Lessons learned from Young Writers

This morning, I rang up my local ABC radio station as they were talking about creative writing and NAPLAN.

If you’ve been following me for a while, you’ll know I’ve been facilitating writers groups for young writers for about nine years. In the last few years, I’ve also had parents ask me if I can tutor their kids for NAPLAN.

When I got those tutoring requests, I looked up some of the things people look for in the NAPLAN creative writing assessment, and I realised that I would fail that task! Looking at those requirements, it’s no wonder people think that kids writing ability is going down.

Here are a few things I’ve learned over the years working with young writers:

  • Kids are natural storytellers. Give them a chance and their imagination will take you places you never dreamed
  • Making then stick to ‘rules’ can squash creativity. When kids are focusing on spelling, grammar, and other things to pass a test, it can distract from telling the story. When you let them focus on the story, then amazing things can happen
  • Everything can be fixed up in editing. First drafts are often a mess with spelling errors, missing plot holes, characters changing names half way through, and so many other things going on that you would never see in a published book. NAPLAN marks a first draft as kids don’t have the time to sit on a story, then rewrite or edit in the same way an author would (or even the way they would in an assignment they would hand in to the teacher)
  • There is no formula to creative writing. There are a lot of programs that teach a formula for creative writing and for writing novels, and they vary in what they offer. These work for some people to get the words written, but not for everyone. Because there is no formula, judging a piece of creative writing is subjective, and this is awesome as not everyone will enjoy every story. It also means that writers are free to find methods that work for them
  • Kids learn through play. For anyone in Early Childhood, this won’t be news, but it seems to be forgotten when kids get to school. Even older kids learn through play and playing with storytelling is just one way to play. Kids can play with different styles and genre as well as prompts to see what sorts of stories they can come up with.
  • Creativity feeds through into other areas. When kids get confident with their creative writing, this feeds through into other areas of their life, including other subjects at school. I’ve seen this so many times over the years where a kid is feeling low about everything, then gets some confidence through creative writing, and their overall results improve.

These are just a few of the lessons I’ve learned over the years working with young writers.

If your child did NAPLAN and got less than wonderful results for their creative writing, that doesn’t mean they can’t write a story, it just means they write it in a way that is different to what the assessors are looking for. Encourage your child to be creative and play with words.

Creative writing is fun.

If you would like some extra encouragement for your child with their writing, I run some Virtual Writers Groups as well as work with the Monash and Wellington libraries for face to face workshops.

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About Melissa

Melissa Gijsbers started writing when she was in High School during the 1990s, even winning some awards for a short story and a script. For many years, life got in the way of creative writing, however she did start blogging around 2006.

She currently lives in Melbourne, Australia with her two sons and a pet blue tongue lizard.

Melissa Gijsbers, Author, Speaker & Booklover
Melissa Gijsbers - Author, Speaker & Booklover
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