In music, sports, dance as well as many other areas, practice is expected. In many disciplines, if you don’t attend the “practices” you are not allowed to participate in the event, whether that event is a performance, concert or game. Why is learning to write any different? In sports, dance, and music, individual skills are broken down and learned or practiced sequentially; why should writing be any different? In most things, there is a continuum of skills that are learned and practiced until proficient. Once each level is mastered, you move on to the next set of developmental skills. Learning to write should be the same way. For that matter, learning anything should follow the same format.
For example, I recently bought myself a DSLR (digital single lens reflex) camera. I read the little instruction manual that came with it – yea, I’m one of those weirdos that actually do read instruction manuals! Then, I jumped in. I was trying everything and having fun, but I wasn’t going to really learn to use my camera by trying to learn everything at once. If I really want to learn to take good photos, I need to start working through one skill at time until I understand it. Of course that doesn’t mean I can’t still try all sorts of things for fun, but the actual learning is progressive. It’s the same with writing. Have fun and try all sorts of things – writing is writing. But to learn to write, we need to be a little more organized. Often when teaching children to write, we show them what we want and tell them to write, then we expect a page long essay to magically appear!
Try breaking things down and teaching writing skills sequentially. I’ve put together a continuum of writing skills based on the Common Core Writing Standards. Since you’ve read my blog, I’ll give you the Narrative Writing Continuum for free. The entire packet (available in my store) includes continuum’s for each grade level as well as each type of writing. Take a look at it and other curricula at my store: Salerno’s School Hub.