Once children are reading, we need to get them to use the skills they have learned from reading other people’s work and apply it to their own writing. Reading and writing skills go hand in hand.
In primary schools, classes often have literacy sessions called things like Big Write or Sparkly Writing, where they encourage children to write stories which are the children’s own, creative work, but which will spring from material they have read or learned about in class.
The aims of this kind of writing is to encourage regular use of the simple building blocks of writing, such as:
- Using capital letters at the beginnings of sentences.
- Creating proper sentences.
- Using capital letters for names and other nouns.
- Using capitalised I.
- Using full stops.
- Using commas.
- Using apostrophes correctly.
As they progress up the school more technical skills will be added, such as:
- Correct use of paragraphs.
- Using and recognising connectives, etc.
The other thing these creative writing sessions are used for are for stimulating a child’s imagination.
Children sometimes struggle with translating the world of their imagination onto the page. There can be several reasons for this.
- If a child is not read to at home they will have less of an imaginative world to draw on when it comes to stretching their imagination at school.
- If a child is not encouraged to play creatively and explore imaginative worlds in play.
- If a child is not given a wide range of stimuli in their day to day life, which means that the resources they have to draw on will be limited to a basic experience of practical day to day living.
- If a child is given unrestricted access to television and/or computer games.
This last point is a little controversial. There are children who make rich creative connections from television and media sources, but equally, it can stifle imagination.
Quite often, a child whose only imaginative input comes from a screen tends to be quite passive in the way they use their creative abilities. The medium of the television/computer game often implies to the child that the material will be served up to them ready created, and that they do not need to put in the effort to do it themselves.
Oddly, this does not seem to happen to children who are surrounded by books and a world rich in stories. The act of reading or being read to seems to stimulate a different part of their brain which requires active creative participation on the part of the child.
So we encourage children to write by making sure that they have a wide range of stories and creative experiences available to them from which they can model techniques and get ideas. We encourage them by trying to get them to exercise their imaginations; asking them questions about what they have learned, what they think about the stories, what might have happened before or after the stories were captured on the page.
The more children read, the better they will write, and the more interesting that writing will become.