We are finally turning a huge corner in our homeschool when it comes to writing! This year, my 1st and 2nd grader (pretty equal in their writing abilities) are starting to write more on their own. I’m excited to share some creative writing project ideas we’ve been doing that don’t feel like school! They’ve actually improved their writing and I can see their confidence growing.
Below you’ll find short, natural, unschooly (just made that a word…) ways we’ve snuck in more writing this year. Some of these are so easy the kids don’t seem to think I’m checking that mental handwriting box off their daily to do list!
If you have a late writer, a sloppy writer, or a kid who avoids writing in the early elementary stages…this post is for you! Be sure to check out my homeschool resource page too! And if you are new to homeschooling, be sure to check out how to start homeschooling for the total beginner.
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My goal for 1st and 2nd grade writing
It’s been hard for me as a homeschool mom to trust the process…to believe they will write more when they are ready.
I’ve seen a huge leap in ability this year for both kids. My 7 year old has more stamina and desire to write, but lacks the spelling intuition because she’s a new reader. My 8.5 year old can spell quite a few things (or get close) because he is older and an avid reader. But he lacks the desire to write.
My goal for our homeschool writing at this stage:
- Know what they have to say is important and can be put on paper!
- Not worry so much about spelling perfection that they don’t write at all. (This is very hard for one of my kids.)
- Find writing useful.
- Write something every day, either in our handwriting books or creative writing projects.
This is largely inspired by Julie Bogart, author of Brave Learner.
What we’ve done to strengthen their hands up to this point
Before I tell you how I’ve seen my kids start to do more creative writing, I want to mention how they’ve learned to physically write letters.
Around preschool or kindergarten age we begin to do some letter tracing. (My oldest son was 5.5 and my daughter was 4). Totally different kids.
We had to back off of any pencil work with my son for a while and just encourage hand strengthening play like Legos, Play Doh, etc till he didn’t struggle so much.
My 3rd child just turned 5 and I’m going to hold off till he’s about 6 as well. So he’ll technically be in kindergarten when he learns to write his letters. It’s just SO much easier to wait.
Handwriting Without Tears as the foundation before writing projects
At the start of my kids 1st and 2nd grade year, I decided to have them start a formal handwriting curriculum (Handwriting Without Tears). I felt we needed a refresher on carefully writing letters. They were getting sloppy.
You can watch my YouTube video here on picking a level and what’s different about the kindergarten, 1st, and 2nd grade handwriting levels.
Levels we have:
Here’s a mid year update of how 1st and 2nd grade year has been going for all subjects if you want to read.
I love having a workbook so I can send them to do one page a day. I only have them do this if we don’t do any other writing for the day.
Copywork daily, except the days we do any other kind of writing
Handwriting Without Tears actually contains most of the copywork we do. We also copy 1-2 sentences from whatever book we are reading through the Brave Writer Darts, and we skip Handwriting Without Tears on those days.
As they’ve trained their hand to do the motions neatly, through copywork, it’s made writing on their own easier. They don’t have to think so hard about how to form an e, how to spell “the”, or how to space their words apart just right. It’s becoming automatic.
We don’t usually draw a picture with our copywork, but if you provide them with a space for it, like the one pictured below, I’m sure they’ll draw a picture more often!
Ok, onto writing projects I’ve asked them to do this year that don’t feel overwhelming!
Creative Writing Ideas for 7 And 8 Year Olds
1. Making lists
We’ve asked our 1st and 2nd grader to make a lot of lists this year. Christmas lists, birthday lists, lists of things to bring to the ocean, etc. You get the idea!
Lists are short, easy, and help them to group items.
2. Scavenger Hunts
My husband made a short little scavenger hunt for the kids outside, with a piece of candy hidden with the last clue. They LOVED it. (Yes, he’s so fun like that!)
Anyways, it got their creative juices going because they’ve made their own too.
We’ve done it two ways.
- One, they tell me what clues to write on strips of paper and I write it word for word.
- They write the clues down and make up their own spelling or ask me here and there how to spell something.
I’ve learned from our Jot It Down curriculum by Brave Writer, that it’s ok to write for them if it’s their voice I’m writing. Contrary to what I’d believed, that they wouldn’t ever write if I do it for them, they have actually started writing their own with no coercion from me.
3. Book bingo from the library
Our library does this genius thing and makes a book bingo card every 3 months. The kids can fill in book titles they’ve read and turn it in for a change to win $50. Have we ever won? Nope. Are my kids motivated to fill theirs out? Yes!
Since my kids CAN write, I ask them to write the book titles in. It’s things like “Name of a book you read under a tree” or “Name of a book based on a true story”. Things like that.
4. Mini books
These are SO cute and the small size makes them less scary to the kids. We take a piece of printer paper, fold it in half and half again. Then cut the folds, stack, staple, and ta-da, you have a mini book.
My 2nd grader made a bug book, and my 1st grader made an animal book! We did this project maybe once a week, twice if I could remember.
Each time they’d pick ONE creature. They’d draw it (or cut it out of a magazine), and write something interesting about it from our Golden Books or from memory.
Whatever they wanted. No rules. Except sometimes I’d make them write a little more or add some color to the page. This will probably be the highlight keepsake for their homeschool records I keep this year!
BTW, I LOVE our Golden Guide Books for things like this, and also nature study. We have older ones, but the newer ones are very similar with updated covers. Here’s a few:
5. Making a spinner
It’s super easy to make a spinner! To make this a writing project, your kids can be in charge of writing down what’s on the spaces.
We did this randomly one day when my son needed a prize for his sister for a game he made up. (I didn’t have any candy to his disappointment). So he made a spinner with cool prizes she could get. It melted my heart, not gonna’ lie.
How to make a spinner:
Trace something round on thick cardstock paper, (we used a bowl). Then, using a ruler draw your lines making as many sections as you like. Put a brad through the middle, with a paperclip (not pictured below) on the brad as the spinner.
What else could you make a spinner for? Here’s a few ideas:
- Activities for a game like Simon Says.
- Physical activity spinner where there’s actions on it like “10 jumping jacks” or “run around the house once”.
- An “I’m bored” spinner with things to do on it.
- Shows they like to watch but seem to argue over choosing…hmmm….this could be a good one!
6. Writing letters to family
Writing grandma or a cousin a letter is the perfect way to practice handwriting. I wish we did this more regularly.
Think of all they are learning here, while finding a PURPOSE in writing!
- Caring about someone
- Where the stamp goes
- Their address
- Drawing a picture
It’s also fun to put a little flat surprise in a letter if you can. The kids love it! A piece of gum, a sticker, a picture, origami, a photo, or even a dollar bill if it’s to another kid.
7. Labeling pictures
If you keep a nature journal, have your kids learn and label what they draw. Plus the date, and where they found it! These are short, small bursts of writing but they can do it and it has a purpose!
You could also trace their body outline on a long paper roll and have them label things like arms, legs, hair, etc.
Feel free to let them sound it out and guess spelling, help them spell it as they ask, or just write words down for them on a scratch piece of paper that they can copy onto their project.
8. Mad Libs
We do this 2 ways.
- I write while they practice thinking of verbs, nouns, adjectives, etc.
- They write while I answer what verbs, nouns, adjectives which is where handwriting comes in.
This is SO fun. They ask to do this because it’s funny, doesn’t feel like school, and I love that it practices language arts and handwriting in such a natural way.
9. Birthday cards
I have the kids make homemade birthday cards for any friend’s party they go to. I’ve found it’s easiest to write something they can copy so I don’t have to sit around.
Do I correct their spelling? Not unless they ask…here’s why.
There was a ton of “Mom, how do you spell —” for all these projects.
I used to stress over if I should do this or not. Would I create a dependence on me by helping them spell so much? Meh. For these projects…If they ask, I tell them. If they don’t ask and do creative spelling…I let them.
What I’ve found is they ask less as they get more familiar with common words. Also, the more they read, the better they get at spelling. Someday I may even do that teacher-y thing and get a poster up with a bunch of common words they can reference.
My oldest spells much better as he’s read TONS of books. He was an early reader, and can see the word’s spelling in his head often times. My 7 year old is just starting to read more, so spelling is farther off for her.
How I help them with spelling when they ask
With these creative writing projects for 7 and 8 year olds, I’m NOT concerned with perfection. I do want them to think about the sounds they know a word makes, like “black”.
If they write it on their own and spell it “blak” I’m ok with that for now. I’m also ok asking them, “How do you think you spell the sound bl in black?” They can often get that. Then I’ll help them finish the word if needed.
If I absolutely don’t want to be available to help with their spelling, I’ll tell them to write it how they think it sounds, and we can edit later if they want to. This *usually* satisfies them.
More homeschool posts and videos!
- Pros and cons of homeschooling
- First Grade Math With Confidence review
- Switching to Singapore Math from Masterbooks
- Singapore Math Primary 2022 Vs Math With Confidence comparison for 1st grade
- Lily and Thistle Free Watercolor Birds Tutorials we use
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