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Curricula and Learning Links - Language Arts

Developing Basic Writing Skills in Reluctant Writers

by Martha Robinson

One of the homeschooling parents asked how she could get her reluctant writer to learn basic writing skills for simple essays. Here is a simple method to use.

Start with sentences that describe something she likes.

"The horse is chestnut."

Now get her to add on to that a little at a time. What kind of horse? What gender? What is the horse doing?

"The chestnut Saddlebred mare is running in the field."

Ask questions so every word is modified. What kind of field? How is she running?

"The chestnut Saddlebred mare is running quickly in the rocky field."

Does she look pretty or clumsy? What does she look like after she finishes running? Does she roll? Does her coat shine in the sun? Does she hold her head up? Did she make noises? Who does she belong to? Get your daughter to think of her senses to describe everything in this imagined picture? What does she smell? See? Taste? Touch? Hear?

Before you know it, you will have a descriptive paragraph.

Then you can explore why the mare was running. What happened after she finished running? Where was she born? What does she do every day? Who are the people who care for her? You'll end up with a narrative story.

Get these two concepts down, and then move on to essays that support opinions. It's much easier to gain confidence with descriptions and stories from the imagination before you start trying to persuade others.