Learn at Home Activities for Writing

The ideas below are meant to work on generating ideas and understanding written language, not on handwriting. Requiring your child to focus on both of these things in the same activity may overuse cognitive resources. See our OT section of Learn @ Home for some great tips on practicing handwriting (printing). The sentences created in these activities can later be used to copy for handwriting practice; we just don’t want the added burden of forming letters when the focus is meant to be on ideas and sentence structure.

Picture prompts

Collect pictures of things that are of interest to your child (favourite activities, people, places or photocopies of pages from their favourite books). Useful for many of the activities described below.

Use a Web to Gather Ideas

Try this strategy to help your child talk about events in their day or to gather details about a topic they are learning about. The web is simple, something like the picture below or your own variation. I don’t always use the HOW, but if it fits the topic, you can. It may require more explicit questioning on your part, as will the WHY. When the web is complete, combine two details from the web into one sentence.


Cloze Sentences

This is where some of the sentence is provided and your child has to fill in the details. Provide a cloze sentence with a picture prompt of something familiar or an event your child has recently experienced. Start by talking with your child about the picture or event and providing visuals of the WH words you want to focus on. You can use a web like the one above or the WH grids provided on Day 5 Getting Ready for Comprehension.

This example is meant for us adults…

Today I went shopping at ______________. I got ______, _______, and ______, but NO _______!


Sentence Building with Picture Prompts

Create a word bank for your child to work on Subject-Verb-Object sentences. Subjects are printed in black, verbs are red, and objects are blue. Present your child with a picture or let them select from a variety of pictures (as seen here). Provide 2 – 3 words to choose from at a time. Start with the verb. “What is happening in this picture? [Student selects verb.] Play. Who plays? [Student selects subject.] I play. I play what? [Student selects object.] I play iPad.”

Shakey, Shakey

Use a picture or video to prompt your child to describe what they see. Try to use as much of their own language as possible as you write their idea in a complete sentence on a strip of paper. Read the sentence aloud, have your child repeat, and then cut it into individual words, put the words in a container and shake while singing this song: “Shake it, shake it, shake it. Shake it if you can. Shake it like a milkshake and pass it to a friend!”  Pass the container to your child and sing the song again while they shake it. Have them pour the words out and rebuild the sentence. They may need to match the words to a visual with a blank line for each word in the sentence, or even to a copy of the intact sentence. Indicate the beginning of the sentence with a green dot under the first space to encourage them to start the sentence there. Read the completed sentence (or have your child read it). A few strategies for correcting mistakes:

  • read it back to them to see if they notice the mistake on their own
  • emphasize the mistake by reading it louder than the rest of the sentence to help them hear the difference
  • remove the words that are in the wrong position and support them to add them back in the correct place

Pictello/Special Stories

Both of these apps make it really easy to add pictures, text and narration to personal stories. Depending on your child’s ability, this may be more about generating ideas and supporting the idea that print carries meaning; that is, they can represent their ideas (speech) with print! Both apps have the option to print your story so your child has a paper version as well.

Take (or find) a picture. Talk with your child about the picture. Use their ideas to write a sentence (or 2 or 3!). Consider starting a few ‘themed’ books so you can add each day’s picture to the appropriate book. Some possibilities:

  • Things I Like
  • Things I Do
  • Places I Go
  • People I Know
  • Yummy Meals Mom (or Dad) Makes

Older children may enjoy making up fictional stories and choosing pictures from the internet to add to their book. Check out Scholastic for a fun, interactive way to choose a topic!