Using Great Topics to Teach Writing

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Despite all the articles I wrote to teach kids to write, the children often teach me more than I teach them. Thanks to my son, I learned another powerful lesson, one that makes me a better teacher while helping him become a better writer. Here's what happened.

Last week, my son's lesson was writing a biographical sketch in five paragraphs. We had recently been studying the Roman Empire, and I hoped that he would write on one of the church's founding fathers - not only would this reinforce those lessons, but he would also have the chance to delve more deeply into books which we hadn't had time to read earlier. Despite my excitement, I could see he was less than eager.

He was clearly not interested in the topic which I found so fascinating. Once we talked about baseball, that all changed. He had been reading about the life of Derek Jeter, and wanted to learn more. When I suggested that he write his biography on Jeter, his whole attitude changed - suddenly, he couldn't wait to get started! He already knew of three sources for more information, and couldn't wait to get started.

That settled it - Derek Jeter it would be.

Over the past week, he has been hard at work researching Mr. Jeter's life and collecting information. Today's assignment was to narrow the facts down to three, keeping his paper from becoming a full book. From this point, he will work on an effective outline and begin to write.

He is much happier and more enthusiastic about his assignment, since he is writing about a topic that interests him. This keeps him motivated, and his writing is most effective when he has the freedom to choose a topic. He'll learn more, and retain more, this way.

By letting your kids choose their own topics, they take ownership of their project. Give it a try - it makes a huge difference! Your children will learn more and be happier about it; you'll be thrilled with the results.

© Kerry Beck, 2008
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