As a primary school teacher, I loved teaching writing. And when I first introduced the Night Zookeeper story to the children in my class, they instantly became absorbed in the world of the Night Zoo and the endless possibilities it provided them to imagine and create.
This writing project evolved into the website you see today, nightzookeeper.com, that is developing a love of writing in over 100,000 children around the world.
1. Play with vocabulary The key to a great young writer is their rich and broad depth of vocabulary. Children really enjoy writing when they have the tools to develop their characters and stories using vocabulary that will impress their reader (usually their parent, teacher or peers at a young age). So it’s really important that children begin to play games with words from a young age. Alongside reading a wide variety of books, children need to be experimenting with words in as many different ways as possible.
2. Read lots and write about what you’re reading I was never surprised to find that the most ambitious and accomplished writers in my class were those that loved to read. Reading and writing go hand in hand. If you can encourage your child to read every day, this will have a huge impact on their writing skills. Surround your children with books from an early age and they are far more likely to develop a love of writing.
3. Lots of practice (write little and often) Children don’t need to write novels to become more proficient writers. In fact, asking them to write a maximum of two paragraphs in one session and then receiving feedback on this piece of work can work far more effectively. Usually, a couple of paragraphs is enough to identify a few teaching points that they can work on next time.
I also find that children produce their best writing when they don’t feel threatened by having to write too much. This is why on Night Zookeeper, we often give children short writing challenges with small manageable word limits so children can get a sense of achievement very quickly.
4. Feedback from tutors and teachers At a young age, fast and effective feedback is key to the development of your child’s writing ability. We try to give personalised feedback on each piece of writing that children write on nightzookeeper.com. We do this within 24-hours because we understand the importance of children redrafting their work whilst it is still fresh in their minds. This has a huge impact, as we can identify patterns in student writing behaviour and begin to send targeted lessons that focus on specific skills that children are struggling to develop.
5. Lessons on spelling, grammar and punctuation Children enjoy playing with words and being creative once they have the basic skills to allow them to do so. This is why I always placed a great emphasis on developing grammar, spelling and punctuation skills in my class.
6. Keep it creative and fun Children enjoy writing, when they are working on a topic or subject that interests them. Night Zookeeper is all about animals and magic, so you can see why this is an engaging topic for them. We also try to give children a variety of topics to write about on a weekly basis and encourage them to write in different genres and styles. This way, children are much more likely to discover their own unique and creative writing style.
7. Give them a global audience (feedback from peers) Children no longer need to write only for their work to disappear into their teacher’s drawer or to simply find its way onto their kitchen fridge. They have the opportunity to share their writing with the world. They can very easily receive feedback from children, tutors or teachers from other countries.
Night Zookeeper is used in over 30 different countries and children regularly post comments and feedback to one another. This creates an incredibly exciting environment for children to write in because they know that their work has the chance to be seen by hundreds if not thousands of people around the globe.
Whether you’re a parent looking to add to your child’s schooling or a homeschooling parent looking for ways to develop your child’s writing skills, I hope you have found the tips in this list useful. Please do check out nightzookeeper.com with your children. You will find that we’ve covered each point listed above in the activities and challenges that you and your child will experience on the website.
Start your child’s trial with us at nightzookeeper.com/parents