Fostering the Motivation to Write in Children

Instructor: Maryalice Leister

Maryalice has taught secondary and college English and trained new online teachers, and has a master's degree in Online Teaching and Learning.

Writing is learned, improved, and embraced through motivation and regular practice. How to best motivate a young writer is dependent on age, and their desire flourishes through consistent, positive reinforcement.

Language is oral and written. Children learn to talk through both imitation and the pressing need to communicate. Provide the right incentives and play-based practice, and the motivation to master written language is just as strong.

How to Begin

The seeds for the love of writing are planted in the soil of storytelling and reading. Almost from birth, Carrie dropped off to sleep listening to the rhythm of her parents reciting nursery rhymes. By her first birthday, she was enjoying the engaging colors of picture books, and not too long after that, she could verbalize simple words and stories as her mother read to her. The process expanded and grew in complexity through preschool and kindergarten, and with the introduction of written letters and sentences, Carrie moved on easily and enthusiastically to creating her own stories. Carrie, the writer, had been born of this nurturing.

The Desire to Write Grows with Writing. - Desiderius Erasmus (1466-1536)

Children will rarely develop a love of writing without consistent adult role modeling, constant appropriate age-level reading, and ongoing practice. Early in the process, a young writer needs to have ideas fostered without fear of criticism for failed attempts at conventional grammar. Spelling, punctuation, and sentence structure will develop over time, but insistence on correctness as an indicator of successful writing will only stunt the desire to write.

Children embrace those skills presented with unconditional enthusiasm. While the emphasis on physical handwriting is diminishing in computer-driven learning systems, everything students read or have read to them is a result of writing. While that may seem obvious, children benefit from realizing every word they see anywhere is a product of someone else writing. This is a foundational understanding of language - from billboards to books, computer games to informational websites, television shows to beloved music groups - all exist because someone took the time to creatively manipulate written language.

Fostering the Love

The peaceful and joyful experience of language as infants is the ideal foundation for a lifelong love of writing. However, classrooms are often filled with young children without much early exposure. How then, do teachers foster a love and commitment to writing?

First and foremost, writing is driven via reading. Regardless of age, teachers should continue to read to individual students, small groups, and entire classrooms. No child is too young or too old to enjoy hearing a story which is enhanced by appropriate emphasis and facial expression. A teacher's comfort with reading is key to students developing that same ease with language.

Young people need direction when it comes to developing personal tastes in literature. Only through exposure to all types of writing can they refine their palates and feel comfortable experimenting with content writing. While some students may love animal stories, others will seek out mystery books or sports heroes or science fiction. Additionally, a student may gravitate towards non-fiction, which have a moral to teach, or possibly world event news. All help to define each child's emerging interests, while laying the groundwork for developing strong writing skills.

Teachers are motivational role models, instilling a 'can do' attitude in children. As a student gets older, making writing 'fun' might no longer feel appropriate, but emphasizing the relevancy of writing, and each child's value as a writer, is never outgrown. Older students respond well to continued role modeling and positive reinforcement.

Approach and Activities

The younger student connects to writing through playful interaction with words. Older students will gradually move into more formalized approaches, but should still be exposed to lighter writing assignments.

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