Basic Writing Skills
Basic writing skills are one of the most valuable lessons children can learn from a young age. Developing writing skills early on helps kids as they progress through school and allows them to grasp grammatical concepts more easily.
Most importantly, basic writing skills are a hugely important quality for older students and adults to have (regardless of their career path)—so it only makes sense to start this process as early as possible!
Whether you’re teaching basic grammar skills, spelling, sentence and paragraph structure, or any other writing rules, kids will get more out of the lessons the earlier they start. If you’re ready to help your students begin learning, read on to learn more about which skills are most important for students to have and how to use writing prompts to help kids develop their writing skills.
Five Basic Writing Skills Students Should Learn Early On
This should come as no surprise—written language is very different than spoken language and has its own unique rules. Furthermore, the English language is notorious for its challenging quirks and many inconsistencies. However, proper spelling and punctuation are the foundation for all effective written communication and it’s imperative for kids to learn them (even in the age of spellcheck and autocorrect!).
Before kids can write, they need to be able to read—which is why good reading comprehension is such an important skill to have. Reading comprehension entails many things, but at its root, it is the ability to read a piece of writing and effectively glean its meaning.
Once kids have begun to grasp the concept of reading at a base level, they should also begin learning how to think critically about the work and infer meaning from what is or isn’t said as a part of good reading comprehension.
This skill is aided substantially through reading practice, but it’s especially important to focus on it deliberately because it is an area of writing many children struggle with. As kids learn to write, they often have a tough time with things like proper tense, placing modifiers and verbs in the correct places, or writing incomplete and run-on sentences.
In order to help develop this skill, be sure to teach your students about the various parts of speech and the role that different types of sentences (declarative, descriptive, inquisitive, etc.) play in writing.
Once students have a firmer grasp on composing clear sentences and paragraphs, they can begin learning about different types and genres of writing. To communicate effectively, students should be able to write in different styles and tailor their messages to an appropriate audience.
For example, if a student is writing a short story, the work should include aspects like a setting, plot, dialogue, character descriptions, and a resolution or ending. A research essay should include a thesis statement, facts, supporting arguments, and citations—while a persuasive essay should also include appeals to logic or emotion that would be out of place in a more academic piece of writing.
Experienced writers will tell you that above all else, writing is rewriting—which means that the first draft of anything is very rarely what should make it out into the world. Truly quality writing is born in the revision process, and thus, the ability to edit and rewrite is perhaps the most important basic writing skill of all that kids should learn.
The need to edit and rewrite a piece of writing might sound like extra work to kids, but it can actually make the overall process of writing much easier. Knowing that you will go back later to edit a piece can be freeing, as it removes a lot of the pressure to make it perfect from the beginning.
Instead, kids can simply begin pouring their ideas out on the page and see where their pens take them—and then they can go back, step-by-step, to make corrections and improvements to further develop their writing.
Genre and content knowledge
Genre knowledge means knowing how to use different types of writing. If the assignment is to write a story, kids need to know what goes into the genre of narrative writing. It has to include setting (who, where, when) and plot (what and why).
Another example of a genre is the persuasive essay. To write one, kids need to use a position statement, reasons, facts to support reasons, and a conclusion that summarizes the main reasons.
Content knowledge means knowing something about the subject you’re writing about. If asked to write a letter to a politician about pollution, kids need to understand what pollution is. They’ll also need to know how it affects people, animals, and the environment. And they may need to know what causes pollution.
What can help: Many kids pick up knowledge about genre just by being exposed to it in school through reading. Others may need more explicit instruction. For example, they may need to be taught about the difference between biography and memoir, or fiction versus nonfiction.
To do that, find good examples of each genre. Then compare and contrast them with weak examples or examples not in that genre. You can also come up with a list of common elements that all the good examples share.
Many kids have holes in their general knowledge about the world. That can hurt their writing. You can help kids build background knowledge through reading, field trips, and family outings. Talk about what kids are learning before, during, and after the outing. Just meeting new people and trying new things improves background knowledge, too.
How to improve basic writing skills
How do beginners learn writing skills?
Today, when everyone can be their own publisher, we see more and more examples of bad writing both in print and online. Poor writing skills make a bad first impression, and many readers will immediately react negatively if they spot a spelling or grammatical error.
Checking for spelling errors and misspellings should be seen as courtesy to your readers, as it may take them much longer to understand the messages in your letter if they have to think and reread the text to decipher them. Spelling is one of the fundamental basic writing skills.
I recommend that you write so people can reply to you and check your grammar or spelling so you can improve. Before you can start writing amazing content, you need at least an average understanding of the basics of writing.