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5 Activities to Help Develop Prewriting Skills in Your Child

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    5 Activities to Help Develop Prewriting Skills in Your Child

    5 Activities to Help Develop Prewriting Skills in Your Child

    At some point in your education, you probably sat down to write something and thought, “I don’t know where to start.” This kind of writer’s block is common, especially for young writers still learning about the process.

    Prewriting activities can help kids develop their ideas and prepare for writing before they put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard. They’re an essential tool in any author’s arsenal and can help students better organize their thoughts to create a more effective piece of writing.

    What Is Prewriting?

    As the name implies, prewriting occurs before regular writing. It usually involves organizing, collecting, and analyzing information and choosing or refining a topic. When a student is done prewriting, they should walk away with a guideline of how they’ll write their piece. It might offer inspiration, clarity, information, or other details that help them write the best essay possible.

    What Are Prewriting Activities?

    Prewriting activities help students through the prewriting process. These exercises can come in many forms. For example, outlining is an important prewriting activity. The basis of prewriting is to spend time thinking about your writing topic before the writing phase, allowing you to map out a plan that streamlines the process.

    Educators might use these activities to build up the student’s knowledge or simplify the writing process. Either way, prewriting activities can function as foundational tools kids use for the rest of their lives whenever they start a new writing project.

    Why Are Prewriting Activities Important?

    Why Are Prewriting Activities Important?

    Prewriting helps prevent students from jumping into the “deep end” when writing, which can be stressful and difficult. These activities ease them into the writing process, allowing them to reap a wide range of benefits that affect their work quality, knowledge base, and attitudes toward writing.

    Some advantages of prewriting include:

    • Organization: Prewriting can help students develop research papers and stories more effectively. They might play around with information and try different strategies or identify weak points in their work.
    • Understanding: Prewriting activities can deepen the student’s understanding of the topic at hand. Kids can explore the information in a more structured manner and employ critical reading skills to prepare for writing.
    • Motivation and interest: Some students dislike writing essays because they don’t know where to start and struggle to turn their thoughts into words on a page. Prewriting is an intermediary step that breaks writing down into a manageable process. Writing a paper might be daunting, but jotting down a few words in a chart is much more doable. These activities may also spark inspiration and creativity.
    • Efficiency: Many prewriting activities help students avoid time-consuming edits later on. Discovering a hole in your essay’s argument is easier to fix if you find it in a five-minute outline rather than when you’re halfway through the piece in the writing phase.

    How to Use Prewriting Activities Effectively

    Students need to learn about prewriting before they can use it properly. Educators often start by explaining its importance so students understand the rationale. Then, teachers model the task. Modeling walks kids through the process and gives them a clear example of success. Rather than simply handing out a graphic organizer with written instructions, a teacher might fill one out with the students first.

    The writing process, including prewriting, can be highly personalized. Some students, topics, and media benefit from different techniques. For example, if you’re working on writing professional emails, viewing outline examples might be more helpful than coming up with topic ideas. Teachers often pair prewriting activities with appropriate assignments.

    Another factor to consider is student preference. Some may prefer image-based activities, while others do best with a more structured approach. Some students might also need one-on-one support. Eventually, students should have an arsenal of prewriting strategies to choose from, allowing them to select one that matches their preferences and the topic at hand.

    5 Prewriting Activities for Students

    As a parent, you have plenty of options for teaching prewriting. Here are some easy prewriting activities to help jump-start your student’s writing.

    1. Clustering

    Clustering, also called mind mapping, starts with a central idea or topic. The student writes this idea in the middle of a piece of paper and circles it. Then, they brainstorm related ideas they want to discuss and write those in the areas around the circle. After they’ve written several new phrases, they connect them with lines and build off those terms with more detailed ideas. They should end up with a web-like picture to help link up their ideas and guide the structure of the paper.

    Say your student is writing a paper about their favorite animal. They could start with “tiger” as the central idea and surround it with words like “color,” “habitat,” and “diet.” Then, around the term “color,” they might write “orange and black” and “white and black.” They can easily translate those topics into an outline, using the ideas to frame individual paragraphs and sections.

    You can also use a variation of clustering for artistically inclined students. Instead of having them write words and phrases, let them doodle their ideas.

    2. Freewriting

    Freewriting is all about getting as much on the page as possible. Set a timer and ask the student to keep writing the whole time about the topic at hand — anything that comes to mind is valuable when freewriting.

    The point is to create a stream-of-consciousness style of brainstorming. After the timer is up, they can read through the content and pull out the most useful information. You can use freewriting with a clearly defined topic or in a dedicated writing journal to generate ideas.

    3. Answering Questions

    Many writers use the six journalistic questions to flesh out a topic. These questions are who, what, when, where, why, and how.

    Have your student look at their topic from all of these angles. Let’s say they’re writing a persuasive argument on abolishing school uniforms. You could have them answer questions about who the policy affects, how abolishing it would work, and why it’s important.

    By answering these questions, students can see their papers from more angles. It can help them uncover holes in arguments and make sure they answer some of the biggest questions their readers might have.

    4. Changing the Scenery

    Sometimes, a new environment is all we need to spark some inspiration. Try prewriting activities in a new setting, such as at the library or outside at the park. This environment could offer a change of pace or more educational opportunities.

    Immersive settings may even introduce more details that don’t come to mind from memory alone, like the subtle feel of the warm sun on your skin or the sound of chittering squirrels.

    5. Learning by Example

    Ample guidance is crucial for learning about new genres or writing styles. This prewriting activity can involve reading published works, such as books and essays, or sample essays written by previous students. Examples provide something to emulate and can help build confidence.

    Building the Foundations for Student Success With CCA

    Building the Foundations for Student Success With CCA

    Prewriting is all about building a solid base for a writing project. If your child is working on their language arts skills, prewriting can be a crucial step that can make the rest of the process much easier. Consider using these strategies at home, or talk to your child’s teacher about other ways to help them succeed.

    Here at Commonwealth Charter Academy (CCA), our students learn skills like prewriting that facilitate engaging, effective pieces. The individualized support from our faculty and staff allows us to hone in on your student’s unique needs and find strategies that work well for them. Kids across Pennsylvania are eligible for our cyber charter school, and we’d love to help your student master the writing process and many other educational topics.

    Please reach out to us today to learn more about how we can help your student excel.


    Commonwealth Charter Academy


    April 10th, 2024


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