Let me be the first to say that supporting your children with writing at home is a huge challenge–and one that most of us at home did not sign up for. I am an educator, and even still, writing is one of the most challenging things for my own children at home during distance learning.
Probably the hardest, most frustrating aspect of writing at home are the times when my children are stuck, and are not putting any words on the page. It’s especially challenging, because a child who is experiencing writer’s block at home might appear to be refusing to write. It might seem like they are simply choosing not to do the work, or that they are being stubborn.
As a parent, I certainly am tempted sometimes to think my own two children are intentionally making things more difficult than they need to be. But as an educator, I know that this is not the case.
When kids are not writing, there is usually a reason, and it is not out of simple outright refusal. There is always a reason for the refusal–and figuring out the underlying cause is how we solve the problem.
There are some common reasons that kids wind up stuck. Through careful observation, a little bit of sleuthing, and conversation with your child, you might be able to get to the bottom of it. It may take passage of time, as well, to figure things out.
Here are a few questions that I use, as an educator, to guide my observations of writer’s block in the classroom, adapted for use at home:
- Does your child understand what the assignment is? Have they seen an example of what the finished product might look like?
- Is your child concerned about who might read their work? Do they know who will be reading the work?
- Does your child understand the purpose of the writing? Is there a meaningful purpose to the writing? (Meaningful to your child, that is.)
- Does your child have the skills they need to begin? For example, do they know any strategies for generating ideas? For talking about their ideas? For sketching or drawing? For planning?
- Does your child have the physical tools they need? Are there any anchor charts, paper, writing utensils, or other tools (like an alphabet chart or spelling chart) from school that would be helpful for them to also have at home?
- All kids have ideas. They just might not be willing to say them aloud or put them on the page. Is your child worried that whatever ideas they come up with won’t be good enough (or “cool” enough)?
- Is your child a secret (or not-so-secret) perfectionist? Are they worried about making mistakes?
Until you understand the problem a bit better, it will be difficult to help your child with their writer’s block. Talking with your child helps. But so does watching them closely when they sit down to attempt writing, and talking (or emailing) your child’s teacher to find out more.
There are also some “basics” that can be put in place to support your child when they are stuck.
Download a pdf version of this handout here:
Last, but not least, you can write alongside your child. Do a version of their work of your own – not for them to pass in — a separate example so that they can see you going through the steps. Talk aloud as you think about what to write, and tell them what goes through your mind as you get started.
Good luck families! Hang in there!
Here are links to several other posts for supporting writers at home:
Literacy Coach, Consultant, Author, Graduate Course Instructor, and Mom. Passionate about fostering a love of reading and writing in learners of all ages.