The Best Topic to Teach Writing

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Last week I shared a writing tip you could use to teach writing in your homeschool. Since that time I was once again reminded how important it is to let your children have some ownership over their writing topics. Let me share my story….

Hunter was 12 and working on the IEW Student Writing Intensive DVD. His lesson was to write a 5-paragraph biographical sketch. In the back of my mind, I thought it would be great if he wrote about one of the early church fathers. We were studying the end of the Roman civilization and it would help him remember one of them. Besides, he could read one of the books that we didn’t have time to read in history. Of course, he wasn’t very interested in those men.

I could tell his disinterest as we talked about his topic.

So, we started talking baseball.

How to choose the best topic for your kids writing assignments from

Hunter just finished reading a biography of Derek Jeter, so I suggested doing his paper on Jeter. He didn’t complain and even told me of two other sources he could use. He had to use a minimum of 3 sources, only one could be the internet.

It was decided.

He would write about Derek Jeter.

How to choose the best topic for your kids writing assignments from

On the first day, he found interesting and important information about Derek Jeter. On the second day, we narrowed his paper to three topics about Derek Jeter. Next week, he will outline his paper and begin writing.

Believe me, I have a much happier son because he is writing about someone he likes, not someone Mom told him to research. I know his paper will be much better, just because he has an interest in his topic.

Do you let your kids take leadership, or ownership, in their writing topics? If not, why not?

Next week, discuss a writing assignment and let your kids choose their own topic. They will be so glad you did and you will be glad when you read their finished paper!

Let me know if your kids are shocked that you let them choose their topic.



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Do you let your kids take leadership, and ownership, in their writing topics?
What is your kids’ reaction when you let them choose their topic of study?



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  1. we’ve used IEW for the last 3 years and love it.
    we’ve never really ventured outside of the assignments, but I agree that if my girls chose their own topics, they’d be MUCH more motivated to write.
    thanks for the reminder.

    1. I love IEW and used it all 10 yrs we homeschooled. I know IEW is not about choosing the topics, but sometimes there is some wiggle room to decide the general topic. My son wrote a lot on animals because he loved animals. My daughter loved history, so I crafted her assignments around history.

  2. Two of my children are in a effective writing class and I definitely noticed a big difference in my daughter’s grades when it was a writing topic that she was interested in. Although, I do think it is important to have her to research and write on some topics that she may not be interested in because she will run into that in college and other places. But for now I would like to tip the scales in favor of the ones she likes so that she can have an overall good experience in learning to write.

    1. Judy,
      Good point & I agree. You need to write about all types of topics. Until my kids got to high school, I tried to have them write on topics of their interest. Why? I was more interested in teaching them “HOW” to write than arguing about the topic. Once they have a solid foundation of writing, they can reach out to other topics.

  3. We use IEW also. I try to do a mix – sometimes I assign the topic, sometimes I let the kids decide. But even if I assign the topic, they still get to decide what specifics to include in their writing. Sometimes what they pick as the important facts aren’t what I’d pick, but that’s what makes it theirs.

    1. Laurie,
      There were times I told the kids what to write about. In fact one time the foundation for a story was the American Revolution. One dtr wrote about American Revolution. The other changed it to another time period. My son wrote about Winne the Pooh in the Hundred Acre Woods. All they had to do was keep the same problem. They could change the characters & setting, if they like. Good point.

  4. IEW is in our family’s future for sure, maybe this convention season I’ll pick it up.

    As for the kids taking ownership, this is my philosophy: at some point they have to take ownership whether they like the topic or not. My challenge is that somewhere along the way they’re going to have to write an essay or report or whatever about something they’re really not interested in at all. Getting them started & confident that they can write – and write well – is when letting them pick the topic is wise.

    As for our family, just to get through this year I’ll probably hire an online tutor just to get my son to write decent paragraphs. A decent paragraph is a worthy goal for my 9-year-old, 4th grade son.

    1. Naomi,
      Writing a decent paragraph is an awesome goal for a 9yr old. If you decide to teach your son yourself, IEW has the best materials. When you use their Teaching Writing resource, you’ll see that you can use it year after year, adding new stylistic techniques each year.

      I agree that kids will have to write about something they don’t like…eventually (in college or job).

  5. I have four out of my six children using the IEW materials. We love them. A few weeks ago, I told my childtren to write a letter of appreciation to someone they usually don’t write to. I had in mind a distant relative, Sunday school teacher or coach… my teenage son decided to write to Tim Tebow! It was an awesome letter. I’m glad that I didn’t mandate the “who” on that assignment. This week they were all to write a report on the animal of their choice. My 8 year old daughter asked to be able to write about China instead. After watching her research for hours on end today, I’m once again glad that I let her go with the topic on her heart. Of course, I often dictate the assignment but it pays to treat our children with respect and dignity.

    1. Janna,
      Thanks for sharing your story. What terrific examples of letting your child make choices about their writing. I love the fact that your 8yo researched for so long. When my son was 8yo, he spent almost a year writing his ABC Jungle Book. He didn’t work on it every day, but he was fully engaged.

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