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Choosing a Topic to Teach Writing

Aug 15, 2008
Lately, I've written a number of articles to help you teach kids, whether you're teaching in a school or home-schooling your own children. Recently, I was reminded yet again of the importance of allowing children the freedom to choose their own assignments. Thanks to my son, I learned a valuable lesson to make me a more effective teacher, while turning him into a more powerful writer.

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.

As we spoke, I could see the disinterest reflected in his eyes. Once the conversation turned to baseball, his demeanor changed. He had just finished reading a book on baseball player Derek Jeter, and was fascinated, eager to learn more. When I suggested that he write his biography on Jeter instead, my son's eyes lit up with excitement. had to use at least three sources for his biography, only one of which could be from the internet. Before our talk was through, he already had two other possible sources lined up.

That settled it - Derek Jeter it would be.

Over the past week, he has studiously collected information on Derek Jeter for his paper. Today, we narrowed his topics down to only three, keeping him from being overwhelmed. Over the next week, he will create an outline and begin writing.

I am impressed at how much happier he is with this assignment. All it took was the freedom to choose his own topic, rather than being told what to write. Because he is so interested in his topic, I know that he will do a better job and learn more in the process.

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.
About the Author
Kerry Beck encourages classroom teachers and homeschoolers with a lesson on writing a biographical sketch. She has a free mini-course to show teachers how to teach writing at Teaching Writing.
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