make it focus on organization, and give skills which will serve them in all areas of their lives.

It may come as no surprise, but I use history as a spine on which to hang many other subjects. Writing is a big one. Therefore, our writing is almost exclusively history based, and includes biographies, cause and effect, writing about pictures, and of course, the explanation of events. So, I have had lots of practice writing about history with children.

Following is a brief run-through of teaching writing to a multi-level group of students at home, or in a co-op. The age range for this activity is 1st – 7th.
This is what I’ve done.

  • I read out loud on the history subject(s), and after the reading, we work together on taking notes as we recollect what we read. We take notes in keywords only. This is very unintimidating. Kids are reluctant to give full sentence summaries just after they have been introduced to a whole bunch of stuff. Understandably so. So, I ask for keywords only.
  • Then, we sort those keywords into topics, and when satisfied that they are sorted reasonably well, I ask and get suggestions for what words to use to label these groups. This is a fun part, though it can be a challenge. 
  • Once the topics are stated, we decide which topic should go first (I), second (II), third (III). Then, we make an outline with Roman Numerals, placing the stated topics on I, II, and III, as was decided.
  • We then can decide which order to place the various keywords within each stated topic, adding A, B, C.   
  • Now we are ready to write. This is really where the multi-level stuff comes in. A younger child may be asked simply to re-write the outline. Or, to write out certain words from the outline. I underline or rewrite words I want little ones to copy.
  • For older children. Since we have the keywords, we know what we are supposed to write about, and in what order. I do this writing part with them, as necessary. This written piece can go on as long as is appropriate for your children. But, let’s just say, you have a 9 year old. You could do a paragraph of three sentences per day. For that age, I would write each sentence out myself as we jointly “compose” each sentence, then have them copy it out as penmanship practice. The older ones get more and more independent, and can do this whole written piece in a day. Of course moving on to an intro and conclusion, when age appropriate, but that can be done completely separate from a multi-level family activity. 

As you can see, I do like to emphasize structure because 12 well written sentences strung together in a nonsensical order is not good writing. This activity can be reinforced by frequent quick drills sorting keywords into an outline.  Collect at least 12 – 15 keywords for three topics.

Play around with this. I think you’ll like it.

Check out this post on the background to the Civil War to see this in action, with specific keywords.

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